February 3, 2012

Guest reviewer Marty Butch tries out a sporty Audi:

I’m at Bankstone’s vast and gleaming corporate headquarters campus in shabby former mill town Brighouse for this week’s test drive. It’s a semi-official test, in the sense that the vehicle’s owner, the elegant Rachel Stow of Thorneycroft Solicitors, hasn’t exactly been consulted.

In fact the doyenne of the Macclesfield legal scene is in a state of blissful ignorance as her suave host Dickon Tysoe backs casually towards the window of his harbourside office and drops the keys down to yours truly below.

Treat it with a bit of respect, he’s warned me earlier, Rachel’s a valued business partner. A valued what? Who talks like that in real life? Anyway, he needn’t have worried. Respect is my middle name. The ‘t’ is silent, mind.

So what are we looking at here? It’s an Audi A5 Cabriolet 3.0 tdi Quattro Sextronic or something. Tysoe’s written it down for me on a bit of paper. It’s also a gaudy metallic blue colour. I’d call it Aruba Blue, only I’d sound like a pillock if I did. Lady’s car, I snort derisively. Oh, well, let’s see what she can do.

I’m under strict instructions from Tysoe not to sit outside in neutral chasing the revs up in case Rachel gets wind. Can’t really see why she would. But if he says so… I fire her up gently and crawl round to the front of the building, just lightly brushing the 19” five-spoke alloys up against various kerbs and bollards as I go. She’s got a nice deep purr, though. You can feel the three litre engine’s got a bit of poke about it.

Now’s my chance to try out Rihanna’s classic Loud album on the Audi’s fancy Bang & Olufsen stereo thingy. Quite tasty, as it turns out. Hanging a left onto Armytage Road, I have to admit I’m beginning to enjoy myself. Just worried someone I know might see me in a lady’s car. I’ve found a big pair of Gucci shades and a Hermes headscarf in the glove box, though, and with these on there’s not much danger of getting recognised.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me, I holler along with Rihanna. I swing right up some miserable industrial alleyway called Wood Street. There’s this moron in a truck in the middle of the road hooting and making circular motions at me with his finger. I give him a finger back and accelerate through the gap between him and wall. Barely a scratch! Might just need to pop into Halfords for a tin of blue though.

I bump down off the pavement onto the Wakefield Road, heading west now. Let’s open this little lady up, I decide. See what she’s got under her bonnet. I floor it, and find myself pinned back against luxury leather upholstery. I jab at various pedals, one of which I’m hoping is the brake. Must be, because now I’m wrestling the rapidly-slowing Audi back into the left hand lane, leaving snaky trails of rubber in my wake. Easy there, I tell her, chuckling and patting randomly at buttons on the dash.

I cruise gingerly up the A643 towards the motorway doing a steady 20mph. The ride’s smooth enough, but there’s a bit of a rattle somewhere underneath and hint of a draft coming in where the passenger door’s out of whack with the frame. Heated seats should fix that! Nice touch. I crank Rihanna up to full volume. VERY LOUD. Not impressed with the B&O build quality though. Knob breaks clean off in my hand.

I hit the M62 and take her up to Junction 22 and back. Nice scenic backdrop. The ride is pert and perky, but there’s something up with the heated seats. My arse is fairly burning up, and it’s like a sauna in here now. Disturbing memories of one drunken Friday night round Tysoe’s. I shudder.

Pulling off again at J25 for Brighouse and Rastrick (thoughts of brass instruments bring back further Tysoe-linked recollections of an unwelcome nature), I’m perspiring heavily and becoming seriously alarmed about haemorrhoids. No idea how you get these windows down. So I press the hood-down button.

There’s a whirr and a clunk and, with reassuring Germanic precision, the hood folds itself neatly away, releasing billowing clouds of steam down the Wakefield Road. That’s better, I tell myself, though the crisp January air is already turning hot perspiration into chilly clammy damp, and I’m worried the semi-sodden headscarf’s going to come loose. I punch the button to get the hood back up, then change my mind and punch again, then change my mind again and punch the button a third time. This time the bugger stops half way.

As I pull into Bankstone’s canal-side HQ complex, I’m half-standing in the driver’s footwell turning back in a vain attempt to get the canopy up by hand. Won’t effing budge though. Now I’m getting angry. Just hope no one’s looking out the windows to witness these undignified scenes.

I decide to get her parked then try again. Backed up neatly waterside, I turn right round, kneeling on the still-very-warm driver’s seat, and continue wrestling frantically with the hood. I turn to use both hands and… Bingo! Canopy starts moving again, followed shortly by… Bollocks! Accidentally stepping back on to the gas pedal, I send her back wheels off the edge of the canalside stone work. There’s a horrible metallic grating as the Audi grinds to a halt teetering above the murky waters of the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

I vault out, Dukes of Hazzard style, quick as you like. That shifts the balance fatally and the grating sound starts up again as she slides implacably back towards her watery doom. Frantically I grab at the rising bonnet and try to shift the balance back. My fags are still in there! Not to mention Rihanna.

Conscious that I’m losing the fight, I glance up towards the sparkling facade of Bankstone Towers and spot Tysoe at his office window. Eerily motionless, he’s just stood there with the colour draining slowly from his slack-jawed face. He stares on blankly as the Audi lurches backwards and the LAW LADY 1 plates disappear into the canal basin depths. Rihanna gurgles into silence. Released from the spell, Tysoe turns quickly away from the window, flicking the blinds shut as he goes.

Minutes later I’m still watching the last giant air bubbles well up to disrupt the swirling Paisley psychedelia of surface oil, puffing on a fag I’ve nabbed from some old bloke walking a whippet. Tysoe bustles out with Rachel. I’ll drive you to the station, he tells her. Dickon, I’ve got my car, she protests. Let’s talk about that on the way to the station he says briskly, bundling her into the passenger seat of his battered Fiat Panda.

Five minutes later, he’s back, looking more than a tad huffy. Walks straight past me into the building. Next thing, his ops man Allan ‘Pops’ Poppleton pops out to tell me: Dickon says you’d best come up for a word. OK, I nod. Oh, and you might want to take those off, he suggests, indicating the shades and headscarf.

Seems Tysoe’s not best pleased. I’m pretty sure he’ll come round soon enough though. I know some blokes out in Full Sutton with the gear to fish her out. They’ll have her up in no time, and she’ll do alright for salvage.


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