Karen Robinson didn't actually choose her Audi A4 convertible, but some two years on, she's well and truly converted to its smooth sportiness and says that when the time comes, she'll trade it in for another. "I'd wanted a convertible for years," says Karen, a British hairdresser and colour consultant at Dubai's Reflection Hair & Beauty Salon. "I'd always had a four-wheel drive for the safety aspect and to ferry around my two boys when they were small. Then I got to the big 5-0 and I thought if I don't do it now "
It was when Karen and her husband Vince started talking about having to change her Jeep Cherokee that she thought about a convertible. "It was a comfortable car, but I had got to the point when I didn't need a 4x4. We used to use it to take the dog down to the beach, but when that was banned, I thought it was time to get something really different." The whole family had a say in what that something would be. Karen's friend had a Saab convertible and she always admired it, but Vince and the now grown-up sons, Adam and Grant, said it was too heavy-looking.
"I think it has the same sort of steering, but they thought it wasn't the car for me," explains Karen. "Then I checked out the Mercedes but I just felt it was a bit too much. I wasn't out to impress anyone; I wanted a car for me." It was Adam who suggested an Audi. "I went over to the showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road and just loved the look of it straight away, but I didn't really choose the colour then, either!," she says, laughing.
"It was the men. They said the silver exterior would look nice, so that was that." Karen paid Dhs185,000 and had to wait about two months for the silver model. "I've got more patience now and I thought, I've waited a couple of years, so another couple of months weren't going to make any difference." Karen really enjoys driving her Audi and didn't feel at all nervous when she changed from the protective feel of a 4x4 to a sports car. She says you just have to have your wits about you and be more aware.
"I'm still a bit wary when I pass the big 4x4s, but the Audi is so nippy; I can put my foot down and get out of their way, especially when I see someone coming out of the slip-roads." That's around the same time she discovered the Sport mode lever and the kick it gave. "The only way I can describe it that it's a bit like a sewing machine," she says. "I remember my mother making curtains and if she put her foot down too hard on the floor pedal, it just used to go off, stitching madly. I felt like a kangaroo. Now I always leave it in Sport." It's definitely a smoother drive than the Jeep and she says she feels a little bit more elevated off the road because it's got that much more power.
Some of Karen's friends tried to put her off buying a soft top due to the noise, but she finds there's hardly any noise at all as the roof is insulated under the cloth top by a thicker lining. "I like driving with the top down during the winter," she says, "and even now, if I'm going short distances, I take the roof down." Karen and her husband take full advantage of the open top when they go for spins to the east coast, but they make sure to fit a see-through shield behind the front seats to minimise the effects of wind as they whizz down the motorway.
With just 18,000km on the clock, Karen admits she doesn't drive too far day-to-day - mainly from her house, near Safa Park to the salon on Al Wasl Road - and she hardly ever goes through the Salik toll gate, except for an occasional mall trip. When the warranty is up next year, she says she'll go for another Audi and has nothing but praise for the showroom sales team and the after-sales service. "They always smile when it goes in for service as they can't believe there's no marks on it," says Karen, admitting to parking it away from other cars to avoid the dreaded door-bashing. "But I do feel more comfortable driving it now; at first you always think other drivers are aiming for you, a bit like the dodgems!"
Taking it for a service is the only time her husband gets to drive it, which is how Karen likes it. "Men always want to fiddle with the buttons, don't they, and I've got my radio and CD set just the way I want it." She says her enjoyment in driving the Audi A4 is obvious to those around her. "A couple of my friends said when I bumped into them in the supermarket, 'Ooh, you really suit that car, that's really a Karen car'."