2015 Audi A3: Bringing It All Back Home
July 26, 2015
I picked up our repaired 2015 Audi A3 in Boise, Idaho, 900 miles from home. There were several return routes to choose from, and I decided on a modified version of the route our team took when they picked up the 1989 Yugo GVL.
I planned to mirror their trip from Boise to Twin Falls via Interstate 84, then south on U.S. Route 93 to Ely, Nevada. From there I would divert to U.S. Route 6 and Nevada State Route 318 to reconnect with 93, ultimately hitting Interstate 15 near Las Vegas. After a night in Sin City, I'd travel south on I-15 and take I-10 west to the California Route 57 home.
I grabbed a few large bottles of water and began my journey back to California.
I left Audi Boise at 8:30 a.m. with a sense of dread. Memories of Los Angeles rush hour hell was in the front of my mind. But I had nothing to fear in Boise. Even with a terrific amount of construction on the highways around the most populous city in Idaho, my speed never dropped below 40 mph. Once clear of the construction and on my way to Twin Falls, it was time to take in the endless fields of farmland and enjoy Idaho's generous 80-mph speed limit.
I set the cruise control at the limit and smiled as fellow travelers passed by. California's maximum 70-mph speed limit seemed antiquated in comparison. I was happy to finish this 130-mile leg of the trip in what seemed like no time at all.
Correction: it would have felt like no time at all if the A3 decided to play nice with my iPod Classic. I wanted to play something time-honored and distinctly American during my journey. Maybe Highway 61 Revisited. And then I plugged in my iPod and found that my music player was not supported. Following advice from The IT Crowd, I tried turning my iPod off and back on again, but nothing worked.
I pulled over and consulted the manual. Sure enough, the A3 should support 4th-generation iPods and newer. Mine is a 6th-gen iPod Classic, the last version Apple made before discontinuing the line. But the manual lied, and I wasn't about to turn around to Boise to troubleshoot the problem with the service technicians. Satellite radio and the few albums downloaded on my phone would be my companions.
My first thought after I entered Twin Falls was, "I wonder if this town actually has a pair of waterfalls?" A quick Google search pointed me to Shoshone Falls Park, a popular tourist site that offers a stunning view of Shoshone Falls and the Snake River.
At 212 feet tall, they dwarf the mighty Niagara Falls by 45 feet. Three dollars for admission to the park was a small price to pay for a relaxing respite from the road. I filled up with gas and caffeine before returning to the highway. Fuel economy was 29.7 mpg on this stretch. Not bad for sustained travel at high speed.
The next leg took me to Ely, Nevada. I entered the Silver State 50 miles from Twin Falls and stopped for a moment to snap pictures at the border town of Jackpot. The 205 miles between Jackpot and Ely consisted of flat desert expanse with nothing but the small town of Wells to break the monotony.
My stomach started to rumble within eyesight of Ely. I rolled into town and stopped for photos, gasoline and a sandwich. My fuel economy for this leg was 27.5 mpg, which would end up being the worst fill of the entire trip.
Rather than keep on 93 from Ely, I chose U.S. 6 and Nevada 318 for a more direct and interesting drive. Route 6 heads southwest out of Ely and up the pass between Rib Hill and Ward Mountain. I chose the Dynamic setting in Audi Drive Select and threw the transmission into manual. The A3 was wonderful on the long, sweeping turns afforded by the pass. With the transmission and steering in their sharpest settings, the A3 feels like a more mature version of the 2015 Volkswagen GTI.
After my brief mountain detour, it was back to the open road. Route 318 connects with 93 and the Extraterrestrial Highway at Crystal Springs, not far from Area 51. I fought the urge to pick up alien jerky and continued south. From there it was a straight 115-mile shot to Las Vegas.
I pushed through rush hour and Electric Daisy Carnival traffic and crashed in my hotel room for much-needed sleep. The next morning, I gassed up the A3 and headed home. Fuel economy from Ely to Las Vegas was 29.6 mpg, nearly matching my Boise-to-Twin Falls fill.
I chose to take the shortest day of my road trip at a leisurely pace. I wanted to focus on fuel economy for at least one section of the trip, so I set my speed at a comparatively conservative 70 mph. The drive from Vegas to my final destination of Brea was smooth sailing until I reached the Cajon Pass. Vehicles came to a standstill due to heavy road construction that reduced traffic to three lanes
Even so, when I filled up in Brea I'd achieved 34.8 mpg, the A3's best fill since it's been in our fleet.
The A3 was finally home with a brand new oil pan and a radiator grill full of every insect between here and Boise. Nine hundred miles in two days was easily the longest trip I had ever taken solo. But even without a connected iPod, the A3 was a perfect companion. The ride is comfortable without being soft, the engine and transmission combination was heavenly and fuel economy was stellar. I'll follow up on the iPod issue soon.
Following are fuel economy results for the major legs of the trip:
Boise to Twin Falls: 29.7 mpg
Twin Falls to Ely: 27.5 mpg
Ely to Las Vegas: 29.6 mpg
Las Vegas to Brea: 34.8 mpg
Total fuel economy from Boise to Brea: 30.2 mpg
Cameron Rogers, Vehicle Testing Assistant