I’m Ethan. Nice to meet you. I sold drugs and did various other crimes as a young adult, but I let it go so I could sell cars to North Carolina’s finest criminals. That S550 on Forgiatos in front of a housing project? I sold it. Your weed man just pulled up in a $60,000 QX80? Money in my pocket. That 7 Series blowing out blue smoke near a luxury shopping mall? It was me. This is a deep game—and the game is sold, not told.
Over my years selling cars, I often ran into vehicles that I never particularly liked for reasons really unbeknownst to me. Unexamined reasons, I guess you could say. You know you have these preconceptions, but you don’t know from whence they came. Example: I used to have a huge bias against Audi in particular. I hated the VW platforms most of their lineup sat on, I didn’t really like the way they looked, and the reliability horror stories made me stay away. I was that way for a long time—until I had my mind changed.
We bought a lot of vehicles at Best Coast Motorsports. Some special, some rare, most neither. When it came to Audis, most of them were just dirty A4 2.0T models from up north. Every once in a while we’d buy something special. The one that got me was a 2010 S5. I never was really impressed with the S5 early on. My main gripe was the fact the BMW 335i existed and was faster and didn’t break as often.
To further cement how I felt, not a few months before I’d had a 2009 S5 drop on my lot. That car had an automatic gearbox, leaked fluids from all its orifices, and the dash was lit up with more flashing lights than a suburban home around Christmas. I hated that car and celebrated the day we found someone stupid enough to take it off our hands.
When that second S5 arrived, I had my mind changed. I drove it home the first night and quickly realized I was in the presence of something special. It may not have made me giggle like a 335i, but it was special in its own unique way. It didn’t shake me to death over bumps, and the interior was beautiful to look at. The naturally-aspirated V-8 sang a raspy yet just perfectly muted note. I honestly miss the car now that I’m thinking about it.
That’s when I realized I had been basing my thoughts on the Audi brand on generalizations and bad experiences. The generalizations were based on the loudest voices of the online enthusiast community. I started to realize I had missed out on great automotive experiences because I was listening to other people instead of experiencing things for myself. It made me stop to think of how many more I had probably missed over the years. It was that day I realized that maybe my tastes stretched beyond the obvious choices as an enthusiast.
There were so many cars I stayed away from for years because I didn’t understand their true value. A prime example is the Volvo XC90. I was always a Volvo guy, I started playing around with the 850 when I was in high school and it became one of my all-time favorite cars. But the XC90 laid far outside of my enthusiast center, I knew it was what suburban families enjoyed, but it wasn’t a car I’d pin on my wall.
That was until I took a 2004 2.5 T with 400,000 miles on the clock, in trade for a C250 Benz. That’s right. Four hundred thousand miles. What should’ve made me completely not even want an XC90 actually made me keep it for myself. I’ve owned two more recent models since because I fell in love. It has to be the most ergonomic vehicle ever. The car is easy to drive, offers smooth powertrain options, it’s huge and airy like a cathedral, and it’s built like a vault.
Ten years ago I basically denounced the entire Lincoln brand. I spent my time yelling about how most of their lineup was worse than the Fords they were based upon. When the Continental came about, it took me time to warm up to it. I went out of my way to put the Cadillac CT6 and Volvo S90 ahead of it, which I’ll now admit was completely wrong. Once I got my hands on one briefly I realized my mistake. To be honest, Lincoln’s current lineup is the best effort they’ve had in decades.
I’m not saying you need to go try an S5, an XC90, or a Continental. I’m saying we all have to open our eyes as enthusiasts and shake our prejudices regarding certain vehicles. I know plenty of people who have never even enjoyed a good Honda because they never opened their eyes to one. The same goes for me and how bad I clowned Volkswagen Audi Group products for years. If you’ve been watching the news lately, you know we’re in the middle of a situation which is largely the product of long-held preconceptions various groups of people have about each other. That’s too big a situation to talk about here, and chances are we’re probably not on the same side of things anyway. So instead I want to focus on our shared hobby, our shared passion, and just ask all enthusiasts to open their eyes a bit. Give every car the same opportunity to make you feel something. You’ll be surprised at what you find.