Firsthand Driving Experience

BY Azfar Hashim

Reaching 1,200 participants over the course of more than a week, it also featured the world’s first ‘Emotion Dashboard’ which measures the driver’s excitement when behind the wheel

Photos courtesy of Audi Singapore

Audi Singapore and its local dealer Premium Automobiles held the Audi Sport Driving Experience for three good reasons: Firstly, to get driving enthusiasts acquainted once again with the brand and their range of sporty machines. Secondly, to debut the Audi Sport sub-brand, which all performance-focused S, RS and R models now fall under. Lastly, introduce the all-new Audi R8 locally.

Oh and as mentioned, Audi introduced the ‘Emotion Dashboard’ here as well, the world’s first ever monitor that measures a driver’s excitement level when they are behind the wheel of the all-new Audi R8.  The sophisticated technology measures your heart rate and skin moisture levels, showing how the body reacts to the thrilling drive.

My Audi-ful day began with a briefing session at Premium Automobile’s Leng Kee showroom, done by Audi Singapore’s Managing Director himself, Jeff Mannering. He wasn’t coy when he ended it with this note: “If you damage a car, congratulations, you have just gotten yourself an Audi”.

Once that was over, my heartbeat was taken via an Apple Watch-looking device, with the numbers to be compared with my post R8 drive later on. Lastly, it was time to sign my life away; ok kidding, it was the indemnity form for the drive from the showroom to the event venue.

The drive to Changi Exhibition Centre was an uneventful 30 minutes. Our ‘limo’ was the quietly introduced Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro, which definitely made the journey comfortable along the East Coast Parkway, and then entertaining along Changi Coast Road. Ahh… A good display of how technology could allow a car to have multiple personalities.

After arriving safely (and in one piece), I was ushered into the exhibition hall where I was given a quick tour of the Audi Sport Shop — this was where you could purchase Audi apparels, accessories, toys and even car models. Of course while waiting for the event proper, the other more important part of the event itself - besides the safety briefing back at Leng Kee - took place: Lunch.

Post lunch, the first station for yours truly was the SUV quattro experience. Using both the new Q7 2.0 TFSI and Q3 2.0 TFSI, myself along with other members of the media were given the opportunity to drive onto a wall structure - to simulate climbing sideways along a hill. Sounded simple in theory, but the biggest (personal) challenge here was to see how far you were willing to ‘climb’ sideway. Whoever could get it to an angle where your passenger’s window sits parallel to the tarmac wins the ‘Bravest Driver’ title; fortunately (or unfortunately), the award didn’t come my way. However what it did was showcase how quattro and Audi’s fine engineering can, together, come up with a capable off-roader.

Yup, that front wheel is indeed off the ground

Yup, that front wheel is indeed off the ground

The next station was a slalom course, this time using the A4 2.0 TFSI quattro. Our instructors here were Singaporean drifter Ivan Lim and his Malaysian counterpart, Ariff Johanis. Interestingly, we were specifically told to (a) use minimal brake through the course, and (b) to rely on the quattro system and Audi’s extensive list of nannies. It was again quite a challenge, as instinctively, your mind would tell you to brake at certain points to be in total control of the car, instead. After some coaxing from Ivan though, I finally get to experience just how agile and easily controllable this A4 is, with the entire car listening intently to every steering feed — done with minimal braking. Now if only I was allowed to switch off the traction control…

What’s after the A4? The car fellow journalists and myself have been anticipating: The new R8 V10 Plus! Unlike the previous stations where we had to drive with an instructor next to us, here, every single one of us got to drive on our own; the instructors, from Audi AG, were in the first car, setting the pace along a set course which had a good combination of both straights, tight turns and sweeping curves. As the weather wasn’t on our side (drizzle, with a wet track), we weren’t given much opportunities to push this 540 bhp sports car to its limit; but even then, I experienced the immense amount of grip this car has this time around, compared to the rear-biased, rear-happy car it replaces.

Its wild side was only exposed when I was taken on a taxi ride with the instructor who gamely drove without much assistance from the car’s nanny. It took corners at speeds with finesse and best of all, goes sideways in a somewhat classy manner. Mind. Blown.

After all that, it’s time for the final station of the day — brake and evade, with the new RS3. As before, this hyper hatch lived up to its reputation, darting from point to point, turning sharply and confidently with brakes that could probably stop planet earth from revolving if need be. Having an equally enthusiastic instructor seating in the passenger seat also helped: I was challenged to brake later and later, and at the same time, to turn the steering as smoothly as I could to avoid hitting the cones. On a personal note, the RS3 did not disappoint the more I pushed it… making me fall in love with it instantly.

The pair of Audi instructors flown in from Germany specially for this event

The pair of Audi instructors flown in from Germany specially for this event

At the end of the day, it must be said Audi deserve a pat on their back for putting in so much effort to showcase their new Audi Sport sub-brand and at the same time, allow driving enthusiasts a firsthand opportunity to sample their stable of cars. This is something their competitors won’t dare spend on, in this current climate.

Oh, and guess what? Yours truly emerged ‘The Most Emotional Driver’ for the journalist session of the Audi Sport Driving Experience. Heh.