This past weekend I took the R on its first real road trip. A 1,200 mile test from the Mid-Atlantic to Appalachia and back again comprising most of the prized road characteristics you’d want: steep inclines, vistas, sweeping turns, downhill straightaways, straight sections of 10 or more continuous miles of divided highway, winding roads, and a balanced mixture of both urban and rural settings. I’m not sure if this is common for everyone to experience on a road trip utilizing the interstate system (A big thank you goes out to Dwight Eisenhower…I like Ike) is that at some point during each leg you find a fellow motoring enthusiast who just gets it, that is is dialed in to the style of driving you like most. And when you find that person at that point you may begin what can be best described as an enjoyable game of “follow the leader”. This happened on both the outbound and return leg. The first instance I spied 3 friends in a dark gray Subaru STI that were more than happy trading lead roles winding our way through Western Maryland for about 45 minutes, until I had to stop for gas. The 2nd occurrence was on the return leg when a black GTI was at first ahead of me, but then proceeded to follow me for the next 2 hours. It made the drive seem to come alive as you are focused on passing, taking the right “lines” in the turns. The only hiccup came in the last 40 miles on the return leg when the Tire Pressure Monitoring System to TPMS light began flashing on the dash. A lump formed in my throat as I started to construct all the possible ways in which I could have damaged the tires. How could this happen? Have I not been diligent about checking the pressure weekly? I have. And certainly before starting off on the return leg of the trip I made certain to check again. And another thing while I’m on the subject of the TPMS, it only informs you that a change in pressure has been detected among all four tires…it doesn’t want to coddle you and share which tire may be on the verge of ruining your day. TPMS to me now means Temporary Pain in My Side. On to the good news, the R is awesome! It made the miles fly by, acquitted itself nicely through each bend, turn, and hill. It was subjected to wind and rain. One of the goose bump moments came when I realized I was entering more than one turn on the interstate over 95 MPH without feeling any slide or loss of traction. Nope, the R felt solid and powered through the turn. Yet another came while I was descending a hill a little over 100 MPH when I noticed a municipal vehicle parked in the median of the interstate. Figuring I was screwed I accepted that fate with dignity and simply took my foot off the accelerator in the hopes of getting the final radar gun reading below the “Immediately impound the vehicle and detain the driver” speed. But it seemed as though luck was to intervene in this instance. As I passed the police vehicle and expecting its light rack to fire up any moment signaling the start of the inevitable dance that would end with a court appointment I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the vehicle remained motionless in the median. Whew! The last of those moments occurred while we (me and the R) were descending one of the hills in Western Maryland and I began opening up the throttle (80-90-100-110…) and I realized at that exact moment while racing down a steep incline that the R doesn’t generate that much downforce or more to the point enough for me to comfortable opening it up any more. And at some point if I kept accelerating the tires may begin lifting off the road. So as discretion is the better part of valor, I saved that less traveled path for another day.
The take away from this first, of what I hope to be many more, road trip with this delightful hatch is that it’s genuinely fun to drive. The DSG was the right gearbox option, the R kept a smile on my face many many times, and it was overall a real pleasure to drive in varying road and weather conditions.