Late last year, we hinted that the Audi driving experience will be arriving in the Philippines early 2013. True to their word, PGA Cars brought the driving event to the Clark International Speedway (CIS) for would-be and current customers to appreciate the true meaning of 'Vorsprung dur Technik' this past February 7 to 10.
The Audi driving experience is a half-day in-depth engagement into every aspect of the brand's performance engineering, something I had the privilege to experience through the roaring Audi R8 V10s in Sepang Circuit in 2011.
Personally welcoming select members of the media on the first day was PGA Cars Chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr. himself, along with a fleet of Audi S-Line performance cars together with the newly launched A1 Sportback and Q3 crossover. The cream of the crop had to be the eye catching TT RS and R8 GT Spyder in bright Audi Brilliant Red as well as the prototype R8 GT in Matte Suzuka Grey, a car we saw in Sepang during our last experience.
30 years since
Started in 1983, the program is a high-performance driving course designed to deliver a full experience of Audi's latest engines and electronic driving aids through a mix of theoretical and hands-on methods aimed at developing better driving skills as well as for emergency situations. Although it was designed for participants with any driving skill level, having above-average skills can help you enjoy the day more. The structured four-hour Philippine program involved track exercises, real-world driving and the full track experience.
We were all divided into five groups, with our group starting with the slalom exercise. We were taught to balance throttle input and efficient steering with the A1 Sportback, A4, A6, and Q3. Particularly impressive was the Q3 which went through the course with much ease despite its tall stance. Efficient steering means that you’re actually pushing your steering wheel with the opposite hand to the direction where you want your car to go rather than pulling it with the other hand.
Second on our list was the dynamic driving session with the 420-bhp 4.0-liter V8 TFSI twin-turbo engine equipped S7 through the fast sweeping corners of CIS. The exercise was designed for application of efficient use of the racing line while demonstrating the high-speed cornering capability of the car through the synergy of the aluminum space frame, quattro all-wheel drive and the electronic stability program (ESP). Braking was also very much a pleasant experience with the large carbon-ceramic brakes with multi-piston calipers.
The third exercise was driving through the tighter and more technical sections of CIS on the S6 sedan, an experience akin to the S7. The exercise further emphasized the chassis and electronic aids going to work along with a powerful engine pushing you out of every corner with ease. It provided a stark contrast between the feeling of a low slung fastback and a sedan; the former having a more refined yet sporty feel, while the latter had an uncharacteristically indirect feel.
The S8 was another favorite, not because of the power but with luxuriously refined interior appointments which includes Audi’s exclusive Valcona leather, which is a finer grain than silk nappa leather; Bang & Olufsen premium audio system; a high-tech parking assist system; and carbon fiber details including a really cool shift lever. The back spelled BOSS in big bold capital letters with individually adjustable climate controls, entertainment system controls with 10-inch LCD screens for each side, and dual rear power window switches on each side as you sink into the ultra comfortable seat.
Our last exercise was evasive braking maneuvers aboard the powerful yet heavyweight S8. It's equipped with livelier version of 4.0-liter V8 TFSI; an engine pushing out 100 more horses to the tune of 520. While the head-rush inducing pull of the powerful engine was addicting, the exercise was for actually for the opposite: braking. It was to demonstrate how ABS, ESP and efficient steering technique can get you out of trouble in emergency situations where a vehicle suddenly stops in front of you; something particularly helpful in the Philippines. Having gone through the exercise before on the A6, I was able to ace the exercises in all three tries to the delight of the applauding instructor from Inglostadt, who now lives in Angeles City.
After a break for lunch, we were finally going on our Track Lapping Sessions to apply all the techniques learned from the different exercises in the morning. I was able to get behind the wheel of an S7; needless to say, it was my favorite drive among the pack. Luckily our group also had the least number of participants so I had a chance to have a longer stint with the car. Albeit in a controlled pace behind the Brilliant Red TT RS, I was still able to fully appreciate the car’s power and handling capabilities.
It is truly nice for brands to have driving events like these for customers to further appreciate the technology and engineering of the cars and maybe convince them to order one as well. Audi Philippines Head Benedicto Coyiuto was certainly in good spirits at the end of the day with new sales made during the first of the four-day event.
Interestingly, all the plates on the Audi driving experience cars from Europe were specially selected to represent each model; with the exception of the R8 GT Spyder which had a peculiarly unique plate – it read IN (Inglostadt) OB1-01. Maybe they’re Star Wars fans... just like us.