Audi A5: A Post-Crash Postmortem

2008 Audi A5

2008 Audi A5

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The Audi A5 is a very good, very safe car.

The first part of that sentence can be confirmed by my driving experience in a manual-transmission, six-speed model with a 3.2 TFSI motor. (Important aside: This motor and transmission combination goes away for 2010 and the 3.2 TFSI will only be mated to the six-speed Tiptronic, starting at $44,000; the good news is the arrival a more efficient, high-torque-at-low revs 2.0, TFSI motor model that will retail for $36,000, $8k cheaper than the car I drove; more on that below.)

The second part of my lede can also be confirmed by experience, unfortunately.

I was driving the A5 home mid-Saturday morning. It was a bright, blue-sky summer day. I’d been out bike riding, and the conveniently folding 50/50 split, flat folding rear seats and hatchback design of the A5 made it simple to bring a mountain bike to the trail head, and bring it home afterward; hell, I could’ve put two bikes in the hatch had I had pedaling company. (Cyclists know this is no easy task in any car with sporting aspirations.)

A few miles from home I came to a four-way stop. I stopped, as one should. There were no cars visible at the intersection and so I hit the gas.

At that instant, a Pontiac Vibe was hurtling toward the four-way. I couldn’t see the car because there’s a bend just before the stop sign. Clearly one reason for the all-way stop is because of decreased visibility from that direction. Just as I lifted off the clutch, the Vibe was upon me.

And then I was reacting, not thinking, trying to get the Audi parallel to the Vibe that I’d only just glimpsed out of the corner of my eye as a flash of red. It was a harrowing millisecond, loud as cymbals struck next to my ears, a clash of metal and glass—and then very, very quiet. I was dumbfounded. At least my last-ditch effort to turn the car had caused the Vibe to hit the Audi at less than a perfect right angle, allowing the Pontiac to ricochet off the A5; the Vibe came to rest in front and to the left of the A5, narrowly missing the apple trees in the adjacent orchard.

And I was fine. Absolutely, completely unscathed.

The Audi took the hit so I didn’t have to. Had all four seats been occupied everyone would’ve been fine as well - the safety cell of the passenger compartment was completely preserved. Still, the A5 wasn’t going to run ever again. The force of the accident had been so strong that the entire frame bent. I knew this because my side of the car, the driver’s side that hadn’t been struck, had the door pinned shut. I clambered over and out the passenger side, pushing that door open with both both feet and saw that the Vibe’s driver, a middle-aged woman, was holding her head. She’d apparently banged it on the steering wheel and despite hitting me at a fierce rate of speed, her airbag didn’t blow. She was hurt—whiplash, perhaps a concussion—and hysterical and I did my best to calm her down and call 911.

The rest I’ll reconstruct for you briefly.

She never braked. There were no skid marks from her vehicle on the road. She admitted to the police that she blew the stop sign. I have a strong suspicion she’d been texting or making a call on her cell. I cannot confirm this, nor did I challenge her—her day was already going badly enough. The point is, at a four-way stop, quite near her home, she wasn’t paying attention. This is a 40-mph road, and given that I never even saw her approach, she was going at least that speed.

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