“I met my old lover, on the street last night; She seemed so glad to see me, I just smiled
And we talked about some old times, and drank ourselves some beers; Still crazy, after all these years, oh, still crazy after all these years”
Paul Simon, “Still Crazy After All These Years“
And like an old familiar lover, another vehicle was added to my stable….
The year was 2009 and the 2001 A6 2.7T was still running and looking well. But after nine years and 164,000 miles, I became concerned that an expensive repair might be somewhere in my future. There was nothing wrong with the car that I knew of, I just suspected that a $2,000 repair of some type could be around the corner, and that could be followed by another $2,000 repair. My wallet just couldn’t see that kind of investment making any sense. I normally take my cars to some pretty significant miles, but this one seemed like it was on the bleeding edge with some of its technology, and as the miles piled up, being on the financial bleeding edge was the last thing that I wanted to do.
Audi had updated their A6 in 2005 to the C6 chassis, but its styling left me “meh” and unimpressed. A newer car seemed like a good idea, so I looked at other manufacturers, but their balance of style, performance, economy and four wheel drive just didn’t mesh with mine. So what’s a driver to do?
Hmm…well, I did like my A6, right? If no one is making a car that I wanted right now, why not just buy a newer C5 version of the A6 until something better comes along? The last year for that C5 chassis was 2004, and the 2004 offered an additional S-Line model. Compared to my current 2.7T, the S-Line had a number of improvements including a slightly stronger engine (265 hp, 280 lbs. of torque), rear decklid spoiler, dual exposed exhaust tips, thicker door glass for better noise isolation and more. While I wouldn’t change cars just to get those improvements, the fact that it would have those and a lot fewer miles was a bonus.
With that decided, I searched for the nicest, lowest mileage 2004 A6 2.7T S-Line that I could find. White, black and silver were the most popular general car colors, so I definitely didn’t want one of those. Eventually, a Dolphin Grey Metallic A6 S-Line with a light grey interior popped up – eureka! It didn’t have the sport seats, but otherwise had the stronger engine, sports suspension, and rooftop fin for the Sirius satellite radio. It also had only 37,000 miles, so I was starting with 127,000 miles less than my soon to be sold green 2.7T. Nice!
Style is obviously a personal choice, but I liked the way that the spoiler and exposed exhaust pipes set off the rear end. I had always thought that the rear was the weakest point on the 2001, so this improved the car as far as I was concerned. My S-Line ownership also occurred in the “modern era”, so all the pictures in this COAL are from the actual car. These pictures are also taken not at the beginning of my ownership, but at the end when I sold it at 11 years old and 152,000 miles. Even at that age and mileage, it was still an excellent car.
I liked the clean and de-badged look of my previous 200 20V, so I removed the badges from both the green 2.7T and the S-Line.
I swapped out the wheels and tires from the 2001 to the S-Line, but left the larger sway bars on the old car.
The engine was still the 2.7 BiTurbo, just in a higher state of tune.
The lighter Grey interior was brighter and didn’t show dirt like the Tungsten Grey did. I missed the sports seats, but the Sirius radio was a welcome diversion.
Instrumentation was still clear and complete, and Audi had added chrome trim rings around the gauges for visual interest.
One of the features missing from this car was the nicely branded hole-to-the-center-of-the-earth on the rear transmission tunnel thoughtfully provided by my seven year old son. But his teenage self found another way to brand this car as his own…
So, it had been ten years now since the flaming inferno carpet incident of the green 2.7T. Being a young driver, my son was, of course, careful, detail oriented and always aware of his surroundings. Ha-ha, who am I kidding? I said that he was a young driver, right? Backing out of the driveway one day, he managed to side swipe the passenger side of the Audi with his 2000 Mercury Cougar. Yikes!
A visit to the body shop repaired the car, so the only long term damage was to my son’s wallet. To this day I still don’t know what he had against the two A6’s, but it’s probably safer that I don’t tempt fate with another one. Who knows what would happen?
The S-Line served me well in our many travels, and also provided the answer to one of life’s great age old mysteries: “How far you can drive an A6 with an inoperative alternator?”
In early 2015, I received one of those calls that a son doesn’t like to get. My elderly Mother was living in southeast Iowa and had fallen in her kitchen, breaking her hip, shoulder and several ribs. My sister (who lived nearby) was at the hospital and said that I should gather my brother and get out there pronto, as Mom had some other health conditions that made a fall even worse for her. My brother Dave booked the first plane out of LAX to Denver International Airport (DIA), where I picked him up and drove like a bat out of hell conscientiously drove the speed limit for the next 12 hours straight to the hospital.
Mom wasn’t in good shape, and Dave, my sister and I set up a 24 hour bedside vigil at the hospital. Many of you may have been through something similar, and you know first hand that this isn’t the way you want to visit a parent. After 10 days, it became clear that there was no more to be done and Dave had to get back home, as he was also the caregiver to his wife who had dementia. We left early the next morning to drive the 840 miles back to DIA so he could catch his flight that evening.
In checking the Weather Channel before we left, we saw that a winter storm was predicted to move into Colorado that evening, so the timing of our trip was important. If we left early enough and maintained a nice rate of speed, we could drop him off at DIA with enough time for me to drive the additional hour home before the storm hit.
Eight hours into our trip, Dave was driving when he asked me what that symbol was on the dash.
“Symbol? What symbol? How long has that been on?” I quizzed. “I don’t know…”.
The alternator light was on – rats! I had him pull over but leave the engine running so we could switch drivers. I had this happen years ago on my Camaro, and, being a poor college student, got quite good at judging the remaining battery life before the engine quit. But the Camaro required very little of the battery except for generating some juice for the coil and spark plugs. The Audi, on the other hand, was an electronic marvel, so…how long could it last? And how long had it been on? The 2.7T had a 120 amp hour alternator – pretty serious stuff – and I assumed that Audi didn’t put it there just for the heck of it. The water pump on the 2.7T was driven by the timing belt, not the alternator, so I wasn’t worried about engine damage if the belt had broken. Knowing that the alternator wasn’t charging and that the clock was ticking, I didn’t want to waste time opening the hood and diagnosing the problem.
I did, however, want to get someplace where we wouldn’t be stranded, as we were in Emptyprariewithnothinginsight, Nebraska. With eyes glued to the voltmeter, I cut all electrical accessories and got back on the interstate. Next town? Julesburg, Colorado, a small town of 1,200 people, but a town none the less.
As Julesburg swung into view 55 minutes later, the Audi began misfiring and bucking. The engine finally quit as I exited the Interstate, and we were able to coast downhill into the parking lot of the Colorado Visitors Center.
What now? Dave still had his flight to catch that evening at Denver International Airport – 177 miles away. The Visitors Center was thankfully open, so we went in and asked the nice lady where we could call a taxi. “Taxi? There ain’t no taxi’s out here on a Sunday” was her response. The last bus, of course, had left two hours ago as well. No rental cars were available on Sundays, and there was no Uber or LYFT service. I called the few repair shops in town to get a quick charge of the battery to get us going, but no luck.
Now, I may not be a rocket scientist, but I was definitely noticing a pattern here – we were running out of solutions and the clock was still ticking. Racking our brains for another answer, the nice lady eventually volunteered that she might know of someone who could take us to DIA for a price. The driver wasn’t available right then, but we worked out the details and he agreed to take us. If things went right, we would get there just in time for Dave’s flight.
As our driver pulled into the Visitor’s Center parking lot, snow started falling – two hours earlier than predicted. Uh-oh – we definitely hadn’t planned on that, and it seemed that our challenges were just piling one on top of the other… Off we went as the snow and visibility got worse. The driver was determined to get us there on time, and he drove at a speed in limited visibility that I wouldn’t dare risk. We finally arrived there in the nick of time, Dave literally running to his plane and me being picked up by my wife Jeanie.
So, how long can you run an A6 without an alternator? Beats me, but not as long as a six cylinder Camaro.
The S-Line served me well for six years and an additional 115,000 miles. But after 15 years with the same type of car, it was finally time for a change, and I knew just the car that I wanted to change to. The car still looked good and ran great at 11 years old and 152,000 miles, but I didn’t need it and its replacement – and I wanted its replacement. I ended up selling the car to another Realtor as an upgrade to her current ride.
Join me next week for a COAL on another of my Top 5 vehicles, one that is very different from, but is still cohabiting garage space with the Top 5 Vanimal. And while you may be able to barely peak in the garage to figure it out, it’s not my wife’s red CX-5…