Recently I was invited to spend a weekend at Daytona International Speedway with a mass gathering of Ferraris. The occasion was the Ferrari Challenge Series “Finali Mondiali” or World Finals which was being held in the United States for the first time. The Ferrari Challenge Series is billed as an FIA sanctioned racing series. In reality what it is, is an excuse for Ferrari owners to gather for a week and party like the rock stars they are.
Sure there was some racing, most of it pretty good, but the teams are all owned (mostly) by Ferrari dealerships from around the country like Ferrari of Beverly Hills. It seemed to me at least that the focus was less on the racing, and more on the events for customers. Lots of “hospitality” where copious amounts of alcohol (top shelf it can be assumed) flowed.
There was also the ”F1 Clienti” program that allowed people who own older Ferrari F1 cars (you can buy a Ferrari F1 car that is older than two years) the chance to actually drive them on a track complete with a dedicated crew.
Also, FXX owners got a chance to drive their cars. The Ferrari FXX program costs a little less than owning an actual F1 car, around $2 million, but like the F1 Clienti the owners can’t park their prized machines in their own garage. Instead, Ferrari keeps the cars allowing the owners to drive them only when, and where, Ferrari says it’s okay.
Scattered amongst this were the owners of a single Ferrari. By themselves, people who own a Ferrari are usually pretty well off. We middle class warriors rarely see a Ferrari prowling the roads of suburbia. If one is parked, it usually attracts a crowd.
And there I was spending a week with literally over a thousand of them.
One night they attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the largest parade lap of Ferraris. They fell just over 100 short (the previous record of set in 2012 at the Silverstone Circuit with 964 Ferraris). That night I sat on pit road at Daytona and watched over 800 (the final count was 854), privately owned Ferraris slowly circle the track. I tried to calculate the amount money I was seeing; I gave up figuring knowing at the very least the amount would be more than the gross national product of a country or two, perhaps three. Add to that the racers, the F1 cars, and the FXX program machines, and even the US government could make a sizable dent in our own national debt.
To be able to own a Ferrari means you have to worry less about living paycheck to paycheck and more about tax shelters. There’s nothing wrong with being successful enough to buy one. Nothing at all.
The point is that a Ferrari is a very special car. It’s unique, different, sexy. It’s special to own one, special to drive one, and special to look at it.
Of course I was a tad jealous being around all those rolling Italian works of art. I consoled myself though when Audi delivered me a new 2017 A4 for the week.
The Audi A4 is nearly everything a Ferrari isn’t. The A4 is a sedate sedan, no flash, no rolling work of art. It won’t attract sexy young girls like I saw hanging around with men old enough to be their fathers and grandfathers at Daytona (hey, more power to ‘em).
The A4 isn’t fast, nor hand built. Audi does race modified versions, but you can buy a street version for the price of a few Ferrari t-shirts.
Audi completely redesigned the A4 for 2017. There’s more power, better fuel mileage and a bunch of new safety and technology features.
There are three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive (Quattro) available.
The Premium has automatic xenon headlights, Audi’s Drive Select, tri-zone climate control, forward collision mitigation system, power front seats, leather upholstery. There’s also a rearview camera, and Audi’s MMI system controlled through a 7-inch screen, and a 10-speaker audio system atop 17-inch wheels.
You can add the Convenience group with keyless ignition, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, driver memory settings and satellite radio.
The Premium Plus has the Convenience package features, and heated front seats (which are optional on the Premium). There’s also LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system and something called the “S-Line” which are basically sporty exterior styling tweaks. There are also 18-inch shoes.
On the Plus level you can option in the Technology package which has blind-spot monitoring, rear collision mitigation, the 12.3 inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, navigation, an enhanced 8.3 inch screen (you can option this in on the Premium), and Audi online connected services.
The Prestige level has the Technology package and a heads up display, HD radio, and a surround view camera parking system.
There are option packages like the Cold Weather, Warm Weather, Driver Assistance, and Sport or Sport Plus.
Under the hood the standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant delivering 252 horses, and 273 pound-feet of torque. There is an A4 Ultra engine with less horsepower, 190, and less torque, 236 lb-ft, which Audi says gets better mileage.
A seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard, and a six-speed manual can be had but only on the all-wheel drive. The Ultra is front wheel drive only.
I’ve driven an A4 in the past, and this new variant is even better. I had the Premium all-wheel drive (Quattro) for the week, and it had everything I could want in a small sedan; 19-inch wheels, the Sport and Technology package, and the Premium Plus package.
The 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster is one of the best on the market, and the ability to add Google Earth over the navigation is a personal favorite I have yet to find anywhere else.
On the road, the power is great, and the drive smooth.
At the end of the week this new A4 reinforced what I already knew. The Audi A4 is one of the best small sedans on the market. It certainly isn’t flashy, may not attract young girls, but most of us can actually afford to own it. And we don’t have to wait to drive one when Audi tells us to.
If ever Audi staged a World Finals, I imagine it would be a pretty sedate affair. Although I suspect that Audi would not have a hard time finding more than 1000 A4s to break a world record.
The 2017 Audi A4
MSRP (as tested): $50,025
Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged, 252 hp @ 5,600-6,000 rpm, 273 lb-ft torque @ 1,600-4,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 24 city, 31 highway, 27 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 30 mpg
Base Curb Weight: 3626
Exterior Dimensions (In)
Length, Overall: 186.1
Width, Max w/o mirrors: 72.5
Height, Overall: 56.2
Track Width, Front: 61.9
Track Width, Rear: 61.2
Interior Dimensions (In)
Passenger Capacity: 5
Front Head Room: 38.9
Front Leg Room: 41.3
Front Shoulder Room: 55.9
Second Head Room: 37.4
Second Leg Room: 35.7
Second Shoulder Room: 54.5
Cargo Area Dimensions
Trunk Volume: 13
Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Corrosion: 12 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 4 Years/Unlimited Miles
Maintenance: 1 Year/10,000 Miles
All specs (PDF)
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