COAL: 2015 Q3 and 2009 TT – Audi Duty Time

It has been over two years since I finished my Cars of a Lifetime series, so I figured I would check in with a quick update (two, actually). As the title makes clear, the Halter household has been graced pair of vehicles sporting the four interlocking rings.

Last winter, my wife’s much-maligned Lincoln MKC was replaced with a CPO 2015 Audi Q3. Yes, you read that right: a used car. After decades of buying and leasing only new cars, my recent positive experiences with our SLK Roadster and my son’s Acura TSX has reintroduced me to the joys (and savings) of preowned automobiles.

Neither my wife nor myself are fans of large vehicles: We prefer the maneuverability and nimbleness of smaller cars to the heft and profligacy of larger vehicles. Sure, when our kids were little, we bought into the three-row SUV lifestyle, which was nice to have to haul around friends, family, and their stuff. But now that my two kids are older (and in fact are each driving cars of their own), I find that we now have little need for a large three-row SUV. The few times I do need one, I rent one. These are typically during summer vacations at faraway places (like California or Hawaii) where I would not have driven my own vehicle (plus the rentals give me fodder for rental car review posts).

Looking good at 45,000 Miles

Still, there is no denying the usefulness of the two-box body style, so we always knew we were going to replace the MKC with another compact SUV, and the Q3 is quite frankly one of the best. Built on the same MQB (edit: PQ35) platform that underpins the VW Jetta, Audi TT, Audi A3, VW Golf and host of other VWAG cars, it rides, drives, and handles exactly for what it is: A slightly elevated Audi A3.

What of the legendary unreliability and expensive repairs associated with German cars? As far as scheduled maintenance, I’ve paid nothing. The original owner of this Q3 purchased AudiCare with the car, which amounts to prepaid scheduled maintenance for 60,000 miles, and is transferrable to the next owner. This Q3 came with three prepaid service visits, of which I’ve only used one so far.

The only problem I’ve experienced has been with the HID ballasts: Each headlight assembly has had one fail. Luckily, I’ve been able to source replacements on eBay for around 50 bucks, and it is about a 20-minute job to replace them myself.

When it comes to complaints, I really can’t think of any. Memory on the power seats would be nice, with as many drivers as it has. And while the 200 HP 2.0T engine is no barnburner, it is certainly adequate and never feels slow.

On to the second Audi to have joined our family. When last we checked in, my oldest son Josh was driving a somewhat tired 2005 Acura TSX that I procured for him, which essentially served as a set of automotive training wheels for him (he did get into a few small parking lot scrapes). But as his driving skills have improved, he was feeling the urge for something a little better (must run in the family).

I told Josh that I already provided for him the one and only car that I was going to, and if he wanted something better, he would have to pay for it himself. So he started saving up money from his part-time jobs. Josh has always fancied Audis (perhaps it goes back to the 2002 Audi TT that I briefly owned several summers ago). When this 2009 Audi TT Quattro popped up at a nearby car dealership, he had saved up enough for a decent down payment and jumped at the chance.

Josh’s 2009 TT parked next to our 2006 SLK.

While the Q3 has been trouble-free, the TT has been a little more, ahem, problematic. Shortly after taking delivery, the MIL came on, which my trusty code reader quickly diagnosed as an ignition misfire. More specifically, one of the ignition coils (a known weak spot on VW 2.0T engines) had gone bad. Since the car has almost 100,000 miles, I decided to replace all four to be safe. Driving behind the car at one point, I noticed that the LED third brake light was nonfunctional. eBay kindly provided an OEM replacement unit that shipped from Latvia(!) for a mere $60.

At some point, the engine splash shield fell off. eBay again came rescue, with a $60 replacement. Looking at the old part, it appears that the previous owner had one too many encounters with parking blocks in the low riding TT, so I can’t lay this problem at the feet of Audi. The inside hood release handle broke, and a replacement was quickly sourced from (you guessed it) eBay for $20.

Lastly (and most expensively), Josh came home one night with literally every warning light on the dashboard on, and the car making all kinds of vile noises and idling very roughly. Fearing the worst, I crossed my fingers and drove to the dealership with a chase vehicle behind, in case I didn’t make it. Luckily, it turned out to be just the crankcase pressure control valve (“breather valve”).

The TT is a great car to drive, even if I don’t get to drive it much: The six-speed DSG snaps off quick (but smooth) shifts, and the throttle response is immediate. All-wheel drive means that you are never spinning your front tires, and really helps out in our snowy northern Ohio winters. But it is a very cramped car – I have to curl up the get in and out, and I still end up hitting my head on the roof more often than not.

Perhaps the best part of the TT (at least for me, speaking as a parent): While the TT does have a rear seat, it is laughably small, so the car effectively functions as a two-seater. So no hauling large groups of friends, a known hazard for young drivers.