Volkswagen Rabbit S
Flying under the radar*Say "white rabbit" to any 20-year-old. They'll stare at you blankly and continue texting the guy 20 feet away.
Therefore I have to wonder if Volkswagen knew the effect this car would have on our older editors, guys familiar with Delortto carbs, Panasport wheels and Grace Slick.
We went wild.
There's something about the elegant simplicity of the Rabbit S that makes drivers relax and simply enjoy the ride. No fancy-shmancy electronics, no active suspension, no outrageous aerodynamics, just good, clean fun.
The Rabbit S possesses a tank-like frame, that ultra-solid feeling you get after center-punching a 100mph fastball with a titanium bat. The 180 hp five-banger lends its grumbly rumble and is surprisingly quick for a normally aspirated engine. More than a few times I found myself merging into freeway traffic at 90 mph. Normally, such behavior would guarentee a visit from "the man" but white Rabbit seems to have an invisibility cloak. No one looks at it, not even cops. Such immunity did not go unused.
Both the steering and suspension feel genuinely European-bred. It's both smooth and responsive with feedback befitting a GTI. Its optional ($1,075) six-speed Tiptronic transmission is not as responsive as VW's vaunted DSG, but it still managed to keep this driver entertained for hours.
I loved this car, my wife loved it, my kids loved it. In fact, 16-year-old Carly is considering leasing a Rabbit for $169 a month. We did the math-she could do it with her part-time job at the vet.
She wants it in white. Good girl. -Les Bidrawn
From The Hip
+ Build quality hugely entertaining price
- Nominal seats bolsters, a bit wheezy at high rpm
2008 VW Rabbit S
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
2.5-liter inline five
Peak Power: 170 hp @ 5400 rpmPeak Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 2300 rpmTop Speed: 130 mphFuel Economy: 21/26
Price as tested: $18,524
Audi A4 3.2
The quintessential German*Maybe it was the color, a crimson-red seemingly squeezed from uncut rubies. Or maybe it was the Euro-spec interior and the revamped body panels. Whatever it was, people stood in awe of this Audi, staring, muttering an occasional "ohhhh" and "awwww." They do the same thing with a Lamborghini.
This Audi was an advanced copy sent Stateside to give us a taste of what to expect from future A4s. Do yourself a favor, preorder. You want this car.
Looks aside, the new A4 has a dead sexy personality-it's also somewhat schizophrenic. There's a new, dash-mounted sport switch that allows drivers to choose one of three settings: comfort, dynamic or sport. While we could discern little difference between the first two, the sport setting is akin to a fairly aggressive coilover system. Not only does the ride stiffen considerably but the shift points and steering sharpen up as well. Most of these "dual mode" systems are fairly tame, stuff serious track-guys admonish. This Audi system is the best I've seen. On the street, the "sport" setting is punishing, pretty much what you'd expect from a track-prepped vehicle. The steering becomes heavier and in truth, feels better than ever. It should always be like this. And the six-speed Tiptronic automatic holds gears to the edge of disintegration.
Most of my driving was done in "comfort" setting and the transmission in auto-mode.
No matter how mundane the trip, the A4 manages to remain engaging. The V6 power delivery is outstanding; off the line, mid-range and top speed, it feels like there's always enough torque.
Ultimately, the new A4 3.2 comes off as a very polished piece. It is the quintessential German--urbane, precise and hugely capable.
You want one in red.-Les Bidrawn
2009 Audi A4 3.2
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
3.2-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve
Peak Power: 265 hp @ 6500 rpmPeak Torque: 243 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm0-60 mph: 6.3 sec.Top Speed: 130 mph (limited)Fuel Economy: N/A
Price as Tested $32,700
From The Hip
+ Genuine sport sedan feel, sexy body elastic powerband
- Smallish rear seats