09 August 2008

Audi Driving Experience

Earlier today I participated in the Audi Driving Experience; this event is currently traveling around the United States and for the next week is being held at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia.

The Audi Driving Experience is to promote the upcoming 2009 Audi A4. Drivers are able to compare the '09 A4 against competitor AWD-equipped vehicles, the 2008 Lexus IS250, 2008 BMW 328xi, and the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300. Apparently, prior to us fortunate registrants, only the media and salesmen had had a chance to test drive the '09 Audi A4.

All the cars were in stock form, with dealer options to make them as close as possible to the A4. We did the comparison tests on a shorter track.

My impressions and personal rankings:
  1. Audi A4 -- Wow. Very impressive handling and better than I had expected. Light steering feel, point and shoot. Big roll on corners.
  2. BMW 328xi -- I expected more of the interior of a BMW. Compared to the IS250 it felt cheap. Handled great.
  3. Lexus IS250 -- sluggish acceleration, with nice interior.
  4. M-B C300 -- Relatively poor tires? The C300 lost traction fairly easily in the corners. It felt like that had I wanted to I could have very easily initiated a 4-wheel drift. Longest to brake of the four.
I didn't check what tires were on the cars. The tires were supposed to be whatever each manufacturer put on them at the dealership. It's very close between the A4 and 328xi, but I put the A4 ahead because it had a better interior.

A funny: in the comparison tests, all the A4s were bright red, and all the competitors' were silver and/or grey. :o)

After the comparison tests I was able to take the A4 out on the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point. Apparently one of the banking turns is a dimensional replica of one at Der Nurburgring, though we went through it in the opposite direction. I was the last of five drivers, the first being the instructor/follow-me car.

I had time to make 5-6 laps -- that's probably about twice of what most people had because of having to switch drivers. Serendipitously I was the only one in my car. :o)

Another funny: instructor says, "Squealing tires are happy tires."

Hmm, what else to say. Oh yeah, in the 30-minute introductory talk, he spent a significant amount of time on the "Driver Select" option newly available for 2009 A4s. He said this option will be thought to be as revolutionary as putting Quattro on street cars was.

Basically, Driver Select is the ability to have a dynamic and comfort mode. Dynamic is like sport mode, but better. Driver Select alters the steering, transmission, suspension, and engine responses. Even better, each driver can individually modify each of those four areas to fit their own preferences. Furthermore, on "auto" mode, Driver Select will switch between dynamic and comfort within milliseconds, depending on how you're driving.

Reality Check -- the lead car communicated to us via hand-held tranceiver, so while we were all concentrating on keeping up he was driving with one hand on the wheel, and the other on the transceiver, all the while looking in his rear-view, "okay, brake here... 3rd car accelerate to catch up to the 2nd... that's good... take this turn wide... now close it up on the straight...." :o)

Hmm, oh yeah, how could I (almost) forget? They had many Audi models out for people to take a close look. They had an S5, A3, Q7, A(S?)6, and the... R8. Guess which one I sat in first. :o)

Pictures later.

UPDATE: Oh yeah, of course I had to sign a liability and/or injury agreement, but I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't bother reading it. I wonder if it said anything about who would pay for a trashed car.

UPDATE 2 (24AUG2008): I finally got around to posting some pictures. Take a look!


Stargazer (original profile) said...

That's awesome. I can't wait to see the pics!

Anonymous said...

I was also at the track that weekend...good times. And to make it even better, I hung around and tossed the A3 VR6 around the track after we were done comparing the A4 against the competition.

r32argent said...

You were at the same Audi event? Talk about a small world. :o)

Another funny: yesterday someone asked me how fast I drove on the track and I realized I had no idea. I was concentrating on the track so much I never looked at my speedometer!

Anonymous said...

haha this is really funny...because of the event, and driving the A3 in particular, I'm now tempted to go out and trade in my MkV GTI for an R32...and this was one of the sites that came up when I was randomly searching the net...good stuff! Oh, and for the speed...I was stuck behind someone that was being very cautious out there, I think I may have hit 120 km/hr on the straightaway...so it was kinda fast, but not as fast as I would have liked to have been going! Still a great car to toss around, even in the automatics...they have come a long long way since the orginal tiptronics, these almost feel like DSG's now.

r32argent said...

You won't be disappointed if you decide on an R32. The '04 comes in manual but doesn't have a nav option like the '08, which has DSG.

If you have any questions about the R32, feel free to ask!

I wish I'd had the chance to drive the A3. If I were to buy an Audi that's probably the one I'd consider.