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Audi: Report from the new US Audi Driving Experience

Audi Driving Experience
Our long time reader Ian had the chance to test out Audi of America’s new and improved Audi Driving Experience at Pocono Raceway in PA. Audi’s are driver cars and the Audi Driving Experience is the ultimate way to find that out. Please find Ian’s report here. And for all Apple lovers out there, read until the end!

I just got back from the Audi Driving Experience at Pocono Raceway in PA. Wow, Audi did a much better job that last summer’s “streets of tomorrow” event. There was no waiting, and a lot more driving time.
Audi asks you to be 30 minutes early for your registered time. This is the perfect amount of time, to get a drink, snack and get your grubby mitts all over the RS4 and R8 they have sitting outside for you to check out, inside and out.

First part of the day is a brief 20 minute class room session. They explain basics like over and understeer, body roll (forwards and back) and how it effects the front and rear tire adhesion to the road. This section is over quick, while basic is not boring. The group of students in the session was 12 people including two non-drivers (under 25, or did not care to drive). So it’s intimate, they encouraged questions.
Then we go out to drive they split this group in 3 for the driving portion. The first portion for me was the braking. We drove A6 3.2 sedans for this. It was a basic 1/8th mile (guessing) which you drive flat out till you reached the first cone. That was when you were instructed to brake as hard as you could, as fast as you could. The idea behind this test was to show you how fast your car can actually stop in an emergency situation and how ABS feels on the peddle. I was in a group of 4, we used two cars, one attendee sat shotgun as the other drove. The instructor stood outside and gave you brief remarks after each pass when you circled back. “You lifted before the cone” “You didn’t break hard enough fast enough.” If your brake distance was to long, there was an space to the left which you could steer the car to avoid the cones to feel how steering worked while breaking. Each student got 5 or 6 passes, just enough to get a feel for how the car was braking.

Second test was a high speed lane change. The lesson to learn was that the car will go where your looking. If you stair at the cones your trying to avoid, you will hit them, instead look to the open area in the road where you want to be, this is counter instinctive. For this we drove 4.2L A6 sedans. with a slightly shorter approach you were still able to get up to 40 mph or so. You drove flat out into a narrow cone section as soon as you reached the first cone you were supposed to lift from the throttle, but not break. In the middle of the conned area there was a narrow window to steer left to avoid the cones in-front of you. The opening was only two or three car lengths past where you lifted from the throttle, with DSC off this made the car want to oversteer when correcting after the fast left hand lane change.

Next was the slalom course. An A8L 4.2, A3 3.2, and a Q7 4.2 were available for this. Since there was 4 of us and three cars, I got to drive two of them. The Q7 and the A3. The course was setup so that there was slalom in each direction with a hairpin on each end to turn around in. Looking forward was the key here, and again look to where you want the car to go. I drove the A3 first, being the smallest car for the course it was easy to move around the course right from the get go. We were given enough laps that you got the hang of it, and your cornering speeds increased. This was more noticeable in the Q7. At first it felt slow as a dog compared the A3. Sure enough after a few laps I was able to steer it almost as tightly as the A3.

They saved the best for last. We each got helmets on and into a TT 3.2. There were some manual transmissions, but mostly Auto’s, even some convertibles. While I drive a manual everyday, I’m glad i chose the auto. The new engage point for Audi clutches is so much different than my ’01 A4, I’m sure i would have embarrassed myself. My clutch engages in the top few inches, where newer Audi’s it’s all at the bottom of the pedal. Back to the event, we drove on the “South Road Course” as the race way refers to it. From their website: SOUTH ROAD COURSE: A 1 mile course utilizing the south infield road course and Pocono’s high banked turn #1 of the tri-oval. The course has ten turns, including a hairpin, and three short straights. The course varies in width from 30-90′.

I had never driven on a track before, let alone on banked track, I think this was the case for everyone else in our 12 person group.
There were two instructors that led, two groups on the course at the same time. They drove RS4’s. The instructors were on radio’s so we could all hear them while driving. I’m not sure how they could watch us so well while driving themselves, but they gave us tips as we were going around the course. I’m guessing our top speed on the long banked section was in the neighborhood of 85-90mph, I wasn’t wasting any time looking down. I have never made a car slide as much on dry pavement. The “infield” section, while alittle bumpy had some nice sharp turns you could really push the car through. The course was marked with cones at the turn in points, and the apexes. This was helpful, and you could really feel when you got it correct.

We were instructed to drive with 3-4 car lengths in between each car. This might be my only complaint about the track time, but I understand why it was the case with the number of cars on the course. We tended to really bunch up in the turns. If the person in front of you fowled up the turn, you had to brake harder than you would have otherwise, there just wasn’t the space between cars. This really only effected the hairpin.

They took us out, for the first lap we drove slow to get an idea how the course was laid out. Each successive lap was a little quicker. As the instructor was in the lead, and we were told to keep pace. After 4 or 5 laps we pitted for 30 seconds or so, instructed to breath, roll down the windows and get some air. It gets hot fast, I was dripping in sweat after a few short laps.

The second stint on the track was a couple more laps, again each lap quicker and quicker. Everyone wanted to go back out for a third stint, but alas, we got a whole lot fun for free. The total time for the even was right around two hours. After the driving there was a short survey to fill out, on an iPhone, and more refreshments and chit-chat between students. Well worth the 300 mile drive there and back. I’d wake up at 5:30 again tomorrow to go do it if they’d let me.

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