Volkswagen Magazine

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fast gets fast too fast.

The “Sweden Ice Adventure” is said to be the most dynamic and emotional training course offered by the Volkswagen Driving Experience. And the coldest too. We dare to take the endurance test.

 

Text Sven Schulte-Rummel
Photos Andreas Hempel
A tip for Sweden in winter? “Wrap up warm!” advises author Sven Schulte-Rummel.

“Snow bank! Snow bank!!!” The part of my brain responsible for fear hisses through my consciousness, “Get away! Away! Away from there!” My mind demands that I react. “Left? Left? Or right?!” Then Ronny in the front passenger seat starts shouting, “Turn left. And down! Look down! Now straight. Foot down! Third gear.”
The rear of my Golf R shaves the snow bank. The wheels spin. My hands clench the steering wheel so tightly my knuckles turn as white as the Lapland snow and vast amounts of energy escape unused through my too-tight grip. Too tight, because even in this extreme driving situation the steering wheel is so light I could steer my Golf R, adorned with a huge “13” sticker, using just two fingers – after all, the ground is as smooth as glass. Still, here on this frozen lake in northern Sweden, I try with all my might to complete a lap as fast as I can.

Fortunately, I had resolved to listen to only one of the many voices in my head – that of my driving trainer, Ronny. After all, Ronny Wechselberger has made it into the “Guinness Book of World Records” twice, no less, due to his car driving skills – so it’s much better to listen to someone like him than my own inner voices.
I quickly change gears, put my foot down, and as the tyres struggle to find a hold and grip the ice with their 1.5 mm spikes, I manage to free us from this situation. The car now roars so loudly and deeply, the moose and reindeer will think it’s mating season in the depths of winter. The corners of my mouth at this very moment have a 30-degree upward drift angle. For five brief seconds.

Adventure on ice and snow

Sweden Ice Adventure At the Arctic Circle itself the Volkswagen Driving Experience is also offering the “Sweden Ice Adventure” experience in the 2014–15 season with the Golf R.

 

On-road and off-road estate training Take the new Touareg through wintry terrain in Saalfelden, Austria. Learn how to react properly in extreme situations on specially prepared snow-covered tracks.

 

Intensive training and professional safety training On a 1.5-km track of snow and ice in the vicinity of Salzburg, Austria, students learn how to drive more safely and master dangerous situations with Volkswagen’s “4MOTION” all-wheel drive.

At a temperature of minus 52.6 degrees Celsius, it would take five seconds for me to become really, really cold. This is Arvidsjaur’s record low temperature in northern Sweden where Volkswagen holds the “Sweden Ice Adventure” event from January until the end of March. At this point, optimists would argue that Siberian schoolchildren only get dismissed from school due to the cold once the temperature hits minus 54 degrees, which is not a joke. Or they would say I should just laugh about it – because it has been proven that laughing people can hold their hand in ice water for 20 minutes longer than those who don’t find it so amusing. I would counter that by saying, first, it is much too cumbersome to hack a hole in the 50-cm-thick ice just to try this out. And second, unlike a Siberian schoolchild, I am not acclimatised because I have just arrived by plane from a relatively warm northern Germany. To prove this I would pull out my ticket for the flight, which brought me and 13 other “Sweden Ice Adventure” participants to Lapland, to an event, at the end of which almost all drivers will say that this kind of experience urgently needs to be included in the book of “One hundred things every person should have done despite the cold” – and in the top 10 at that. But why?

“Drifting is a game that plays with unstable driving conditions,” says the second driving trainer in Arvidsjaur, Matthias Kahle. He, too, is one of the people whom you had better listen to here – just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle. Kahle is sort of a the “King of Instability” when driving, a seven-time German rally champion. “Even when you drive sideways, the principle still applies: fast quickly becomes too fast. Particularly when you first run out of talent, and then road,” adds Martin Escher, chief trainer for the Driving Experience. It’s not really a problem with the latter because we have two circuits with a diameter of 100 metres, three handling tracks which are altogether four miles long, and a 600 x 80-metre dynamic driving area. Running out of talent, however, hurts and dents your pride. Because the humiliation when you leave the snow-free roads on the lake goes through three stages:

Towed: the safety car is particularly busy during the first three days of training.

» We must outwit nature and overcome our fear. «

Ronny Wechselberger

You are out! Each time you fly off the ice track you get an orange sticker and ...
... the pink toy “Blind duck”, which is a kind of challenge cup.
Listen up! Driving trainer Ronny Wechselberger gives advice on how to drive on ice.

First, when calling for help on my walkie-talkie – I see my peers laughing in the other Golf R. Second, Raphael Lorenz arrives in his Touareg, which has been specifically tailored to the requirements of “Driving Experience”, and after freeing “Number 13 once again” in a matter of seconds he slaps a “You are out” sticker on the windscreen. And third, Ronny presents me with the challenge cup for the disqualified: a plastic duck with a blindfold.
The feet of ducks are cold so that they don’t freeze or stick to the ice. Nature has not been so ingenious with us humans, which is why Addison from Chicago and I discuss appropriate footwear during a driving break: “Small spikes, like those on the Golf R tyres would be great!” explains the American. “Wow, men can talk about shoes too”, I think to myself.

Fun on ice knows no age: Max (left) and Hanspeter at the edge of the ice track.

However, more debatable would be the style of Addison’s powerful fake gold chain with its 15-cm “50” pendant – which he is obliged to wear today. It was a birthday present from his best friend Joel, and Addison’s 50th birthday a few weeks ago was also the reason for their “Cool trip to cool Sweden.” “Obviously it’s cold in the USA, too,” he says, “but when do our great lakes in the north freeze over?” “And if they did,” I enquire, “would you dare go on the ice with your own car?” “I’d sooner go on the ice than secretly take my wife’s car and install a sports exhaust system against her wishes,” Addison replies, and looks at Jan – before everyone in the group laughs and Jan has to tell his story for the third time. While we’re enjoying our moose-and-reindeer wraps, the speed of conversation in the Volkswagen tepee at the edge of the lake is just as fast as on the ice. Group dynamics are not just evident when the topic of vehicle dynamics comes up, and eventually international driving licences are pulled out and compared like trading cards.

“Have you lost it often? No, not misplaced, I mean lost.”
Back on the ice of the Arvidsjaur lake, which is so thick even a jumbo jet could make an emergency landing, it’s already the final day of four. Slightly drunk with euphoria, I do laps on the large circuit in “Number 13”, with no idea whether it is two, three or four miles long. I need 8 minutes and 31 seconds to do one lap, and with each eight-and-a-half minutes the Golf R and I increasingly become one. We long ago found the perfect seat adjustment and the air conditioner’s ideal interior temperature – a few degrees less than the 27 °C, to which us humans, as so-called tropical mammals, have adapted over the last millennia in order to survive without clothes.
Even the yin and yang harmony between gear selection and accelerator pressure is reconciled on day four.
Thanks to this, I can control the supply of power to the 4MOTION drive train. Only the purchase agreement for the Golf R has not yet been signed – at minus 7 degrees, the ink on the paper would freeze as quickly as two pairs of lips kissing each other.

» A cool trip to the cool North – accom­panied by very cool people. «

Addison B.

Style even in a snow storm: Addison travelled from the USA to the Driving Experience.
Golf R convoy in the vastness of Lapland: on the way to the ice tracks on the Arvidsjaur lake.

The lower lip of my spoiler now only kisses the snow at the edge of the track when I miss Ronny Wechselberger’s advice in the flow of hairpin bends. “The car follows the hand and the hand follows the eye” he now calls through the walkie-talkie. “We must outwit nature and overcome our fear. For this, you need to find a solution and our solution is: look to the inside of the curve, look far ahead, and do not get distracted.”
However, just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle there is a spectacular distraction: snowmobiles! And one is ploughing through the snow at over 60 miles per hour right at the edge of my race track. Exactly where you don’t want to go. But when you look, you regrettably end up there, too.
However, there in the snow, with the undercarriage resting on top of the ice and all four wheels spinning freely, I gain an invaluable insight as to why the Driving Experience feels so good. In Berlin I’m aware of double parkers, delivery vans, red lights, speed cameras and tourists on Segways – but not of the essential: the symbiosis of car, ground, and me as the driver. Here in the snow I have found it again.

The Golf R in numbers.

Engine:
4-cylinder petrol engine
2.0-litre TSI (221 kW/300 hp)
Gearbox: 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox DSG / 6-speed manual gearbox
Fuel consumption (mpg/ltr per 100 km): 30.1 (9.4) - 32.1 (8.8) (urban), 47.9 (5.9) (extra urban), 40.9 (6.9) - 39.8 (7.1) (combined)
CO₂ emissions in g/km: 159 - 165 (combined)
Acceleration (from 0 to 60 miles): 5.1 seconds
Peak speed: 155 mph
Kerb weight: 1,495 kg (2-door)
Dimensions (in mm):
Length: 4,276
Width with mirrors: 2,027
Height: 1,436
Luggage compartment (l): 343 - 1,233

Standard selection highlights: Sports suspension, body lowered by 20 mm, bi-xenon headlamps, 17-inch performance braking system, sports seats, R-specific diffuser, two twin tailpipes

A worthwhile stop: the Golf R in front of the souvenir shop in Arvidsjaur.

» After just four days, the yin and yang harmony between gear selection and accelerator pressure is reconciled. «

Sven Schulte-Rummel