Get a grip: we fang the Volkswagen line-up on ice
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As the 3550kg Volkswagen Crafter van’s end flicks around the cone in the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground (SHPG) at Cardrona, there is one thought: courier drivers, don’t try this at home.
Premium brands such as AMG, BMW and Audi have been hosting customers at the SHPG, and Volkswagen Australia has implemented a four-year idea to take a fleet of its vehicles to the snow and then to the track.
But not just its performance vehicles such as the Golf R and Arteon sedan; instead the brand borrowed from the VW New Zealand fleet of passenger and commercial vehicles. To pay back VW NZ, the Aussies extended an invitation to a few Kiwi motoring writers and VW staff, including commercial vehicles general manager, Kevin Richards.
The idea for the two-day drive was to highlight the latest generation of the German brand’s four-wheel drive system, 4Motion, under the event’s motto “Get a Grip”.
The 4Motion system has a new drive coupling 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 VW NZ’s 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.
On day one we arrived at SHPG as the sun rose, just after 8am. The sun played an integral role in how the day played out — the warmer it got, the less time on the snow.
Exercise one was a slalom on the flat in an Amarok ute, Crafter, Touareg SUV and Arteon. Electronic stabilisation program (ESP) was turned off and sport mode applied to the vehicles that had it.
We took turns driving each vehicle through a series of cones to a turning crescent. The objective was to instigate a drift through each cone turn. The best way to do that is a Scandinavian flick — making the back of the vehicle flick out to create oversteer.
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I mastered the Scandi flick a few years ago at SHPG, so it was easy to get the Arteon’s back out. The V6 S Touareg’s extra 500kg weight meant more effort was needed.
Though the passenger vehicles were fun, we were here for the van and the ute. But mainly the van. There is nothing quite like hitting the accelerator of a 3550kg van and being allowed to drift it.
Driven had VW NZ’s product manager Jordan Haines as our co-driver, and couldn’t stop laughing as the back nipped out when the Crafter went through the first set of cones as we tried our best to drift it around the crescent. Because ... why wouldn’t you?
Next up was the Amarok V6 ute, its 3000kg weight and tray helping it drift through the slalom course.
Exercise two was instigating a near 180-degree drift around the VW symbol in the Tiguan and T Roc R Line, Golf R and Passat Alltrack.
The Golf 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 VW NZ’s allotment has already sold out for this year.
The compact SUV was nimble enough and with a high centre of gravity could easily have made a 360-degree drift around the VW sign.
With the sun warming the SHPG surface, we only had time for a quick motorkhana circuit in the vehicle of your choice.
We picked the Crafter. We had to drive out of a cone box, instigate a drift around a semi-circle, drift through a cone slalom, drift around another semi-circle at the other end and then repeat, finally slamming the brakes as we re-entered the cone box.
The Crafter’s 4Motion system meant the van maintained control — even going sideways — and kept us from spinning.
Because the 2-litre diesel (130kW/410Nm) had a handbrake, I was tempted to try a J-turn.
To show the capability of the passenger and commercial vehicles, the driving instructors took us in hot laps in the Golf R, Amarok, Passat and T-Roc.
These set us up for day two, at Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, where we circulated through six vehicles: the Arteon, Passat Alltrack, Golf R, Touareg
V6 S, Amarok V6 and Tiguan.
The Golf ripped around the circuit with Driven easily hitting 190km/h along the fast stretch, but the surprise of the lineup 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.
Again, don’t try this at home.