Bagpipers play in front of an Audi R8 at Newport's exclusive Carnegie Abbey Club.
The bites of grilled swordfish, a man claiming to own 37 cars, wine tasting, bagpipers, and an obnoxious Bentley owner who ripped a deafening backfire into my left ear were all quintessential parts of this past weekend's Newport Concours d'Elegance.Fort Adams State Park in Newport, R.I., the colonial coastal town lined with some of the nation's oldest and largest mansions. It was hard to pick a personal favorite among Sunday's exhibition of immaculate Pierce Arrows, Rolls-Royces, an aquamarine Isotto, woodies, and other long-gone marques. The definite loser was a custom 1999 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, a hideous machine sharing its front with a catfish.
The other disappointment, though perhaps not unsurprisingly, was the cold reception from Ferrari. After promising ride-and-drives in their silver California and walking up to inquire, the woman in charge looked at me like I was a high school fanboy (Come on, I was wearing a Ferrari F1 polo). Young, strangely clad women from the fashion show - which few paid mind to - were the only ones allowed in the Ferraris.
Audi, on the other hand, was quite receptive and eager to show off their fleet, including the upcoming TDI Q7. During Saturday's road tour through Sakonnet Vineyards, the Carnegie Abbey Club, and a Norman Rockwell display at the National Museum of American Illustration, I piloted Audi's new A5-based Q5 crossover.
It feels as rock-solid and substantial as the Volkswagen Tiguan and shares with it the stunning panoramic roof that covers almost the entire car. Audi's choice to launch the car at the same time as similar debuts from Mercedes and Volvo blurs the Q5 into the stream of premium crossovers, but it's a substantial entry. An Audi rep said nearly 80 percent of Q5 buyers are new to the marque, so perhaps it's standing out, for now.
It's amusing to parade around with the rich and dabble into an automotive lifestyle few have the time or money to enter. The owners' love for fine craftsmanship - and the noxious, dirty, unburnt fuel their cars spew - is a public service in history. When the internal combustion engine and the automobile itself are long gone, future generations will revere these machines in whatever becomes of books. They'll have fixed global warming, and chances are they'll remember the auto age with these classics, and not for our four-cylinder hybrids.
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee