It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The keys to an Airstream trailer were supposed to mine for the weekend. Things don’t always go as planned, however, and my luxury hotel-on-wheels was not to be. The loan was canceled… but the trip wasn’t. After all, it’s not every weekend that I have a pass to the Southern California Homebrewers Festival. I’ve only just started down the rabbit hole that is the world of homebrewing, but it’s a rather fascinating hobby that results in a fridge full of delicious results.
The SCHF occurs once every year, and the last few years the event has occupied scenic Lake Casitas. This particular patch of water is surrounded by lush greenery and a plethora of camp sites. I had picked out a nice large spot with a great lake view, and plenty of room for my Airstream dreams. Even though my lux ride was dashed, I happened to have the keys to another set of wheels that offered a little less in terms of amenities and comfort, but a whole lot more in style.
Who says you can’t go camping with a 2012 Audi A7?
What I have here is a fastback sedan of German origin. My cargo includes 42 bottles of American Amber Ale, two tents, two chairs, two bags of clothing, and my friend Tom in the shotgun seat. (Yes, Project Phoenix Tom – look for an update there soon). Can I fit all of that into the back of this sleek four-passenger machine, which is normally reserved for hauling highway ass, not camping gear? Yes, with room to spare. No need to fold down any seats, all of the beer is in a cooler in the rear hatch and then surrounded by the tents and items necessary for a good nights sleep. The rear seat contains bags of clothes, and my camera gear, and Tom’s up front scanning down road for any black-and-whites that want to put a crimp in our weekend plans.
The journey to Lake Casitas involves mostly highway driving, with a dash of spirited canyon carving thrown in for a good measure at the end of the trip. Our adventure begins on the 405 Freeway, which is filled with the standard mid-day LA traffic. Thankfully, we’re not just surrounded by cars, lane-splitting motorcycles, and lifted trucks. We have Bang & Olufsen speakers, beautiful wood, and comfortable leather blocking out the vapid wasteland that is mid-day Los Angeles. I have my SD card plugged into one of two available slots, and my favorite songs are playing through the exceptional sound system. It’s not Tom’s favorite music, but he didn’t brew the beer, and he isn’t in the driver’s seat.
Once we’re away from the cavernous end of the 405, we make our way onto the 101 Freeway, which is where we can let the A7 stretch its legs a bit. After all, there is a supercharged V6 sitting in the nose of this super hatch, and it’s sending power out to all four wheels. How much power? The 3.0-liter mill is good for 310 horsepower, but more importantly it also sends out gobs of torque throughout a sizable portion of the rev range. This all-aluminum TFSI unit produces 325 pound-feet of torque from 2,900 rpm up through 4,500 rpm.
Thanks to all that forward thrust, Tom and I make short work of the 101. Our next numbered thoroughfare bears the figure 33, which is excellent news for multiple reasons. The first being that we’re close to our destination, but the other being that the last bit of tarmac before we pull into the campground is a twisty sliver of two-lane blacktop. While the supercharged motor up front handled itself with ease on the highway, I’m far more interested in making both it and the transmission work a bit harder.
Audi has fitted the 2012 A7 with an eight-speed gearbox, which can be shifted manually via a pair of paddles mounted behind the wheel. Additionally, this four-ringed looker is equipped with the Dynamic Shift Program, so I can choose whether I want “comfort” or “dynamic”. Not one to be happy with mere comfort, I opted for dynamic, and grabbed the paddle marked “-“. The shifts happen quickly enough to keep everything entertaining, but you’ll never confuse this for the kissing-cousin-transmission found in a Lamborghini Gallardo. Perhaps the upcoming S7 will offer up a third setting that translates Corsa into German.
Enough fiddling with paddles though, Tom and I have arrived at Lake Casitas.
Before we say goodbye to the key fob for the rest of the weekend, we need to run a few camping related errands. This means a trip to the local store for food, firewood, water, and… well, more beer. First, we unpacked what was in the car and setup our tents because we wanted to make sure we didn’t start the imbibing process before our respective homes for the weekend were in place. As comfortable as the A7 was on the way to the campground, I had no desire to sleep in it. With our HQ secure, we set off for our goods, but our trip lasted longer than we expected. The tail end of the errand excursion was to occur under the cover of darkness… which gives me the excuse to test out one of the most interesting optional features I’ve ever seen.
Yes, you read that correctly, the 2012 Audi A7 can be had with night vision. This features comes as part of the $5,800 Innovation Package, which also features a heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, and something called Pre-Sense Plus. I assume that last one is some sort of Minority Report-like crime prevention unit. The other stuff doesn’t matter though, because I have night vision. I know others have done it before, but I’ve never driven those cars so equipped, so don’t spoil this for me.
The camera sits inside one of the four rings on the nose of the car. You turn it on with a simple press of a button, and it then occupies the space normally filled with your trip information or current track playing on the audio system. This area is right between the speedo and tach, so that means my eyes are doing an up-down-dance from the road to the night vision display. The pitch black campground road is lit up a bit thanks to the rather brilliant LED headlights, but the night vision system allows me to see even farther. Plus, if an animal or person were to pop up in front of the car, the system would place a yellow box around them like a targeting system on a fighter jet. Needless to say, our drive down this dark road is a worry free affair, and our errands were over.
I put the key away, and cracked my first beer by the crackling light of the campfire. Home brewers and beer fans from all over Southern California took over the entire Lake Casitas camping area, and everyone was eager to share the results of their own home brewing experiments. The next day, Tom and I walked down to the actual festival grounds, where larger brewing clubs had booths with multiple brews on tap. Almost every region of Southern California was accounted for thanks to crews such as The Maltose Falcons from Los Angeles, The Ojai Beer Barons, and even the shop where I buy my equipment and ingredients, Addision Home Brew Provisions from Fullteron. Those three are just a drop in the bucket though, and there is more than enough to drink at this festival.
The crackling light of the campfire has become a gray pit of embers. The bottles are all empty, and the tents are put away. The 2012 Audi A7 idles patiently after sleeping all weekend, and Tom and I are ready to return back to Orange County in our $80,130* camp shuttle. The journey home will be one that’s made possible by a combination of comfort, performance, style, and technology. The A7 offers all of that in spades, and I’m actually quite happy that I don’t have to haul an Airstream around the 33, on to the 101, and then back down the 405. Maybe the Audi A7 is the smart choice for camping after all?
[Disclosure: Audi handed me the key to this 2012 A7 and included a tank of gas. I immediately filled the car with camping gear and beer, so I could drive the car somewhere… where I couldn’t drive it.]
*As-Tested price is $80,130, while the base MSRP is $59,250. Yes, that is a lot of options.