The high road

Audi Sport’s finest and the Austrian Alps at your disposal – the stuff of automotive dreams.

The Audi driving experience Alpine tour returned to the Austrian and Italian Alps again this year after a COVID-induced spell, delighting a new group of automotive explorers with the drive of a lifetime.

Courtesy Jan Thompson

7 July, 2023

It was an opportunity to drive the R8 Spyder and the RS e-tron GT back-to-back

Take two of Audi Sport’s most exciting models, some of the finest driving roads in the world and add a liberal splash of luxurious accommodation and fine food – and you have the Audi driving experience Alps tour. Making a welcome return this year after being sidelined by the pandemic, the Alps tour is part of the Audi driving experience international program. Once again the program kicked off with Audi guests arriving in Munich before heading to Ingolstadt for a look at the brand’s expansive operations, as well as the Audi Sport facility in Neuburg. 

Neuburg is the home of all of Audi’s motorsport operations, an impressive facility that includes a three-kilometre test track, skid pans and off-road evaluation courses, as well as state-of-the-art development facilities that now include the Audi Sport Formula 1 team.

Here, after a tour of the brand's motorsport nerve centre and its countless trophies and historic racecars, the participants hit the track to familiarise themselves with the vehicles and get a feel for the cars’ performance potential. From straight out acceleration tests to emergency braking and car control exercises, it was the perfect way to get a feel for the cars before hitting the road.

This year’s driving experience differed from previous events in that there were two models on hand for participants. Both from the top end of Audi Sport’s range and both blindingly fast, but utilising two very different drivetrains to deliver exhilarating performance.

On hand for the last time, the R8 Spyder is perhaps the ultimate for top-down, high-performance motoring, with its normally-aspirated V10 sending a booming note echoing through the mountain passes and delivering extraordinary performance and handling. The other vehicle was the very latest from Audi Sport – the RS e-tron GT – and represents the brand’s move to electric mobility. The first all-electric RS model, this car too was perfectly at home on the tight, twisty mountain roads, its performance very much on a par with its ICE stablemate, but offering a very different aural accompaniment to the drive.

Hitting first the autobahn and then increasingly steep and narrow roads signalled the start of the tour proper. Leaving Munich far behind and climbing up into Alpine foothills of upper Bavaria to Lermoos, the tour effectively entered a different world.

Through the stunning Namloser Valley and on to Hahnentennjoch and Telfs-Buchen – breathtaking scenery and roads that seem to fold back on themselves as they take you first up into the impossibly high mountains and then down the other side into impossibly beautiful valleys.

There is simply nothing like this in Australia and for those experiencing it for the first time it is a revelation. For those returning to the region, the experience never fails to stir the senses and though the narrow roads certainly don’t lend themselves to pulling over to takes pictures, the scenery is absolutely stunning.

Led by a professional Audi driving instructor, with Audi staff attending to fuel and charge vehicles overnight and check GPS systems at the start of each day, the participants on the tour take things at their own pace, ‘pushing on’ as they see fit, or taking their time and taking it all in. It’s very much a matter of how you wish to enjoy your driving time in the mountains.

Staying at the best hotels in the region and enjoying the finest food, this is an all encompassing experience that offers more than just the ultimate driving experience – as if that wasn’t reason enough to make the trip. 

From the sprawling Interalpen Hotel Tyrol in Austria to the Hotel Falkensteiner Kronplatz at the start of the Dolomites, accommodation is outstanding, with lunch stops selected throughout the trip to provide not only a taste of each region but in a setting perfectly suited to enjoy the picturesque surrounds.

Staying at the best hotels in the region and enjoying the finest food, this is an all encompassing experience

The scenery switches from heavily wooded to stark and almost barren in places, the roads carved into the soaring mountain sides

From Austria up through the Timmelsjoch pass at 2500 metres and into Italy, the scenery switches from heavily wooded to stark and almost barren in places, the roads carved into the soaring mountain sides, so narrow in places that the passenger on the ‘wrong’ side of the car is presented with a literally breathtaking view, unobscured by anything – including a guardrail.

Through the Jaufenpass, or pass Monte Giovo given it’s in Italy and on to Italy’s most northern township, Vipiteno. Driving high passes with names that are the stuff of automotive legend – Passo Pordoi at 2239 metres, Passo Sella and the famed Passo di Falzarego – each with their own distinctive backdrops torn straight from the pages of a glossy travel magazine.

Through idyllic Alpine towns and past lakes, down through sweeping lush meadows before ultimately turning the cars back towards Munich for the run home.

Five days of touring the ultimate high country, in two of the most impressive high-performance cars on the market. Words are wholly insufficient at conveying the majesty of the area and the feeling of driving countless switchbacks to reach the top of a pass. For some it was all about the scenery, while for others it was more about the drive. Likewise there were those who preferred the feeling of top-down motoring in the R8 Spyder, while others felt the all-wheel steering of the RS e-tron GT was better for negotiating the countless hairpins. All agreed though that this year’s Audi driving experience Alps tour was a resounding success – creating lasting memories and perhaps sowing the seed in some for a return visit to this inspired region again.

The Audi driving experience heads into the Austrian Alps again in January next year for the Audi ice driving experience. Visit the Audi driving experience website for more information or to book your place.