We thrash a range of Audis through the snow in Queenstown
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Flinging Audi quattro models around on the snow and ice high up in the mountain ranges behind Queenstown has become so popular the company no longer needs to advertise the Audi New Driving Experience.
Instead Audi customers take most of the places in the series of annual events, held at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds in the mountains between Queenstown and Wanaka.
Dozens of Audi drivers sign up for the sessions, which this year were held during the fortnight leading into the Audi quattro Winter Games.
Though most of the premium brands such as BMW and Mercedes Benz also offer annual snow driving sessions at the Snow Farm vehicle testing venue high up in the mountains above Cardrona, Audi pioneered the concept in this country, and has been offering the sessions for almost a decade.
Experienced driving tutors provide training on how to safely handle cars on the ice, while giving drivers the chance to have some fund driving quattro models safely in the snow.
General Manager of Audi New Zealand Dean Sheed told Driven the programmes here were now recognised worldwide for their success in helping people to drive more safely in potentially dangerous situations.
The Audi Driving Experience caters for drivers just wanting to sharpen their driving skills through to those wanting to experience the exhilaration of motorsport.
This year the company had a fleet of Audi Sport S5s, S3 hatches, and RS3 quattro sedans on site for the sessions.
It kicked-off the build-up to the winter games with an Audi SuperQ shootout -- a series of elimination rounds in two new Audi TT RS sports cars.
Among those competing were former All Black Christian Cullen, champion para-Olympian blade-runner Liam Malone, Olympic gold medalist rower Mahe Drysdale, Audi ambassador and Huffer fashion entrepreneur Steve Dunstan, and executive chef Simon Gault.
Contestants had a morning to practise various manoeuvres on the ice, tuition on oversteer and understeer, and how to use the immense grip of the quattro models, quickly and safely.
The aim was to find that elusive combination of just enough acceleration and steering, and some braking, through a series of challenges, while keeping the cars under control.
We were taught how to drift the car, then how to pull out of the drift and quickly change the direction the car was travelling.
There were lessons on how to do a donut in the snow, and how to park the car safely by understanding how long it takes to bring a car moving quickly to a complete and safe stop.
Then there was a series of elimination rounds in two of the new Audi TT ST models, where Dunston prevailed as the eventual 2017 Audi Super Q champion.
I was eliminated in my first shoot-out contest, but at times during the day I managed to get cars going sideways while maintaining control, even in the icy conditions.
The smaller A3 models were easier to manoeuvre; the larger A4 station wagons with their additional length took longer to get to grips with.
The Audi TT RS was another matter altogether with its lower centre of gravity and immense power and grip. Real concentration is required to keep the TT going in the required direction, and just a momentary lapse cost vital seconds in the shoot-out.
Though it is difficult to attain, the precise combination of accelerator, steering and possibly braking while driving a tight circuit, in snow, is addictive fun.
It often requires much more aggressive driving than would be possible on the road, but is great fun in the safe confines of the Snow Farm vehicle proving ground.
To feel the back of the car slide in a controlled manner then to pull out of the slide and change direction while maintaining complete control behind the wheel is a blast.
It is something I didn't manage to do with any elegance, but I gained a glimpse of how good it feels to be so close to being able to put together that combination of driving skills.
Feeling the sophistication of the quattro four-wheel driving system come into play also helps the driver understand the limits of their vehicle.
But above all, it is great fun.