Old versus new: Can Sam Wallace's Audi RS4 B7 beat a Ford Mustang V8 RTR?
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I want you to think back to the year of 2006.
I was in my prime, 25 years old and hosting Sticky TV (not as sordid as it sounds). Helen Clarke was in her 3rd term. George W Bush was the leader of the free world. Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back. It was also the year we lost Australian icons Steve Irwin and Peter Brock. The first ever world-changing iPhone was still a year away. And it was also the year my mum bought an Audi RS4.
You know the one, the B7. The one with the flared arches and the high-revving naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8. The one everyone wanted. She paid $160,000, which was a lot of money now, and a lot of money back then.
Ten years later I bought it off her and I’ve owned it ever since. Why? Because I can’t let it go. Every time I attempt to upgrade it, I don’t because I have this theory that for the money you have to hand over in 2020, you just don’t get a significantly better car.
So when I was handed the keys to the new Ford Mustang GT V8, I was delighted. Is this the car that will finally convince me to hand over the cash and upgrade to something new?
This one was something special too, the RTR, which apparently stands for Ready to Rock. When I found this out I did a little spew in my mouth because that is wildly cringy.
Nevertheless, the RTR model looks like something straight out of Scotty McLaughlin’s garage. It has all the bits and bobs; a giant wing on the back, a huge splitter on the front, which is probably great for aero, but all it did at road speeds was get caught on my driveway … and nearly everything else.
It got snagged at the parking building at my gym, even on the judder bar at the local park, and pretty much anything taller than a puma’s tail.
The plastic on the splitter took a beating within two days. Normally I would offer to pay for that, but on this occasion I was convinced it wasn’t my fault and it’s a somewhat easily replaceable part.
But this is not a negative report card, just some lessons along the way.
Despite the front of the car catching and the gearbox not to my liking, I really fell in love with this car. I would come out of my house and see it sitting in my garage and look at it like a ten-year old boy looks at a space rocket and let out a sigh. A sigh of admiration.
Now the gearbox, a 10-speed automatic. And I appreciate why; it economy. It’s to make the most of the fuel tank they have fitted to a car with a very thirsty donkey. But the gearbox was just a frustration: I’d come into corner, flick down through the gears to get some engine braking, but I would have to flick through about seven of them and by then I was already around the corner.
But it’s not just that: when I put in 'S' mode, where I’m apparently in control of the ratios. I wasn’t. I would tell it to change and there was up to a three-second delay. Or it wouldn’t hold the gear.
But here’s the thing: stop pretending it’s manual or dual clutch. In fact forget it has a gearbox at all and just drive it, because as soon as you’re at peace with its quirks, it just works.
So the DRIVEN team decided to do an experiment. They were convinced my theory on my 2006 Audi RS4 still keeping up with cars of the day was flawed. So I jumped in the old girl from a different decade while Dean Evans, the boss of DRIVEN, jumped in the 2020 RTR Mustang and drove to Hampton Downs Raceway and found the longest flattest straight we could.
Our dedicated and clued-up writers Matthew and Andrew were there and happy to pass on their opinions. Which went along the lines of 'the RS4 it doesn’t stand a chance'. And I believed them ... I even set up the GoPros to favour the Mustang being in the lead.
But we were all wrong. The RS4 brought the sexy back and jumped out of the blocks faster than Steve Irwin dodging a croc, leaping out to a car length immediately, and easily beating the Mustang off the line.
However, then the big dog came to eat, the RTR storming down the RS4 and just passing her at the 300m cone we set up. And I’m first to admit that if the race was longer, the Mustang would have won by more.
So where do I stand on this?
My 2006 Audi doesn’t even have Bluetooth. I can’t connect my phone. It has a tape player and a 10 CD stacker. I need to upgrade. In contrast the Mustang has everything.
It’s gorgeous and it stirs something in your loins, satisfying something in our evolution that we can’t explain. And that’s before you even start it up. But the American legend has had 14 years to refine and inspire me to make the investment. And it didn’t quite do enough to convince me.
So I’ve decided I’m staying with my 14-year old Audi and can you believe it’s been 14 years since we lost Steve Irwin and Brocky. Sad, for a number of reasons.