It’s just after 7 in the morning, the sun is barely visible between the hills of Baqueira Beret, the thermometer flirts with zero degrees and a fleet of Audi A7 Sportback and Audi A6 awaits us to take us to the test track that has prepared the team led by Jordi Gené on the occasion of the Audi Winter Driving Experience. Driving on snow has something special, there is nothing that can be compared to this scenario, neither because of the demands it forces, nor because of the fun it can generate. Today Audi has prepared us a total of four circuits on snow accompanied by models of the stature of the new Audi TT, the Audi S3 or the Audi RS Q3, a cast chosen to extract the quintessence of the quattro drive. I can tell you that control has never been so much fun.
I consider myself of the opinion that when it comes to obtaining our driving license, it is inexcusable that driving on surfaces with very low adhesion is not an obligatory test. The ability to react to unexpected adversities can be vital at any moment, especially when we are surrounded by traffic. With this idea I am faced with a driving experience on snow that, in addition to trying to show us the possibilities that technology has reached, also aims to show us key elements that make the difference between a good scare and an accident.
It could be said that driving on snow involves taking a step further the complications that the appearance of water on any surface adds. However, on snow, the installation of winter tires or nails is an obligatory requirement to face any surface of this type, especially if the temperature and the Sun surprise us with the appearance of ice. In this way, and although the all-wheel drive is presented as the best ally to attack each vertex, the installation of a good set of tires seems just as important as the technology with which the engine torque reaches the ground.
Driving on snow is governed by three key points that we can never lose sight of. First of all, we must get used to the idea that our eyes should always look where we want to go, not where the inertia of the vehicle seems to take us. This idea is key when it comes to controlling the oversteer with which you actually make the turns, forcing you to change the “chip” to understand that driving on snow requires better communication between man and machine, understanding from the first second than on snow everything is a question of mass displacement and support points.
Without going into technical sections, knowing your mount and its weight distribution will allow you to place the car exactly where you want, giving you that possibility of maintaining control even when the wheels slip on the snow surface seems to have exceeded the limit of Sanity. Advancement, the second key point, is the best weapon to undertake turns without being punished by the laws of physics, either for a late turn (understeer), or for an excess of advance (oversteer), which will inevitably lead you to undertake a full turn to the nearest snow mound.
The third point, and the most complicated, is none other than recognizing and managing where the masses are distributed that will help you maintain the trajectory. In short, we are talking about a key element when it comes to controlling the vehicle, but one that needs time and the execution of many errors to polish our perceptions. Turning is easy, because most of the time you will notice how the steering floats between the stops, managing the grip is the really complicated thing; Well, there lies the optimal point where to find support and generate adherence.
Jordi Gené is the master of ceremonies, he offers us the briefing of the day with the technical details, the presentation of the team of instructors and the advice to face the day without too many outings on the track. Each of the four proposed scenarios offers a different challenge for the driver: slalom in the shape of eight, tight turn in change of grade, double curve with change of direction and complete circuit combining the three previous tracks. We have all morning to squeeze a regiment of Audi models combined with quattro all-wheel drive, there are different proposals, all interesting, and the first shift starts with an Audi S3 lifting kilos and kilos of snow while chaining curves going sideways. Promises the day.
An Audi A5 Coupé and an Audi A6 Avant with powers close to 300 hp are the first candidates, also the only ones that use Torsen center differential. We deactivate ESP and put our foot on the gas, suddenly all the mirrors show a snowstorm around me. I admit it, we started with the easy, long wheelbase and ease of playing with the inertia thanks to a familiar body. The first passes show that the snow is in perfect condition to chain turns without being surprised by sinkholes, the main enemy of this type of experience, since it is easy to slide as soon as one of your wheels enters one of these traps. With the basic rules learned, it’s time to raise the bar, adding spice under the hood and complicating driving with grade changes and tighter turns. It is the turn of the Audi S3.
The Audi S3 is not a rookie for me, I liked this high-performance compact on the open road for its good poise and its magnificent grip, perhaps a lack of character, but for that Audi works in an RS3. On snow it is difficult to get bored, especially when you attack a turn instead of slope going thrown. With the S3, docility appears thanks to the all-wheel drive system, forcing the outer rear wheel to look for that grip point that the steering cannot find. At that moment you can perceive how the torque distribution acts in real time while the accelerator bottoms out, the smoothness with which the corrections are made is surprising, although everything is empty when the ice appears or you have not dosed gas as you should.
The turn of the Audi TT is perhaps where one learns the most, for the car, but above all for how to combine propellant and traction to complete a track in the form of eight. The Audi TT has a new all-wheel drive system, less weight, a low center of gravity and a driving position more in line with all this experience. It’s time to have a great time, without going too fast, but trying to emulate Ken Block in one of his Gymkhanas. Try I said …
After several rounds at the controls of the TT, the instructors give the warning we were waiting for. Finally, it’s time to complete the complete circuit! And best of all, the Audi RS Q3 will be one of the available candidates. It is time to apply everything you have learned, to seek speed and to expose all the fun that lies behind so much control. The qualities of the RS Q3 are magnificent to close the day, 310 hp and 410 Nm to punish the all-wheel drive. The farewell is coming, and it is irremediable to recognize that turning on this snowy circuit is crazy … a crazy thing that you want to repeat over and over again.