Audi Driving Experience- Copenhagen 2012 #Audidays
Would YOU turn down the opportunity? We didn't......
This has taken some time to write, and trying to put so much into one article has been “too much”- we will visit the 2013 Audi A3 driving experience, and the “up and coming” A6 Hybrid (and technology) in separate articles. (we'll update this article and links accordingly)
Lots of things came together- by chance- or maybe fate? Who knows…
2012 is a big year for the UK- the year of the Olympics in the UK with London 2012- but rather than joining in with the hype and enjoying and experiencing all things “Olympic”, with the 5 rings, a rather different course has been plotted out for me this year –to date- with all things 4 rings- Audi.
The torch relay I missed- it was in my home town the day I was at Goodwood Festival of Speed, (due to attending Audi UK HQ previously in conjunction with a Facebook competition they were running) reporting on Audi’s presence there (photos on our Facebook page- www.facebook.com/audifans.net )
Fast forward and I received an email out of the blue at the beginning of July, inviting me to take part in "The Audi Experience."
I didn’t need asking twice! I had no idea what it was about, but having only visited Sweden once before (site users wedding), and the fact this event was organised by Audi…..
My place was booked, and trying to find any further information was proving “elusive”. Closer to the event, more (or less) information was provided; limited use of cameras in the evening, and the words “secrecy”…..
Anticipation was building. I had no idea who was going, or how many; The day before was a breakthrough, with a photo appearing via twitter of the A3 Pier, and some 2013 A3’s (I had seen one previously at Goodwood, but was more interested in the A3 e-tron 5 door saloon due to it being a “concept”)
Friday night and the Olympic opening ceremony is in full swing- meanwhile I’m trying to get some sleep for a 2am start to drive to Heathrow- ironically, in the wife’s series 1 A3 1.6….
The flight was a typical short haul European flight- working out what was where in Copenhagen airport was “fun”- twitter had “come alive” the day before the event, and was now starting in earnest with various users saying they were enroute. At this point, “Brit number 2”, Nick (Chairman of the UK TT Owners Club (www.tttoc.co.uk)) introduced himself (easy when I’m wearing an Audifans.net polo shirt) Turns out myself and he used to live literally 20 miles apart, and so being from similar areas, and having similar senses of humour the banter began.
All weekend. (Thankfully!)
First trip was breakfast in the airport, courtesy of Audi. This was followed by a short bus trip to what can be described as a “welcome area”- 220+ 2013 Audi A3’s in red or white and a reception area comprising of 2 more A3’s as well as refreshments. Being some of the first there, myself and Nick were among the first to make use of the 60+mb wifi (!) and start taking photos and uploading to twitter (@audifansdotnet @tt_owners_club , #audidays)
First car to look over was a “baby Blue” A3 1.8TFSI quattro “Ambition”. In an “Audi exclusive” colour of “Kumulus blue”, the specification of this car was (roughly):
Black/ white/ black/ black interior, S-tronic gearbox, S line package (bumpers, skirts, etc.) gloss black grille, “RS3” alloys- colour coded- Driver information system, uprated seats, etc. It was like Marmite- you either liked it, or you didn’t. For me, I did- although gloss black grille would not be my first choice.
Next up was another; this time a 1.4TFSI “Ambiente” in “Monsoon Grey”- supplied with the 122bhp Tfsi engine with a manual gearbox, black/ chestnut brown/ black/ moon silver interior and the additional lighting package.
Both colours suited the car, and there were subtle touches that weren’t instantly noticeable- such as colour coded inlays around the speakers.
This was going to be a weekend of “experiences”- within reason, and myself & Nick were willing to try just about any experiences that Audi had prepared for us. First of these?
Various foods, with a Scandinavian twist/ variation- probably more common in Europe than we would have in the UK. “Steak Tartare”- or a variation of it. I tried it. Thought it looked a bit of a “funny colour” and thought it’s just like “mince” for spaghetti Bolognese. Nicks first big laugh of the day. I didn’t know about Steak Tartare- never had it. How was I supposed to know it wasn’t “rare”- it wasn’t cooked! The rest of the food though was excellent & well presented.
Next up- make your way to the cars, and follow the navigation system. And remember how to drive on the opposite side of the road.
Did I mention watch for cyclists?
Thankfully, first drive was me (Nick had never driven LHD before), and it was in one of the 1.8TFSI (all 65 of these were red and fitted with the S-tronic gearbox) From just outside the airport, our journey took us around the outskirts of Copenhagen, and towards the Oresund Bridge and Sweden beyond. It’s more than a bridge, though. With a tunnel and the bridge spanning almost 15 miles, it has the longest cable-stayed main span in the world. The tunnel part is the longest underwater tube tunnel in the world.
The bridge runs 8 km (5 miles) from Sweden to an artificial island in the middle of the strait. Then it's a tunnel to the Danish island of Amager. The tunnel portion was created so that the bridge would not interfere with air traffic from Copenhagen's airport. It also allows for ships to have a clear channel and prevents ice floes from blocking the strait. (Although we did see a marooned ship in the water part submerged)
The views are spectacular- the weather –and visibility- was excellent- and the car was a joy to drive, learning about what it could do along the way- Although I think a UK roaming phone playing music over A2DP (stereo Bluetooth) when roaming from the Danish networks to Swedish networks and then rejecting an incoming call caused either the multimedia system or the phone to “crash” and we couldn’t obtain any music after wards without pulling over…. (most manufacturers are “opting” to go down the Iphone connectivity route- as we would say in the UK- “putting all your eggs in one basket” isn’t necessarily the wisest move- some people don’t have –or want- a fruit based phone…
Our destination was Sturup raceway, south of Malmo in Sweden. Here we were to obtain more Audi experiences.
Upon arrival, inside were more refreshments (I think if we had eaten
everything available, it wouldn’t have been excess baggage charge on our luggage!). Also on display were both the new SQ5 and the RS4- both in Misano red. Outside, on the circuit was a selection of the latest “S” models for us to try- some are not yet available in the UK (but are on their way!)- the latest versions of the S6, S7 & S8. Also in store for a select few, Audi “had plans”- we were to be filmed driving the first car and then interviewed afterwards. Some cars were fitted with “HUD”- Head Up Displays- showing the speed in KM/h (if you didn’t focus, you could easily miss them) on the windscreen in the drivers peripheral vision area- the driver could easily ignore, if necessary (or not even see them depending upon where your focal point was). The circuit is short & twisty, so maximum velocity was either limited by your own capabilities, the “pace car” or the barriers around the track. Thankfully, we had no problems requiring the latter, although Nick nearly did have an issue with the pace car… (he didn’t know that was why it was there!) How was it?
My own favourite was the S6- I felt it was better balanced. All three cars had the latest V8 bi-turbo engines and they weren’t exactly “slow” off the mark. All three were a real pleasure to drive- I think the S7 had it on looks, but for me the S6 was the one of the day. The interviews were something else (the majority of my own ended up on the “cutting room floor”, and Audi provided us each with our own edited versions before we left on Sunday on an Audi USB (car key shaped) usb stick. Various aspects have also been used on Audi TV channel on youtube- thankfully you only see me in one very small section….
Also there was a another set of the new A3’s, with the same specification of the one we arrived in. The purpose? Audi had set up a handling course full of twists and turns to realise the potential of the cars handling characteristics. Smiles all round by everyone who took part- some rejoining the queue to take part again.
From here, it was a scenic drive through Sweden back to the E20 & the Oresund bridge. The issue? We were due to take one of the 60 2.0Tdi manual (white) A3’s back to Denmark- it
was Nicks turn to drive, and his only experience of left hand drive driving was just on the track at the wheel of the S models (none of which were manual). A quick request, and we back in a red pocket rocket heading West with Nick on a steep learning curve.
Our destination? The Bella Sky 4 star Hotel, just outside Copenhagen. A real marvel to look at- and stay in.
Time for quick relaxation, shower and get “suited & booted” for the evening dinner party/ presentation. Here I drove the A3 Tdi to the event (each time directions provided by the in built navigation/ infotainment units). I managed to stall the car.
Into central Copenhagen, where we are greeted by yet more polite, professional personnel and get to look around more examples of the new A3, including a “Mocha Latte” 2.0 Tdi quattro “Ambiente” complete with colour coded (“RS3”) wheels- like the blue one earlier in the day, you either loved it or you didn’t. Also on display was a cut down version of the engine, drive train, suspension and additional (carbon fibre) gas tanks for the A3TCNG concept, lots of A3 promotional material, a counter selling Audi merchandise, a cut away model of the 1.4Tfsi engine and another A3 in white. The whole area was an audio visual feast for visitors. Audi UK was represented- in the model of Audi’s latest salesroom variation- Audi City- the first one having been opened in London earlier in July. (Nick has been, and said the model was almost identical to the “real thing”) These are destined for city’s where space is at a premium for displaying cars, etc.- their primary aim is for the ability for customer to be able to specify their cars in real time, and full size, with the latest technology to bring their bespoke vehicle configuration to life.
The evening continued with an artistic presentation using the new A3, conveyors, musicians, dancers and artists, along with excellent food and entertainment. This was topped off with a presentation by Audi head of Marketing, Mr Korn, about the virtues of the new A3, heritage & the brand, and some facts & figures of the A3 and the event; this was the premier event of it’s type opened up to customers and fans of the marquee, as opposed to just dealers. Copenhagen was chosen as it is seen as a “progressive” city. The A3 was launched in 1996, with 900,000 models of the mark 1 sold; the mark 2 sold 1,800,000, and the mark 3 we were here to “experience” was 80kg lighter than the previous model. A requirement of all new models is that they must be lighter than the model they are replacing.
Everybody we met at the event was really nice, sociable & pleasant- people had been invited from dealerships, importers, websites, “bloggers”, customers, fans, competition winners from various countries- in fact, we understand that there were 226 attendees from 12 countries, and this was the first time that Audi had done such a thing with members of the “public” as opposed to just “dealers” (the whole thing was running for three weeks all in). Luckily for us, the “common” language in use between everyone was English (not wanting to sound negative or biased here)- a lot of the guests having better English skills than myself….
After being awake for 22 hours (even though there was a free bar!), it was time to head back to the hotel and get some much needed sleep for Sundays’ “activities”.
The beds in the hotel are top class- I really didn’t want to get out of mine on the Sunday morning- despite numerous alarms on the TV and the phone. I managed to eventually get myself ready for the days activities, check my luggage in and manage to grab breakfast before heading out.
A coach took us into the centre of Copenhagen, back to the “Audi Pier” which was our base for the day. Having read a recent copy of Audi UK’s magazine “Vorsprung” which had articles on a unique hotel in Copenhagen, as well as the “Audi Spheres”, so there had been some, albeit limited, preparation. I hadn’t read about the Audi “e bike”, although I knew of it- vaguely.
First up was a small “tour” of Copenhagen via bike. Now I’m the wrong side of 40, and the wrong side of 14 stone, so a push bike was not something I was looking forward to. BUT, as this was a weekend of “experiences”….
Hitting 20km/h on a pushbike is not something I would have thought I was capable of doing; I didn’t even break a sweat (thankfully!)- even in top gear, the slightest push on the pedals and you was off- almost gracefully, but with a velocity that was unexpected. Using various cycle lanes and pathways, our guide took us through the city streets, along side the river ways and past some really pretty architecture (something I wish I had had more time to explore) to just in front of Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen. The palace today bears witness to three eras of Danish architecture, as the result of two serious fires. The first fire occurred in 1794 and the second in 1884. The main part of the current palace, finished in 1928, is in the historicist Neo-baroque style (and does actually look older than it is). The chapel dates to 1826. An unusual setting, to place the modern tech pressurised spheres outside (akin to something used in some sci-fi movie).
In the three large spheres visitors can experience key aspects of Audi’s cutting edge technology: Audi ultra, which is at the spearhead of lightweight automotive construction (initially used in production in the A8 and A2), Audi e-tron, the future of electrical mobility (as used to devastating effect in this years LeMans 24 hours and as seen in the A6 Hybrid we drove), and Audi connect – a networking strategy for all Audi vehicles (A variation was in use in the A3’s we drove over the weekend). The exhibition is open until the 5th of August 2012 if you get chance to visit….
Inside each sphere is “user interactive” with each having it’s own variation on interactivity with visitors. What many may not realise- and has been mis-reported on social media sites by some Audi centres as the “next Coupe” was the Audi e-tron spyder.
Pure automotive (electric) porn.
It’s a shame that the lighting limited the quality of the photos I managed to take (although others fared better!)
From here, it was almost a “sprint” on the bikes through the decades of architecture and cobbled streets back to the “Audi Pier”, where a boat was (literally) waiting for us to take us on a trip around the waterways of Copenhagen. This included a lot of spectacular buildings & architecture, the “little Mermaid”, Danish Naval history, and a sand castle competition, of all things.
Next up was our “final” Audi experience- the Hybrid A6 driven around the city, with Nick in the “hot seat” initially. Our host and guide was excellent- providing technical information about the car, along with points of interest along the route and the opportunity to take some photo’s. I would personally have relished the opportunity to spend more time with the A6 Hybrid- it was silky smooth, and the transformation between electric and petrol was almost unnoticeable.
The events were finished off –again- with yet more food. (Surprise!)- unfortunately we didn’t feel like we had time to experience Copenhagen on foot, due to the timescales for transport back to the airport.
The whole experience, I think, I managed to sum up in one tweet:
“Copenhagen: New Friends, new memories- unforgettable experience.”
For more details/ photos/ "experiences", try these links;
some are on Facebook, some on Twitter, some may need translation......
Audifans.net photo's- event:
Our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/audifans.net
Videos from the event: http://www.youtube.com/audioc1
Our Twitter: @audifans.net
Other photos from attendees at the event: