This Friday, July 15 – all the way back in 1909 - Audi was founded by August Horch and his partners. A century later, in July, 2009, I nearly passed on the world of BMW for Audi. At the start, it was a battle between the Lexus IS 350, BMW 335i and the Audi TT-S. Considering cost, the upper-echelon models in the Lexus IS-F and BMW Z4 were out of the equation. The Audi TT-RS was also out because it was not yet available in the U.S. By the time it arrived in 2010, the TT-RS was – as expected - beyond the pocketbook but it was natural to dream.
Starting with the salvaged ’85 Plymouth Turismo (that was actually 2 Turismos welded together) and forward to the ’00 Toyota Celica GT-S (which preceded my current car), my vehicles were either red, silver or black. Since I had 2 of the ‘rental car’ or ‘fleet car’ colors out of the way in silver and black, the next color had to be white to complete the trifecta. That wasn’t the reason, but when I look back, there were some very conservative, ‘rentable’ colors in my logbook.
Right at the start of the search in February, 2009, I joined the BMW Car Club of America. Was that a tipping point for the purchase? Surely not. Beyond the legendary automotive reputation, BMW simply had a much bigger and active enthusiast community than either Lexus or Audi. During my 9-year Celica ownership, I met some of the best friends of my life and many remain friends to this day. I wanted that from my next enthusiast community association. Even if I bought a Lexus or Audi, I desired to be part of the BMW community…and buying one just felt inevitable…even if it would be many years later.
Maybe this was a ‘dare to be different’ moment. Starting in 2007, my work garage began to fill up with the latest BMW 3-series. All the while, I was recommending the 3-series – most frequently, the 335i - to co-workers. Then, I saw a white ’09 Audi TT-S online. Yes, it was another exciting rental car color. There was just something about it. It wasn’t the old TT that was panned as a secretary’s car. The new TT-S had more power and less of the Beetle-like contours. It was just a bit meaner…and I could learn to get over the turbo lag. With the right options, this could be the winner.
Dealerships were visited. Reviews were reviewed. Owners were queried. Lexus fell off first. The driving experience didn’t match or exceed the others. For the TT-S, on the ‘dare to be different’ front, it was so different that I couldn’t find the one I desired – a white TT-S with the Premium package. There’s one in Massachusetts! Gone. There’s one near Pittsburgh. Gone. There’s one in Florida. Gone. I broke down and settled to search for silver. I won’t name the dealership but in July, I drove over 150 miles for the roundtrip in the pouring rain. The car looked great inside and out. It could have been the one. When it came to the financial terms, the brick wall was constructed. Maybe the TT-S was a unicorn…with a unicorn’s premium attached. There was no budging on price or percentages and the salesperson wasn’t exactly a shining example of his profession. Lost customer. No sale.
Little did I know that all of the ‘search and seizure’ failures for an Audi would give me the perfect timing on a car in the Atlantic Ocean. Audi had been 1A while BMW was 1B. There was a white 2009 335i X Drive M Sport on a boat from Germany headed to Connecticut and on August 28, 2009, salesperson Terry Hanlon at BMW of Towson hit a home run. Terry listened, compromised, redirected the car to Maryland and closed the deal. The six-month marathon was over. It’s amazing how two salespersons could have the same opportunity in front of them – the almighty sale – and how the end experience could be so different. Props go to good ole Terry. Three years later, Hunt Valley Cars & Coffee would start. About a year after that, Priority One Automotive Group – which includes BMW of Towson and the very-recent addition of Audi of Owings Mills – would become a sponsor.
Horch, the last name of Audi’s founder, actually means Audi in Latin. Horch – and Audi – for that matter, mean ‘to listen’. If the purchase was pursued today, the BMW M2 and the Audi S3 could be contenders. The potential Audi purchase, this time, would take me to Towson. From experience, they’ll live up to the definition of Audi.