MONEY Autos

Audi A3 is Made for Millennials

The new entry-level Audi is elegant and understated. Plus, it will read incoming text messages out loud for you.

A number of years ago I met with Audi executives, who wanted to deliver a message: keep an eye on us. They told me that Audi is going to get better and better and then challenge Mercedes and BMW.

That kind of statement sticks with you, but the Audi guys made good on their promise. Audi has now racked up 45 consecutive months of record sales in the U.S. because it can offer a full lineup of elegantly engineered automobiles, from the wondrous R8 sports car to the latest new model, the entry-level A3. The company is banking on winning conquests from Asian makers — maybe Lexus or Acura drivers who want a little more panache — and clearly it wants to take on its German rivals head-to-head.

And in the A3, which starts at around $30,000, Audi has a good case. Let’s be clear, though: If you’re looking for whistles and bells, for over-the-top (as in Italian) styling, or for lots of ornaments on your auto, you probably should go elsewhere. The A3 is luxury defined as restrained elegance, with quality if quiet materials, and a ride that is powerful enough without calling too much attention to itself. You may buy an A3 to announce that you’ve moved up into the 90th percentile, but you’re not going to shout about it.

That was true even with the color of the car we tested. Yes, the Scuba Blue hue was an extra $550. But unlike, say, the cornflower blue of the BMW M3 we drove a couple of weeks before, which was screaming, “I’m TOH-tally cool blue,” this color projected strength. And so did the engine, where it really counts. We were running the bigger of the two power plants that Audi offers in the A3, a turbocharged, 2.0 liter, 220-horsepower, 4–cylinder engine and all-wheel drive that brings the price to $32,900. The 1.8 liter, 170-hp front-wheel drive version gets you in at $30,795, which means you’re giving up a lot of power and torque for two thou. Both versions are equipped with a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, and that’s not a small thing. It’s a lot of fun looking at the tachometer as you rev through the gears; although the needle races left to right and back again, the smooth transition up and down the gearbox is very impressive.

As for the ride, you can be comfortably aggressive however you like to drive, but the Audi, like lots of refined autos, offers you a couple of modes to tune your wheels. Choose the sport mode, and the electronic steering digs in a little harder and the pedal gets more jumpy, yet the feeling is calm and the interior is quiet enough to enjoy the sound system.

Inside, the A3 dashboard is like a German winter — cool and dark — with a couple of round aluminum AC ports to interrupt the rich leather panel. But it can be brightened by the MMI navigation package, which features a pop-up screen that rises out of the dash like a submarine periscope: Drive! Drive!

The center console is the control room with the commands dished out by a center dial and a four-corner touch panel to handle navigation, audio, and communication. The top of the dial also serves as a touchpad that allows you to write in the destination you want the navigation system to find. It all sounds a bit complex, but after two days I had a really good feel for it — something I can’t say for other vehicles with similar systems.

The only drawback to the interior is the back seat, which can hold three passengers, but only if you really don’t like the one stuck in the middle. Some reviewers have found it downright cramped, but this is what entry-level luxury means in a small sedan. Same thing with the trunk, which I found to be adequate, if just barely.

How can you make a German luxury car that sells for $30,000? Don’t build it in Germany. The A3 is assembled in Gyor, Hungary, and 35% of the parts are Hungarian-made. It’s actually a good deal: Hungary’s wages are lower than Germany’s, which helps keep the price down, yet at the same time it has a very skilled labor force.

But also keep in mind that $30,000 is bare and spare, with no rear-view camera or blind-spot mirrors. The nav and communications system adds $2,600, and the A3 Premium Plus model tacked on $2,550 for heated power front seats and mirrors and other goodies. Paddle shifter? That will be $600. The price for the total package we drove was $40,000 and change. So while the entry-level price is reasonable, the finishing price could boost the bill depending on your choices. That said, if you do choose the A3, you have chosen well.

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: The Air Bag Recall That’s Affecting Millions of Cars

Exploding air bags made by Takata Corporation

Exploding air bags have led to one of the biggest auto recalls in history, one that’s five times larger than GM’s ignition-switch fiasco. How did this happen?

Several large automakers including BMW and Honda have used the air bags, made by Japanese company Takata Corporation, the largest supplier of air bags parts in the world. Now they have had to recall millions of cars after the defective driver’s-side air bags have been blamed for at least five deaths and more than 100 injuries in the past decade.

Watch #TheBrief to find out more about the recall.

TIME Transportation

What Happened to the Car Industry’s Most Famous Flop?

A 1958 Edsel Convertible
A 1958 Edsel convertible made by Ford Underwood Archives / Getty Images

Market researched failed in a major way

Any crossword puzzler knows there’s a five-letter word for a Ford that flopped: Edsel.

At the heart of any big flop–like when Ford ended the Edsel 55 years ago, on Nov. 19, 1959–lies high expectations. The Edsel was named after Henry Ford’s son, no small honor, and it had its own division of the company devoted to its creation. As TIME reported in 1957 when the car debuted, the company had spent 10 years and $250 million on planning one of its first brand-new cars in decades. The Edsel came in 18 models but, in order to reach its sales goals, it would have to do wildly better than any other car in 1957 was expected to do. The September day that the car first went on the market, thousands of eager buyers showed up at dealers, but before the year was over monthly sales had fallen by about a third.

When Ford announced that they were pulling the plug on the program, here’s how TIME explained what had gone wrong:

As it turned out, the Edsel was a classic case of the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time. It was also a prime example of the limitations of market research, with its “depth interviews” and “motivational” mumbo-jumbo. On the research, Ford had an airtight case for a new medium-priced car to compete with Chrysler’s Dodge and DeSoto, General Motors’ Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick. Studies showed that by 1965 half of all U.S. families would be in the $5,000-and-up bracket, would be buying more cars in the medium-priced field, which already had 60% of the market. Edsel could sell up to 400,000 cars a year.

After the decision was made in 1955, Ford ran more studies to make sure the new car had precisely the right “personality.” Research showed that Mercury buyers were generally young and hot-rod-inclined, while Pontiac, Dodge and Buick appealed to middle-aged people. Edsel was to strike a happy medium. As one researcher said, it would be “the smart car for the younger executive or professional family on its way up.” To get this image across, Ford even went to the trouble of putting out a 60-page memo on the procedural steps in the selection of an advertising agency, turned down 19 applicants before choosing Manhattan’s Foote, Cone & Belding. Total cost of research, design, tooling, expansion of production facilities: $250 million.

A Taste of Lemon. The flaw in all the research was that by 1957, when Edsel appeared, the bloom was gone from the medium-priced field, and a new boom was starting in the compact field, an area the Edsel research had overlooked completely.

Even so, the Edsel wasn’t a complete loss for Ford: the company was able to use production facilities build for Edsel for their next new line of, you guessed it, compact cards.

Read the full report here, in the TIME Vault: The $250 Million Flop

TIME Autos

Toyota’s ‘Mirai’ Fuel-Cell Car Gets 300 Miles to a Tank

JAPAN-AUTO-TOYOTA-EARNINGS
A customer admires Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor's fuel cell vehicle which will go on sale end of this year at Toyota's showroom in Tokyo on November 5, 2014. Yoshikazu Tsuno—AFP/Getty Images

Toyota disclosed the vehicle's name, 'Mirai,' hours before a Honda news conference

Toyota unveiled its hydrogen-powered concept vehicle ‘Mirai’ on Monday, stealing thunder from a scheduled press conference on a hydrogen-powered vehicle from rival automaker Honda.

“The future has arrived, and it’s called, ‘Mirai,'” said Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda in a video announcement posted to YouTube (the word ‘mirai’ actually means ‘future’ in Japanese). Toyoda said the vehicle could travel 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen.

The announcement went live several hours before Honda was scheduled to disclose new details of its own fuel cell vehicle, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Mirai is expected to go on sale by the end of the year, once again getting the jump on Honda’s hydrogen-powered vehicle, which is expected to go on sale by spring of 2016 at the latest.

TIME Arts

See Neil Young’s Unique New Watercolor Paintings

One serves as the cover art for his new album, Storytone

Neil Young doesn’t just sing about painters — he’s also a painter himself. In his new memoir, Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars, the musician shares watercolors and prints, all depicting one of his greatest passions: cars.

Young’s artwork is also on display in an exhibit at Los Angeles’s Robert Berman Gallery, now through the end of November. One of the paintings even serves as the cover art for Young’s latest album, Storytone, which debuted this week:

Neil Young

Here are a few of the other works that illustrate Young’s memoir:

Neil Young
Neil Young
Neil Young

“I started with photographs, then I started thinking that photographs didn’t really go anywhere — they’re just photographs,” Young told the Los Angeles Times about his foray into painting. So he tested out some watercolor and charcoal paintings — and ended up with around two dozen works illustrating his memoir.

TIME Autos

Half of GM Vehicles Recalled for Faulty Switch Aren’t Repaired

More than a million vehicles with the problem remain on the road

About half of the millions of General Motors vehicles recalled over a faulty and sometimes deadly ignition switch have been fixed, nine months after the first recall, according to a new report.

GM estimates that more than a million unfixed vehicles, of the more than 2.3 million needing a fix, remain on the roads, a spokesman told the New York Times. The automaker has promised a large campaign — amidst continued criticism for not recalling affected vehicles when evidence of an issue first emerged — to reach owners whose vehicles maybe have the defect, launched a social media campaign and staffed a recall call center with 72 employees.

The ignition switch problem, which has been linked to the deaths of at least 30 people and dozens more injuries, stops airbags from inflating and affects both steering and brakes.

[NYT]

TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Real Things To Fear On Halloween

Halloween candy
Getty Images

Beware these Halloween health risks

While a good scare has surprising health benefits, Halloween arrives with some health risks. Kids dressed as zombies and teenagers in masks don’t scare you? Here are the real health hazards to fear come Halloween night.

Excessive Candy Consumption

Halloween is the high point of the year for the millions of Americans who love candy. Americans are expected to spend $2.5 billion on candy this Halloween, according to the National Confectioners Association. That money goes straight to the trick-or-treating bags of millions of kids, who collect an average of 3,500 to 7,000 calories on Halloween night, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham public health professor Donna Arnett. It’s hard to say how much of children eat, but the average 13-year-old boy would need to walk more than 100 miles to burn off those candy calories.

Pedestrian Traffic

Halloween is the deadliest day of the year for young pedestrians, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A child pedestrian is four times more likely to die on Halloween than any other day. Many more are injured. Child safety advocate Janette Fennell suggests trick-or-treating in groups and taping reflective tape to costumes to stay safe on the road. As always, pedestrians should cross streets at corners and look carefully before walking.

Drunk Driving

Holidays are often the riskiest days to be on the road, and Halloween is no exception. The last time the holiday fell on a weekend, in 2011, 74 people died in drunk driving incidents, compared to about 27 people on an average day. Because Halloween falls on a Friday this year, your chances of encountering a drunk driver on the road may be especially high. That may not be reason enough to avoid the roads entirely, but watch for drivers that seem out of control. Of course, don’t drink if you need to drive yourself.

Marijuana Candy

It may sound far-fetched, but law enforcement officials in Colorado are warning parents to look out for candy that may be laced with marijuana. So-called edibles are legal in the state for adults over age 21, but local officials fear that young kids may wind up with some of the substance in their trick-or-treat bags. Marijuana-laced candy appears and tastes like other candy, so Denver police recommend that parents toss any candy that isn’t clearly packaged from a recognizable brand.

MORE: This Is What Pot Does To The Teenage Brain

MONEY Taxes

How to Never Miss Out On One Valuable Tax Break

Odometer
James F. Dean—Getty Images

Workers who drive a lot for business can write off the costs. These three tools can make tracking those miles on the road easier.

More than 40 million Americans earn money while driving around in their cars, making them eligible for a valuable business mileage deduction from the Internal Revenue Service.

At 56¢ a mile, less than two business miles equals a dollar. So for someone driving 25,000 business miles a year, $14,000 in deductions is at stake.

Keeping an accurate mileage log used to be an arduous task involving a notepad and paper, but most people do not bother with the work. Many recreate their trips after the fact. Some just make it up. Do it wrong and you could get an audit.

“Getting a lot of round numbers means people either aren’t tracking or are rounding,” says P.J. Wallin, 33, a certified public account from Richmond, Virginia.

Bill Nemeth, an enrolled agent who represents clients in IRS audits, says most of his clients tend to exaggerate their business mileage and, when audited, it can be challenge to try to prove they actually drove the miles. Nemeth says he even uses Carfax reports from cars that clients have sold in order to document the actual mileage of the vehicles. In more than 25 years of doing taxes, Nemeth can recall only one client who presented a log that was clearly used daily.

MileIQ, which sells a GPS device that helps track mileage, surveyed about 1,000 of its users and found that only 36% of them had kept a written log previously. Another 18% admitted to making up numbers after the fact, 15% said they did nothing with their mileage, and 11% said they used their calendars to go back and recreate driving distances.

But in today’s highly automated world, apps and standalone GPS devices take the work out of the process, so there are no more excuses. Prices and functions vary, and some personal preference is involved.

Here are three different approaches – all of which are tax-deductible as a work expense.

MileIQ

This iPhone app (scheduled to be out soon for Androids) promises to be more automated than its cousins—always running in the background. It costs $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year. Lighter drivers, however, can use it for free. Users can log 40 drives a month before they would have to take a paid subscription, so you can take it for a test drive.

The idea is that the app does most of the work, although eventually users have to look over the results and eliminate listings that were not for business. Data from the app is regularly uploaded to the cloud, and reports sent automatically via email. Users can also customize the data.

MileIQ co-founder Charles Dietrich says the app actually learns from patterns and increasingly knows when a trip is of the reimbursable sort and when it is not.

Easy Mile Log

This device, which costs $149, is a small GPS tracking device you leave in your car. When you start a drive, press a button to note the trip is either work or personal. It will document the date and time of your travels, where you started, where you went and the distance. You can dump the data from the device onto your computer using a USB cord.

EasyBiz Mileage Tracker

At $2.99, EasyBiz Mileage Tracker is a cheaper app option, but not quite as automated as the others. Instead, it relies on the user to create what is basically a computer-assisted mileage log – starting and stopping each trip, while it notes the location and the distance via GPS.

Mileage Tracker allows users to customize report printing and add other entries – like tolls, for instance – that could come in handy when doing mileage reports.

TIME Autos

Fiat to Spin Off Ferrari As a Separate Company

A Ferrari arrives to join the hundreds of Ferrari's on display at the "Race Through the Decades 1954-2014" to celebrate its 60th anniversary of Ferrari in the United States at Beverly Hills on October 12, 2014.
A Ferrari arrives to join the hundreds of Ferrari's on display at the "Race Through the Decades 1954-2014" to celebrate its 60th anniversary of Ferrari in the United States at Beverly Hills on October 12, 2014. Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images

Fiat Chrysler set to spin the brand off into a separate, independent company

Ferrari might be the car all people, even the strident non-gearheads, would love to be able to take out for a spin. Executives at the Italian automaker will be taking their company out for a spin next year, it was announced today, as Fiat Chrysler is spinning the brand off into an independent company.

Ferrari will also IPO, with a 10% stake in the company hitting the markets. The remaining 90% will be distributed among FCA shareholders, according to Reuters. Ferrari will likely list in both New York and on a European exchange. The spinoff and IPO is part of Fiat Chrysler’s attempt to grow by 48-billion euro ($61 billion).

“As we move forward to secure the 2014-2018 Business Plan and work toward maximizing the value of our businesses to our shareholders, it is proper that we pursue separate paths for FCA and Ferrari,” FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made its Wall Street debut earlier this month, shifting the carmaker’s center of gravity away from Italy and capping a decade of canny dealmaking and tough restructuring by Marchionne.

The world’s seventh-largest auto group has sought the U.S. listing to help to establish itself as a leading global player through access to the world’s biggest equity market and the cheaper, more reliable source of funding it ultimately offers.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser