Thriving on Ice: My Austrian Crash Course in Winter Ice Driving

Is this real? I thought for the hundredth time. The sun shone bright. An army of conifers surrounded us, and a heavy layer of snow coated everything, including the craggy peaks of the Eastern Alps in the distance. Everything, that is, except the solid sheet of ice hundreds of yards long where I stood.

Along with several other journalists, I'd traveled to this frozen field outside the small Austrian ski town of Seefeld to experience Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system while drifting, power sliding, and negotiating a fleet of supercharged 350-hp, 4.2-liter diesel A8 quattros across this icy tract. Occasionally, cross-country skiers would stop to watch.

The ice-driving program is just one of many "driving experience" classes Audi offers across Europe for anyone who wants?or, more accurately, can afford?to improve their driving skills, get to know Audi's technology, or just plain hoon. Ours was a modified version of the intensive training program, which costs around $1800 but is all-inclusive save for airfare. For a day and a half, a team of accomplished instructors guided us through icy cone exercises.

Unsurprisingly, the quattro, with its ability to shift power distribution among all four wheels, was quite advantageous on the ice. And that Eurospec engine? It's a Hoss. (Audi will be launching an A8 TDI in the States sometime in the next year.) But when the course concluded, what stuck with me most were all of the pointers that helped me successfully handle the vehicle in such terrible conditions. Here are seven handy tips to remember the next time you encounter a slippery patch of pavement.

(Editor's Note: Only one A8 was hurt during the making of this story. Yours truly was not responsible. However, many orange cones were killed by all involved.)


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