Project Car SOTU 2016: Project Audinary. Driving. Not quitting

So it’s cammed, tubbed, lightened, balanced, bluprinted, polished, ported and perfect. Well, no, actually it’s none of those things. It does have an oil leak, but that’s more of a characteristic than a fault. The question it poses is- stick or twist?
The VW Group 1.8t engine is famously responsive to tuning efforts, with big dyno numbers just a map away, and the sky being the limit if you start swapping turbochargers and intercoolers around. The idea of more power is really very appealing. But, having just returned in it from a 1700 mile round trip to beyond the tip of Scotland, I get to wondering whether there’s really any point.

As quoted from The Carchive, the A4 sport runs 0-60 in 8.3 seconds, 137mph top end, and by my reckoning it still can. Once upon a time these were impressive numbers, by 2016 they’re the stuff of family hatchbacks.
0-60, the traffic-light grand prix dragstrip measurement, is my least favourite performance statistic. I’m far more interested in in-gear flexibility, the idea of being able to cruise along going far too slowly, and then suddenly be going far more quickly in the blink of an eye. I’m talking overtaking.
There were enough dawdlers on the narrow roads between Inverness and Wick to prove that overtaking is not something the A4, in its current standard condition, has any particular trouble with. It could be better, of course, and getting the best overtaking result is highly dependent on good rev-matching and throttle timing, but with the little snail spinning it’ll slingshot past a semi quite nicely.
But here’s the thing. I decided to do some fuel economy measurements, out of curiosity and to get a decent measure of how the car is running. Every time the tank was filled, I’d brim it and take a measurement of the mileage. Then, next time it emptied I brimmed it and worked out how many gallons of dinosaur strainings my engine had used to cover the distance since last fill-up.
The first measurement included the late-night dash up the A1 to our overnight stop (sleeping in the car, naturally) North of Newcastle, then the drive from there to our next in-car overnight at Duncansby Head, then a few days of pottering on the island roads of Orkney. The result was 37.1 mpg. UK gallons, proper ones.
That was good, I thought. So I carried on with a freshly brimmed tank, by the time we arrived at Aviemore, our next destination mid-Scotland, it was time to fill up again. There had been a fair bit of spirited overtaking in this tankful, but the average speeds had been lower overall. It was what I would refer to as average everyday driving. It worked out 40.1 mpg.
I was dazzled by this figure, and soon found myself wondering if it wasn’t folly to sacrifice this economy for power that, at the end of the day, I’d probably end up taking for granted anyway.
I’ve realised too that, on UK roads, most people use their car’s power purely to prove a point. Putting country road overtakes to one side, frantic traffic-light launches aren’t performed by most because they need to, but because they can. It’s a show of look-how-fast-I-can-go. It’s food for the ego. It’s fun, too, but personally I find it wholly less thrilling than sustaining a high point-to-point speed on a challenging back-road, and that’s something the A4 does rather well already.
Part of my quest for power has undoubtedly been with the aim of stroking my own ego. Attaining performance parity with the vast hordes of people who run torquey brand new turbodiesel BMWs under company-augmented finance and spend all day exercising their high-speed cruising rights on the outside lane of the motorway, casually macheteing their way through the clumps of lesser drivers that are “in their way” with their off-the-peg suit jacket swinging in the rear window.
Why the hell would I want to join in their games anyway? I know I wouldn’t have to drive like they do, but that’s about the only way there is to use excess power on a motorway anyway. And, truthfully.
So, about this oil-leak. It’s coming from the valve cover and it’s been doing it for absolutely ages. I’ve never really thought of it as anything to worry about, although I know it’s the main cause of my car getting through about a litre of oil every 1,000 miles. Ideally, i’d get this sorted out. Most importantly, my complete rebuild of the cooling system has proved worthwhile; my fear of HGF mercifully turned out to be a false alarm.
So I’m now rather keen on keeping the Audi going, and going well, in its present state where it, after all, provides me with what I regard as being basically free motoring, with a side order of fun.
There’s another big advantage to kerbing my expenditure on the Audi, too, and that is that I can spend it all on the Rover, my one true automotive love, instead.
(All images copyright Chris Haining /Hooniverse 2016)

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  1. engineerd Avatar

    A toast to you and your stock engine. When I got the Bimmer I immediately started thinking of chips and exhausts and all the other things people go for. Instead, it’s wholly stock save for a set of Conti ExtremeContact DW tires, which have done marvels for both handling and ride quality. It’s a DD. It gets good mileage (~24 Christian mpg vs. your Heathen mpg) and is pretty darn reliable in stock form. Why mess with it.
    So, again, I toast you and your stock engine.

  2. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

    There are things you can do to increase both power and efficiency, mostly by reducing pumping losses. The stock intercooler setup is fairly restrictive, as is the downpipe and the exhaust. Changing one or more of these and getting a proper ECU tune (albeit one targeting air/fuel ratio optimization for efficiency rather than power) should see some significant gains- after all, 15hp is 10 percent!

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Increasing efficiency can improve fuel consumption figures too.
      Edit: Love the AMG wheels and correctly staggered for RWD too. Wait…..

  3. longrooffan Avatar

    As do you Rusty, I am more interested in the mid range increases in speed needed for overtaking slower traffic than I am in top end or 0-60 speeds and times. Another excellent write up.

  4. Steezy G Avatar
    Steezy G

    Oh wow, I myself travel up the A1 to get home at the weekend and recently came back from a trip to aviemore in my Seat Leon Cupra (1.8T AUQ Engine) I use the Fuel calculator app too when working out my average MPG, between 37 to 35.
    You’re me in another life!

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