A few weeks ago I was in Germany driving a new Audi S6. With 450hp and the legendary Quattro four-wheel drive system, it should be just the job for a petrolhead like me.
But I didn’t drive it to its limits. I didn’t even get close to them. It was boring, and despite a speeding ticket soon following from Germany, I can assure you I had little fun in that car.
I don’t entirely blame the S6. Recently I’ve been starting to get a little bit frustrated with driving (what? -Ed). I’ve been forgetting how fun it can be – spending too much time on the motorway, and even on occasion opting for public transport instead (my office, now -Ed).
It all culminated in a drive to Stansted on Wednesday evening. A rush hour schlep around the M25 in my old Ford Puma meant I was genuinely wishing driverless cars were already a thing. I could sit in the back, browse the web and arrive at my destination so much more relaxed than I would after a battle with Britain’s most notorious motorway.
But last week I had the best drive of my life (thank goodness! -Ed). That’s not an exaggeration. That’s not a claim I make easily. I’ve had some fantastic drives. I’ve driven some exotic stuff. And the car on this occasion? A 1.4-litre Audi A1.
We were headed along the Col de Braus in the south of France. My co-driver knew the road well, having driven it previously in an Audi S3.
Halfway along the route he pulled over. “The next bit’s really good. You should drive it.”
Audi A1 on the Col de Braus
150hp worth of Audi A1 was slung towards this twisty, mountainous road. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t dangerous driving, and it certainly wasn’t about excessive speed. The road was wet, grip was limited and we largely had it to ourselves.
It was amazing. A ‘proper’ review of the Audi A1 is now up on MR, where I talk about its improved efficiency and impressive cylinder-on-demand technology. But here, let me just say that that car has convinced me to spend some money on my Puma, rather than trade into something more powerful.
Light, front-wheel drive cars don’t need an awful lot of power to be fun.
Despite its slightly dead steering, it handles beautifully, and can be slung about with its fairly modest power scrabbling between the front wheels in a bid to find traction. Sure, a MINI will hold the road better, but the Audi is playful.
Few A1 buyers will care that it’s such a hoot on roads such as this – but allow me a brief moment of madness while I remind myself what I love about driving.
As we reached the end of the col, we caught up with some traffic. We pulled over in a layby, snapped a few pictures and took a breather. As the brakes ticked, a massive grin spread on my face. “Can we do it again?”
Yeah, driving’s awesome. And it’s not all about huge horsepower or stupid speeds.