July 20, 2007

Audi & Jeeps: Chick Cars & Dad Cars

So here's the dilemma: just when I think we oughta crunch out and get a 4-door Rabbit, like half the families in Europe, who seem to do just fine, thank you very much, an Audi A3 drives by. Seriously, every time. I can't explain it.


But we can't get an A3, because A3's are chick cars. I'm not as big a fan of the A4 Avant, and the A6 Avant's just too big, I think. But now one of the 18 new models [?!] Audi's working on is the A5, a coupe--for which they're also contemplating a 5-door Sportback. Which looks great. And it's not a chick car, right? Right? [motorauthority.com via jalopnik]

On the other hand, 4-door Jeep Wranglers are not chick cars. But are they dad cars? Can you actually use them as regular family transportation? More importantly, can you get one? I've been to Jeep dealers three times in the last four months trying to check one out, and they haven't had a single 4-door Unlimited on the lot any time. Call me old-fashioned, but I guess I'm the kind of guy who likes to see a car in person before buying it. Maybe it's just me, though, because they're apparently accounting for 80% of the Wrangler production at the moment. [widingroad.com]


The A3 isn't a chick car -- not that you should be concerned with such labels. I've never heard that anywhere.

The 4-door wrangler is all about affectation. It looks cool, but if you're never, ever going to drive off-road, it's a waste. War in the Middle East, global warming, etc.

The Rabbit is cool, but for the same money you can also buy a Mazda 5 or Kia Rondo.

In the abstract I like a lot of the European luxury station wagons, but then I think about how many better ways I could spend the extra thousands over any standard $25,000 or less car.

I could install solar water heating for my house. Or give $5,000 to cancer research. And so on.

The A3 is not a chick car! My husband and I share one and we love it. We've taken it back-country on US Forest Service roads with no problem ... and off those roads, too, where only 4X4s are supposed to go (actually, the signs said NO cars should be there). The car was a trooper. And it can hold a lot of stuff, too. We fit our huge grill in the back when we bought it. And what's more manly than grilling?

I hate to break this to you, but all SUVs are chick cars. As the auto manufacturers found out from market research, women feel safer driving big, tall vehicles. Not necessarily safer from crashes, but safer from fears like feeling vulnerable to crime. So they are all about assuaging subconscious fears through consuming, which is another reason they piss me off. Read "High and Mighty: The Dangerous Rise of the SUV"
But the A3 is sweet. I drive a Mazda Protege5 which is like a much, MUCH cheaper doppelganger.
I'm holding out for the S3, might as well dream big.

Have you checked the Volvo s50? Little larger and sturdier than the A3, and the t-tech cloth is pretty baby resistant.

I've also never heard of the A3 referred to as a "chick car", neither amongst my friends nor in the automotive press. It has a dual clutch transmission, which is an amazing Audi innovation and is very sport-driving oriented. The only downside with the A3 is that it's not a quattro, and in the driving conditions that you typically find yourself in on the east coast, I'd recommend all wheel drive.

I have a 2006 A4 Avant (wagon) as my "everyday" car, as I've mentioned. I love it. The only downside on it, as far as I've experienced, is that it's a bit cramped in the back for anyone over three or four feet tall (especially when the front seat occupants are over 6 feet tall). Because of the cramped rear quarters, I'm probably going to look at an A8 when the lease expires. I know they're huge but they don't feel big when behind the wheel. I've never really been a fan of the A6 styling or handling.

I also think you should look at a Mazda5 if you like the Mercedes B-class and other European "monospace" styles. It's the only one of that type that's sold in the US. I've driven one and it was nice (although cramped and underpowered, as most European-market cars are).

I agree that SUVs in general are total chick cars. I always see some soccer mom driving a behemoth SUV. The wrangler is the only exception, but they are the most uncomfortable, unresponsive, unfun car to drive on the road (unless you're on a dirt trail in Utah somewhere.

I love the A3... call me effeminate, I wouldn't care if I were driving a compact family-hauler that could keep up with a few sports cars on the market. The A5 is nice but the front view looks like someone flattened a Q7 a bit, doesn't it?

[I'd love to flatten a Q7 or a thousand. I guess this is where I confess my only real criterion is that a car makes me even slightly cool in Metrodad's eyes. Here's what he wrote in 2005: "'My A3 is soooo sweet! The girls from the sorority and I love taking it to the mall or to the beach. Isn't my car so cute? It's zippy too! I'm so glad Daddy got it for me. He's the best!'" I'm weak, I know -ed.]

If you're worried about whether an A3 is a chick car (it is), I'm surprised you're not also worried about the traditional stereotype associated with the Wrangler. Namely, that it is the only thing on wheels gayer than a Miata. I say this only because I've owned over half of the cars on the usual top 10 gay cars lists, including the Miata. But not the Wrangler. Besides, (just like me) you already own an old French car, and that's one hell of a headstart on the automotive stereotyping to overcome.

I've been having the same dilemma for a couple years, and I think I'm going to do European delivery on the next Saab 9-3 wagon (when they put AWD on it). Saab's Euro delivery program is great, and GM believes that selling cars at less than cost and making it up on volume is a good strategy. Win-win.

Duh? Get both. Solves the dilema!

In the midwest, the only people that drive A3's are professors psychiatrists in their late 50s with a solitary 'No Blood for Oil' bumper sticker. Not a chick car.

The only people that drive Jeep Wranglers are high school girls or the mid 20s sons of wealthy daddies who wear backwards baseball hats, basketball shorts, tank tops, and try to attract those high school girls.

For us, the Golf worked just fine (except, ironically, golf clubs don't fit in the trunk) and we now drive a first gen CR-V, which is about as large as anybody needs.

My main problem with the A3 is that the bottom of the line model, with minimal options, is $30K. If you go the whole hog and get the 250HP Quattro with DSG, and some extras, you quickly zoom past $40K. That's a lot of money for a, let's face it, small car. (It is actually smaller than a Honda Civic)
The Civic Si sedan is pretty sweet too and maxed out is $5K cheaper than the Audi base model.
On the other hand, with the dollar down the tubes, buy your Audi now before the price goes up. We may all be buying Cherys from China before too long, with the big 3 bankrupt and Volks Rabbits starting at $45,000.

[I was staring out the window of the gym at a Mazda M3 5-dr in the parking lot, and it looks about the same class and size as the A3. It maxes out around $25k. I'm not saying they're identical or interchangeable, just have similar goals and functions. -ed.]

Who cares whether the A3 is a chick car? It's a blast to drive--a hell of a lot more fun than the A4 that we actually have. Funny thing, that. When I went to buy an A3 (and I really wanted one), Audi steered me into an A4 by offering laughably good, cheaper-than-a-Jetta lease rates on A4s while offering no incentives on A3s.

Still. I'd like an A3.

But, here's the other thing. Why not a 5 dr. GTI? It's an A3 in all but name, and costs 10K less, similarly equipped. A bit more Audi than a Rabbit, a bit more VW than an A3. It's like Goldilocks--just right. And in black, the red stripe around the grille is just butch enough to dilute the Rabbit platform's inherent chick-carness.

get a passat wagon & be done with it!

[you must be Art Gerhard, not M Gerhard -ed.]

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