Rational or Reckless – Audis for a Cross-Country Road Trip

Research tells me that flying is not riskier to catch COVID than going to the mall. But, I need to go to Los Angeles and the Central Coast and there’s no reason to push my luck. The compromise I’ve found a way to justify to myself is to fly there and drive back. In essence, achieving self-quarantine while also social distancing at some parts of the country I’ve always wanted to visit.

The first, most important question is, of course, what car should I drive back. I considered two options; a rental car or buying something that I could easily sell in Boston (or keep if I liked enough). I quickly eliminated the rental option because a one-way coast-to-coast midsize car was going to cost me over $3000, not including any necessary in Shorince or other fees. This made the decision to purchase a car much easier. It meant that I would break even as long as I lost less than $3000 on any car I bought and repaired or resold for less.

My criteria is straightforward, the car needed to be a model that’s popular and easy to sell. It should be an enthusiastic car, but one that appeals to more than just enthusiasts. All-wheel-drive is a must because I’ll be selling the car in winter. I also would prefer something that I don’t already have, which eliminates an SUV (see my ode to my Highlander) as well as a 2011-ish BWM or coupe since my fun car is a 128i M-Sport manual. However, the most limiting criteria is that it needs to be a cheap cool car.

Call me a choosy beggar, but there are not many cheap cool cars with AWD. Lexus made an AWD IS (and GS) but even if they have a reputation for reliability, but they are bland and boring interiors, not someplace I want to spend two weeks. I do love my 2011 BMW, it’s been reliable, comfortable, quiet and quick, just what I need for a cross-country trek, but I already have one. Subaru’s Outback and Forrester are popular in Boston, but I know from having owned one that they’re loud and boring as heck to drive. I would consider a Subaru Cross-Trek, but they are just out of my price range. I would be very tempted by a Mercedes 4matic sedan or wagon, but those I’ve found in my price range are nearing 200K miles and I fear the first repair bill.

Which brings me to the Audi A4 Quattro.

The Audi A4 quattro checks all my boxes, and early 2010’s run $6 – $12K. Making it a cool car, not just a cheap car, is all about finding one with the right spec. There are many base models and quite a few A4s with the Premium package. But the Premium Plus option comes with Xeon headlights, backup sensors, heated and cooled seats.

Should I make a Rational or Reckless choice of A4?

This irrational choice is this 2013 Audi S4 Quattro 6MT Premium Plus with its supercharged V6 listed for $13K.

But there is also something very cool about the A4 Avant wagons like this 2011 Avant Quattro Prestige + Titanium Package (although I think they mean Prestige Plus or Sport since Audi didn’t offer a Titanium package).

The most rational, and probably best, decision would be a A4 Quattro Premium Plus Sedan like this one for less than $8K in Los Angeles.

However, there is a way to split the difference and this one looks to be ideal, a 2011 A4 Sport Quattro Premium Plus outside of Temecula for less than $10K and only 120K miles.

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