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This is how an Audi drives after the software emissions update

Commentary: Anyone who's ever had a phone knows software updates can be volatile things. So what happens when your Audi is subjected to one?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Mine looked like that when I bought it. It's a little beat up now.

David McNew/Getty Images

Naturally, I was scandalized by Volkswagen and Audi's behavior.

How could they possibly try to fool the Environmental Protection Agency's air quality standards with so-called cheat software, just to sell (what they thought was) a more attractive car?

Who would stoop to such a thing? What did you say? A car dealer?

Well, this car dealer got caught.

Still, I've always liked my 2010 Audi A3 2.0 Tdi.

So, when Audi gave me the choice of either selling it back or having an emissions software update (and some vacation money), I chose the latter.

With some trepidation.

I'd read that many in the UK were complaining that the software update had turned their cars into sad old heaps of clay.

Some were refusing to have it done, fearing that their loved ones would never be the same again.

What was peculiar for me about the process was how Audi of America would tell me one thing, while the always reliable service manager at my Audi dealer would have no idea what Audi of America was talking about.

Even after I'd booked my car in for its surgery, I had to go back to the dealer to deliver more pieces of paper. Audi of America claimed they had no record of my existence.

The whole thing took several days.

As far as I'm concerned, though, the only thing that mattered was whether the car would drive the same way it did before. It's old, but it still has a certain character.

My service manager said I was the first one at the dealership to have it done, so he couldn't be completely sure what effect the software update would have.

Anyone who's ever had a phone knows that software updates can be volatile things. So what happens when your Audi is subjected to one, especially a controversial one?

I turned on the ignition, prepared not to feel the reasonably prompt acceleration I was used to.

Instead, it was as if my car had been to the gym. The zip was immediate, and off we went.

It's easy to pay too much attention when you know your car has been messed with. Yet, as we sauntered off down the freeway, the car seemed perfectly normal.

If anything, it was a touch whinier in first and second gears, but also a touch sharper.

Otherwise, what was all the fuss about? I asked Audi whether mine was an anomaly.

"Drivers may notice some differences in vehicle operating characteristics after the modification, but no significant changes to key vehicle attributes are expected including reliability, durability, vehicle performance, drivability or other driving characteristics," an Audi spokesman told me.

Indeed, I was left with only one sad question (other than, Why did this whole thing take two years?).

Was it really worth it for VW and Audi to go through all this subterfuge? Especially when it seems like a little more work on the software would have made the EPA happy and made little difference to the car.

People went to jail over this. Both the VW and Audi brands suffered greatly -- the latter more

"The Volkswagen Group deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel crisis," the Audi spokesman told me. "It went against all of the values that we hold dear. Over the past two years, we have taken significant steps to address the diesel matter and realign the Group for the future."

Meanwhile, my little Audi is perfectly content. 

But, wait. I hear the Brits are now saying that diesel cars are so bad for the environment that they're going to ban them.  

I hope this doesn't mean another software update.

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