Car makers offer pricey holiday deals
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Car makers have come up with an idea for a sumptuous holiday that also helps manufacturers sell their cars - or at least goes a good distance to hook well-heeled potential buyers.
Customers are whisked away on exclusive trips, with luxury hotels, good dining and virtually new, high-end cars to drive.
Be it Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes or Porsche, all are operating as package-holiday companies. Here's an overview of what the car companies are offering.
The deals are only bookable on the car makers' hotlines or internet sites:
The sports car maker is a veteran in the field, with its "Travel Club" going back some 20 years. The focus is on exceptional routes on which travellers can put, say, a Porsche 911 through its paces.
Options include conquering Alpine passes, navigating the winding roads of Germany's Black Forest or back-country routes in Portugal, Scotland, Italy's Tuscany region, France's Cote d'Azur or Croatia.
The larger, sturdier SUV Porsche Cayenne is the vehicle of choice for photo-shooting safaris on the dusty and sandy back roads of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. At the other extreme are ice and snowbound routes along the periphery of the Arctic.
Often Travel Club offers only two or at most three dates a year.
"The aim is to make the experience of driving a Porsche in places around the world something attainable," says Catja Wiedenmann, head of a unit called Porsche Driving Experience.
The company provides the cars, a travel guide and local contact partners along the route.
In addition help is provided with bookings, visa arrangements or planning special itineraries.
Of course, it comes at a price. A 12-day tour of Namibia in a Cayenne, including overnight stays in exclusive hotels and lodges, will come to more than US$12,100 (NZ$17,426). That notwithstanding, the tours are booked out far in advance.
Porsche's offering now also includes locations in China, Japan and Russia.
Besides such classic offerings as driver training on race tracks and snowbound roads, Audi also offers one fixed expedition.
With the top-of-the-line SUV, the Q7, the company organises tours to the Arctic Circle. The five-day trips cost about 4000 euros (NZ$6546).
With its "Driving Events" Mercedes also offers guided tours.
One of them leads from Alaska down to Mexico, a trip of 49 days. More modest, but also scenic, is a 10-day driving tour in Ireland.
Then there is a tour driving around the Baltic Sea, lasting 15 days and costing some 5000 euros (NZ$8183).
Fans of vintage Mercedes cars are also catered to. For example, the historic SL Roadster can be booked for driving tours through Italy's Tuscany region or Provence in southern France. Four-day trips with the vintage cars cost around 2000 euros (NZ$3273).
This car maker is also a manufacturer in South Africa, and so several times a year offers customers a safari in the country or in Namibia.
With four-wheel-drive SUVs such as the X5, drivers can see the countryside while conquering high sand dunes, salt or gravel roads, and dried-out riverbeds.
With its "Land Rover Experience Tours", the company offers drives through Iceland (six days, NZ$8243), Botswana (14 days starting at NZ$4945), Namibia (11 days starting at NZ$6594) and Australia.
Here a tour of nine days including the trademark Outback site Uluru will cost about NZ$8243.
So how rewarding are such driving tours? The debate boils down to personal tastes.
Some people like having a route already mapped out for them, being part of small groups, driving top-line cars and having all the other details handled for them.
The hotels are reserved in advance, the cars virtually new, and you drive in a convoy behind the tour guide.
Holidaymakers who enjoy driving a lot while on vacation will be pretty satisfied. In fact, the whole point of such tours is sitting for hours at a time, day after day, in a great car. Passengers can simply take in the passing landscapes.
The downside is that such tours are relatively expensive. And driving in convoys, and spending long periods of time behind the wheel, isn't everyone's idea of a great time.