By the time I got done pushing all the buttons in the car, we had arrived at the mouth of the dragon. We stopped one last time to top the tanks off with premium, and warn the passengers that shit was about to get real. We put the car in sport mode and gave chase to the M3. We immediately noticed the clanging of wine bottles in the trunk. A mile or so in, there’s a scenic lookout spot. We pulled over to re-group, re-pack the wine, and reiterate to the passengers about the realness of the shit. It was at this point that I noticed a distinct yet faint smell of cooking brakes coming from the Q.
We got back in our respective vehicles and hit the road. Another 10 or so miles of the twistiest motion-sickness-inducing-somehow-still-free road in the country. Mind you, it’s still wet out, and there’s actually flurries and snow falling from he sky. Another mile or so in, and the tires were warm enough to push the car a bit more. Around this time is when I realized this big girl has some moves. The transmission is still an automatic, but in the grand realm of automatics, its not bad at all. You might remember my review of the 7 speed auto in the G37 here. Whatever issues they had then, they’ve been fixed now. The transmission does a decent job of determining when you’re pushing it and should hold a gear, etc. That being said, I still left it in manual mode. The paddles do not move with the wheel, so in some turns you find yourself downshifting with your opposite hand. The shift schedule differences between Eco, Standard, Sport, and Sport Plus are very distinct. The automatic shift setting for Sport Plus does a great job holding revs high to keep you in boost when you get back on throttle.
Remember that mostly useless navigation I was talking about? It isn’t good at turn by turn directions, but up here in the mountains where there is no cell service (and therefore no Google Maps), you can still look at it and see whether the next turn will be a hairpin, or open up to a straightaway. One feature on new vehicles that I tend to like is accelerometers that show how many G’s you’re pulling at any given time (and the peak you hit in the curve). The problem with the Q’s gauge is that it doesn’t display an actual number, only a graph or G circle, which, again wouldn’t be a huge problem, but the graph/circle only goes to 0.5 G.
After hammering down for the last 10 or so miles, we pulled off at the Dragon’s Den Grill for lunch. Aside from two bikers in rain gear, we were the only ones there. Upon exiting the Q50, we were greeted with a horrendous stench coming from the vehicle. I had literally driven the “new” clean off the car. All the barcode stickers, rust preventatives, coatings, and little Japanese fingerprints were cooking off the vehicle from the hard driving. (We later determined that the smell was mostly from the brake pads – we’ll take brake smell all day long, because the brakes performed FLAWLESSLY, with literally zero fade over repeated stints through the mountains.)
We quickly evacuated the area and went inside for some lunch. By this point the owners of the vehicle were quite jealous of the drive and really wanted to take over, so I handed the keys over. The entire area is nothing but amazing roads, with the Tail of the Dragon being the cherry on top of the “sundae drive.” Our destination for the night was Fontana Village Resort. The trip there from the Dragon’s Den was less severe, but higher speed (and shorter).
When we booked the rooms in February, we had been experiencing very warm weather, and were told that there were no cabins available. We arrived to a virtual ghost town, most likely on account of the snow, and through some smooth talking and bartering, ended up with a cabin for not much more than our combined individual rooms. Bonus – it came with a hot tub!
After getting the room situation squared away and unpacking the vehicles, the vehicle owners decided to go out for another round on the amazing local roads. Fighting off a headache (and what would undoubtedly become motion sickness from back to back to back runs as a passenger), I decided to hang back and go for a hike around the resort. The driver’s sentiments about the vehicle echoed my own, if not higher. With longer straights on some roads, he was free to really punch the throttle and unleash the fury of the 400hp twin turbo 6. “This thing really rockets out of the hole!” he told me. The car still smelled like burning fingerprints when he returned.
The rest of the night was filled with various types of wine, snow/rain/sleet, dinner and drinks at the resort, hot tub shenanigans, and stories of the day. Around this point is when we checked the weather and saw we were predicted to get 4-6 inches of snow. We didn’t mind getting stuck for another day or so. A few of us tried to notify work (to no avail due to lack of cell signal and spotty internet) to let them know we might not be making it to the office on Monday if the snow really did hit… [continue reading]