Thursday, 8 February 2007

Let me tell you the tale of my Audi A2. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin……

Here’s another mid-atlantic blog entry.

I purchased my A2 in early 2005. It was less than 3 years old, had around 26k miles and only two owners. This was my second A2, I was attracted by the concept of the lightweight aluminium construction, the superb packaging, the modern efficient FSI engine which promised 45mpg, & it had all the usual Audi mod-cons and premium car feel.

At the time it was the only current Audi with decently resolved steering feedback and control weighting, and with 110bhp and only 960kgs it was a pretty good drive. The downsides were mainly the ride – this is a ‘Sport’ with 17” wheels and 35% tyres.

Poor ride is the A2’s weakness & the big wheel’s unsprung weight and stiff sidewalls made it even worse. Recently I drove a non-Sport spec. car. This was actually a much better car over-all (although it had the smaller engine), because it didn’t ride like a 1957 Landrover.

Anyway, back to my A2 purchase. After buying older cars and squaring up to pretty big repair bills, I thought at least this one is new(-ish) and should be reliable and cheap to run!

In Autumn 2005, just before the end of the three year warranty period, I arranged for it to go to my local dealer, Aston Green (nee Slough) Audi in Slough, for a service. I wanted any problems to be identified while the car was still under warranty. Sure enough, there was a fault with the front suspension which was causing a knocking sound. However, it appears that while the correct service schedule had been carried out by the original selling dealer in Dulwich and the service book was fully stamped, some central computer system had not been updated. As a consequence Aston Green were unwilling to carry out the repairs.

Dulwich Audi were brilliant though, and accepted full responsibility for this mix up, arranged to collect the car and carried out a full service and the necessary suspension repairs.

A high point of my year…..

A few weeks later, I started to notice that the car was losing power in the low and mid-range. The ECU warning light also lit intermittently. I arranged for my wife to bring the car in for a check by Aston Green in December. They were unable to locate a fault and asked us to bring the car back again for further diagnostics.

This we did, but were told the error codes in the car’s ECU did not appear to be correct & that a package of information had been sent to Audi UK in Milton Keynes for advice. I was also informed that I’d be contacted when a reply had been received.

Now taking the car to a dealer in Slough was a blessed inconvenience. Each time we had to juggle work, school runs, nannies etc. and it was always a nuisance.

I heard nothing from Slough Audi.

Meanwhile the car continued to run poorly and the ECU light was lit permanently. Eventually, it stranded me, and I had to be recovered by AA Relay. The AA technician diagnosed that two of the coil packs had failed. He replaced them, and the car at least ran, but the performance was still poor.

The continuing poor running then started to be accompanied by a rattle when the car was started from cold. Girding my loins for another encounter with Aston Green Audi, I again arranged to bring the car in. This was around March 2006. On this occasion I was told that the catalytic converter had failed, and that this was the cause of the noise and probably the poor running too. Unfortunately it seemed a cat failure on this car was so rare that there were none of the necessary parts in the system and I’d have to wait several weeks for them to be sourced in Germany. Meanwhile it was strongly recommended I didn’t drive the car. This wasn’t practical for us, so I rang around the Audi network and located a cat in Audi Portsmouth, which I had fitted at a total cost of over £500-.

Naturally I enquired why the cat had failed after just 30,000 miles – judging by the lack of availability of the cats it clearly isn’t at all common – but was informed that it had “probably received a shock or impact”. I’ve driven the car almost exclusively for nearly 10,000 miles and was unaware of any shocks or impacts.

However, replacing the catalyst still failed to improve the poor low and mid-speed running. This had now reached the stage where I was unwilling to allow my wife to drive the car with our children, as the response to the throttle was now so erratic it was a liability, for example trying to pull out onto a busy roundabout. And a rear tweeter had started to buzz annoyingly.

So in June I faced up to yet another round with Aston Green, and organised to bring the car in for more diagnostics. This still failed to identify the fault, although at least on this occasion after I demonstrated the problem, the technician acknowledged that there was a mechanical issue. Once again, information was sent to Audi UK, and this time I was asked to bring the car back in again for more diagnostics.

At this point, I was told that a £30- charcoal filter has broken up, needing the fuel system to be cleaned out & parts replaced at a (discounted) cost of £600, in addition to the £300 already paid for the diagnostic work. Again, I was told that this fault is unheard of in an A2, but it should “probably” fix the poor running problem. Although I mentioned the tweeter, it still buzzes annoyingly.

At this point, I wheeled out the PC and drafted a ‘I’m not happy..’ letter to Slough Audi’s gaffer (dealer principal) and the head of Audi UK.

To be fair, Audi Slough’s response was good. The head of their customer services got in touch, and once again the car went in – this time it was collected from my office and I got a nice A4 courtesy car.

After about 3 weeks I was told they’d fixed it. Hurray! They delivered it all nice and clean and I looked forward to the drive home.

After 20 minutes I was cursing Slough Audi, as the poor thing struggled to climb a moderate incline – fixed my arse!

So it was back to Slough Audi for visit number 5. Or 6 - I’ve lost count. Again I got a nice courtesy car – this time a brand new A4, and waited two more weeks when the call came again – they’ve fixed it, all it needed was a new ECU…

But this time I wasn’t going to take their word for it and insisted on an accompanied test drive. Their technician, Ian, was nice bloke, but I could tell that it was really down on power as soon as I headed up the road. Sure enough, after 25minutes of running, the poor thing stated running like a knackered Trabant. Rather embarrassedly, Ian agreed, and back it went, and this time it stayed for 9 weeks!

At this point it’s December 2006, the Cayman had arrived, we’ve moved to the south coast, and whole forests have grown up and been cut down for timber. All I wanted was a running A2 and I’d be happy.

Now to be fair to Slough Audi, they’ve picked up the costs for all this failed diagnostics. This amounts to 36 hours, £1000 of parts, and car hire. I estimate the total cost is nearly £5000 so far.

Finally, I got the call. “We’ve isolated the fault!” they said. Apparently; it was contaminated fuel all along, all caused by the failure of the £30 filter. It’s just that the first attempt to clean the system hadn’t been entirely successful.

So the big day came and I went to try it out again. Well, it now goes better than a Trabant, but guess what? Its still not 100%. In fact it isn’t even 70%. Sometimes I put my foot down and it pulls clean & hard to the redline in 3rd and then 4th. Try it again 60 seconds later and it feels like someone’s shoved a potato up its exhaust.

So after more than a year of a poorly running A2, more than 8 visits to Aston Green, probably £1500 in unscheduled repair costs, as well as fuel consumption that now struggles to reach 35mpg instead of the normal 45mpg. And at the time of writing the issue is still not resolved.

I chose an Audi because of its premium brand & reputation and because I wanted an efficient, high quality & reliable car with an excellent ownership experience and dealership back-up. Had I wanted to enjoy poor dealer support and unreliability, be assured I would have chosen something made in Italy or France.

PS Feb 2007 and the A2 is back with Slough Audi. There’s a part of me that wishes it would go away, but fingers crossed its in Slough for the final time.

To be continued….

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