Getting a grip on snow in VWs
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Take a Volkswagen Crafter van on the snow for some drifting? Why not. How about drive a VW Amarok ute on Highland’s track to test its mettle? Count me in.
While now is the prime time for premium brands such as AMG, BMW and Audi to host customers at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground (SHPG) at Cardrona, Volkswagen Australia instead implemented a four-year idea to take a fleet of its vehicles to the snow and then to the track.
But forget just the likes of performances vehicles such as the Golf R and Arteon sedan, instead it borrowed from VW New Zealand’s fleet of both passenger and commercial vehicles. And to pay back VW NZ, the Aussies extended invitation to a few Kiwi motoring writers and VW staff, including general manager of commercial vehicles, Kevin Richards.
The idea for the two-day drive programme was to highlight the German brand’s latest generation of its four-wheel-drive system, 4Motion, with the event’s motto “Get a Grip”.
The 4Motion system has a new drive coupling that is used in the MQB models (such as the Golf and Passat) and the commercial products.
For Richards, the two-day drive programme was important for him this year.
“There's quite a lull between product launches for Volkswagen this year. So what that gave us the opportunity to do is showcase the whole range and particularly the 4motion, which for us in New Zealand is extremely important,” he said.
“So for VW NZ passenger fleet, half the volume is 4motion, and it's even more in the commercial side of the business, it is two-thirds,” he said.
Day one was at SHPG, arriving as the sun rose just after 8am – and the sun played an integral role in how the day played out – the warmer it got, the less time on the snow.
So forget coffee and a snack, we instead moved into exercise one: slalom on the flat in an Amarok ute, Crafter van, Touareg SUV and Arteon.
Electronic stabilisation program (ESP) was turned off and sport mode applied to the vehicles that had it.
Starting in a cone box, we took turns driving each vehicle through a series of cones to a turning crescent – with the objective to instigate a drift through each cone turn.
The best way to do that is through a Scandinavian flick – making the back of the vehicle flick out to create oversteers. By the time you reached the turning circle you had to drift the vehicle around the semi-circle.
Luckily, my motoring nickname is Scandi Flick (no, really it is) as I mastered the trick a few years ago at SHPG.
So it was easy in the Arteon to get its back out while the V6 S Touareg’s extra 500kg weight over the sedan meant more effort was needed, but come on, we were here for the van and ute.
Mainly the van.
Stepping up into the Crafter I couldn’t help but smile – and there is nothing quite like hitting the accelerator of a 3550kg box on wheels and being allowed to drift it.
I had VW NZ’s product manager Jordan Haines as my co-driver, and we couldn’t stop laughing as the back nipped out as the Crafter went through the first set of cones while I tried my best to drift it around the crescent. Because why wouldn’t you.
Next up was the Amarok V6 ute with its 3000kg weight and tray helped it drift through the slalom course.
Exercise two was instigating a near 180-degree drift around VW symbol in Tiguan and T Roc R Line, Golf R and Passat Alltrack
As we lined up for the exercise, one of the VW driving instructors quipped, “this is more fun than Disney on ice”. True.
The Golf R just fanged it around the circuit, while you had to work at getting the Passat’s end to flick out so you could drift.
But the star of this exercise was the T-Roc – and it’s no wonder that VW NZ has already sold out its allotment for this year. The compact SUV was nimble enough and with a high centre of gravity to easily do a 360-degree drift around the VW sign – but the instructors wouldn’t let me. This is after I told them my nickname. Spoil sports.
As it was nearly noon, the sun and warmth was affecting the surface so we were had a do a quick motorkhana circuit in the vehicle of your choice. And you can guess what I picked. The Crafter.
You had to drive out of a cone box, instigate a drift around a semi-circle, drift through a cone slalom, oversteered around another semi-circle at the other end the repeat until you slammed the brakes as you entered the cone box.
The Crafter’s 4Motion system meant the van maintained control even went going sideways, and kept us from spinning – through as the 2-litre diesel (130kW/410Nm) had a hand brake I was tempted to try a J-turn.
To show the capability of the passenger and commercial vehicles, the driving instructors took up in hot laps in the Golf R, Amarok, Passat and T-Roc.
The hot laps set us up for day two at Highlands motorsport park at Cromwell, where we circulated through six vehicles: the Arteon, Passat Alltrack, Golf R, Touareg V6 S, Amarok V6 and Tiguan. Sorry, no Crafter van.
Sure, the Golf R ripped around the circuit that included tracks A and B, with me hitting 190km easily along the fast stretch, but the surprise out of the line-up was the new Touareg.
The 3-litre diesel (210Kw/600Nm) large SUV has a 48-volt active roll stabilisation system to adapt instantly to the driving situation and adds the settings based on the road conditions.
So, what did Richards get out of the two-event about his products?
“I realised just how outstanding they are on two different types of terrain. So, we have the full-range on the snow on day one, which was fantastic to have. Obviously the Golf R and the Tiguan are the things that you'd expect to be up there, but also they have a Crafter 4motion, which is something a little bit different, was brilliant,” he said.
“Then to have an Amarok on the track today and just experience the difference between that and snow, it was really good.”