But there are alternatives, and I'm not talking about a Vespa scooter.
How about an Audi A4? Specifically what Audi calls the ''Audi A4 Sedan 2.0 T FrontTrak CVT.''
In English, that translates to an A4 equipped with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with front-wheel-drive and a continuously variable transmission.
What's the big deal? This number: 27.4 mpg. That's not bad for a luxury ride whose performance, handling and accommodations compare well against such rivals as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac.
The A4 was all-new midway through 2005. The most noticeable thing about it is the large grille, which looks suspiciously like a large, open-mouthed bass rendered in a post-modern abstraction.
It takes some getting used to. Styling is a personal thing, and, well, I never was a fisherman.
On the other hand, the A4 is a real sweetheart of a car that comes in many guises. This includes a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive, four engines, three transmissions and two body styles (sedan or convertible coupe.)
Audi provided a vehicle whose basic drivetrain is at the bottom end of the scale, but equipped it opulently.
This includes a gas-saving transmission that constantly varies the gear ratios rather than sticking to standard five, six or seven preset gears.
The A4 also had the $3,000 ''S-Line Package'' that adds a sports suspension, 18-inch performance tires, and S-Line trim.
There also was a $1,950 navigation system, $1,850 ''Premium Package'' (auto-dimming mirrors, compass, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, power passenger seat and built-in garage door openers), $1,775 ''Technology Package'' (high-intensity headlamps, adaptive lighting, memory seats and mirrors, trip computer and phone prep), $1,400 ''Sunroof Package'' (a sunroof and leather seating surfaces), and a $400 Cold Weather Package (ski sack and heated rear seats).
XM Satellite radio added another $350. This made the affordable $27,840 base price balloon to $40,760.
But the car's drivetrain is a mere turbocharged double-overhead-cam four mated to a CVT transmission.
It packs plenty of power, along with plenty of vibration at idle. Still, it feels like there's more than 200 horses under your right loafer, and the CVT can be shifted manually, although I don't know why you'd bother.
Just opt for one of the six-speed manuals instead. Sure, the 3.2-liter six-cylinder will be more refined than the four, but you'll never see the gas mileage that this car returned.
Drive it like your grandmother and you might even see 30 mpg in mixed driving. (Note: Don't drive like my grandmother _ she drove fast.)
The ''S-Line'' adds a healthy firmness to this car that any German car lover can appreciate.
Cornering behavior is exemplary, with flat cornering characteristics and the firm stance Audi fans have come to appreciate. But try the seats before you buy, you might find them confining and a bit firm.
As for the electronics, well, it's the usual user-unfriendly German-car mishmash of buttons, menus and sub-menus, although Audi's screen seems a little easier to navigate than BMW's, but not as easy as a Mercedes-Benz's.
The audio system was every bit as good as you'd expect. XM makes it even better. If you're a music fan, this will be your favorite option.
The only option that took some getting used to was the adaptive headlamps, in which the headlamps turn in the direction of the front wheels. Driving down a curvy back road at night is a bit unnerving, as the headlamps dart from one direction to another. Not a bad idea, but not one I'd pay a whole lot of money for, either.
What made this Audi so surprising was that I drove it the same week I drove a VW on steroids, the Bentley Continental GT.
While the A4 was no Bentley, there was enough of a familial feel, that climbing into the A4 after spending a weekend in the Bentley didn't seem like such a bad thing. Whatever I missed in the Bentley was mitigated by the difference in fuel consumption.
So the A4, at least in 2-liter turbo form, gives its owner a European car, with all the manners the title implies, along with a heavy dose of comfort, convenience and fuel economy that outdoes many of its Asian competitors.
So even if the MSRP might pinch the purse, keeping an A4 fed will not.
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