When purchasing a family car, people seldom ask their children for input. We have been guilty of this ourselves: when we purchased a family car last year, we took a few test drives with our 8-year-olds in the back seat. We brought them along for two reasons: (1) we wanted to ensure the girls would fit in the back of the car we chose and (2) we were not able to get a babysitter. Mostly the latter. We didn’t ask for their thoughts on the car, and they didn’t volunteer them (other than kicking the back of the seat when they weren’t given enough room).
Sans kid input, we settled on a lightly used 2012 S-line Audi A4 Avant, which doesn’t just look great, but also gets great gas mileage (which is crucial if you have to shuttle said children to school, lessons and playdates). The girls approved of the purchase, naming the Avant “Sally the Station Wagon,” and proclaiming, “let’s keep this car for a really long time!” I call that a vote of confidence.
Recently, we took Sally the Station Wagon in for servicing and were given a loaner 2013 Audi A4 (thanks, Audi of Ann Arbor). I picked the girls up from school and was surprised to hear them talking about the car in the back seat. I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise — the girls are routinely exposed to a variety of car talk from their Mother and Stepdad. They have been in the car as we discuss the merits of tires, traction control systems and various other car attributes. Just like some kids speak sports, ours are starting to speak cars.
All this got me thinking about including kids in car purchase decisions. Kids these days spend just as much time as you do in the car, being shuttled to various places. Kids are also much better than adults at noticing little things, so we have nothing to lose by asking them to look closely at our car candidates. With that in mind, I asked the girls to tell me more about the car. What did they like? Was there something they didn’t like?
“Hey, this car looks like ours, but without a butt,” said said J as soon as she jumped in, noting the lack of a hatchback. “Yea,” answered her sister, “this leather inside is the same, but there is no room for Lucy (our dog) in the back.” Translation: there are not too many changes between the 2012 and 2013 A4 model year interior–it is still elegant and clean, which is typical of Audi. However, if you prefer “butts” (larger trunk space) on your cars so your dog can travel with you and your 2 kids, the A4 is probably too small for you.
We continued our review en route to violin lessons. “Let’s hear the radio,” asked J, requesting that we change the music to something that would test the stereo system a little more fully: Justin Bieber. On came “Body Rock” and the girls bobbed their heads happily, taking their review seriously. When the song ended, they proclaimed, “Justin is sooo cute! This stereo is not as nice or loud as ours.” Translation: the entry level stereo on the A4 is good, but if you care about sound, and want to enjoy your Justin Bieber at its fullest, you may want to upgrade.
Rain began to fall, and the A4’s wipers activated automatically. “Whoa, the car knows when it’s raining! That is cool,” said J. We often ask the girls if they can feel the car moving under them, which has made them very aware of what goes on when we drive. Several times in snowy conditions, they have noticed lack of grip from the back seat and said, “we just slid!” This morning, I asked the girls if they could “feel the rain” when I drove, and they said no. They liked how the A4 felt in the rain, especially when we purposely drove over a big puddle to test the car’s stability. “It’s quiet in here even though it is cold and raining outside,” said V, adding “I like that I can read my book while you drive.” Translation: The A4 has several features which make driving in inclement weather more pleasant. Intelligent wipers are a plus, as the driver does not have to constantly adjust wiper speed depending on precipitation and is free to focus on the road. The cabin is quiet and comfortable, and the A4’s quattro makes for drama-free driving in rain. As every Mom can attest, drama-free anything is a big plus.
When we got home, I asked the girls to walk around the A4 and check it out. They didn’t notice much, other than the headlights. “I like ours better,” said J. I asked J why she liked Sally the Station Wagon’s better and she said, “it looks faster.” Can a headlight look “faster”? You bet it can. I, too, like the 2012 “theatrical makeup” LED pattern on our 2012 A4 Avant better than the 2013 “L” pattern on the 2013 A4.
To complete their review of the car, the girls asked to sit in the driver’s seat while the car was parked. “Hey! There is lots of room up here, not fair!” was the general consensus. Attempts were made to reach the pedals, without much success. “I like how you can see everything from here. How do you look at so many things while you drive?” (Mom’s answer — you don’t. You look at the road). V’s final review: “this car is nice.” Translation: the A4 driver’s seat is roomy and comfortable, with thorough displays that don’t distract the driver. The girls can’t wait to reach the pedals, which is exactly how I feel when I get in a cool car: I can’t wait to get my feet on the pedals.
I asked the girls for any final comments about our loaner A4, which went back to the dealer the next day. “I like this car, but I like ours better,” said J. Added her sister, V, “one thing I definitely did NOT like was my sister singing in the back seat. She was way too loud!” Sorry, kiddo — Audi can’t help you with that one.