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Driver Training

From: Volkswagen's Autostadt

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ABOVE: On the Geländeparcours, a VW Touareg lifts a wheel without losing its grip.

photoThe Autostadt has several training courses for adult drivers (ages 17+) and children (ages 5-11). I drove on the All-Terrain Track during my visit, and it was great fun--even for a city driver who seldom drives over anything rougher than potholes or snowbanks.

Note: You'll pay extra for the adult courses, but the fees are reasonable.

All-terrain tracks

photoOn the Geländeparcours, you'll drive twice through an obstacle course: once with an instructor at the wheel, and the second time with the instructor giving you advice from the passenger seat. Obstacles include a steep hill, a simulated riverbed with sharp rocks, soft sand, a seesaw or teeter-totter bridge that drops down after you reach the top,  a series of moguls (see top photo) where the vehicle tips from side to side, and so on.

photoYou'll get your offroad experience in a VW Touareg, a high-tech SUV with features like automatic hill-climbing, an LED wheel-position indicator, and other state-of-the-art features. (If I had a ranch, I'd buy a Touareg without hesitation; but I'm a city boy, and a small VW car is good enough for me.)

Note: If you prefer, you can take instruction on the Tiguan Off-Road Track, where VW's smaller and less expensive Tiguans are used. (The cost is the same as learning off-road techniques in a top-of-the-line Toureg.)

Safety training

VW's Safety Training course teaches you how to recover from skids, how to steer more safely around curves, and other advanced driving techniques. Volkswagen supplies the car (usually a late-model Golf), and your driving will be recorded on video.

Economy training

Try this at the beginning of your European vacation, when you're still shell-shocked by fuel prices. You drive around the course once in the normal way, then go a second time after an instuctor has pointed out your faults. If you listen to the instructor, your gas-guzzling should give way to fuel-sipping.

Children's 'Learn Park' course

The LernPark is a free driving course for children from ages 5 through 11. Kids watch training films, then drive mini-Beetles at speeds of up to 5 km/h on a course with stop signs, traffic lights, roundabouts, sidewalks, etc. At the end of their training, they receive "Children's Driving Licenses" with their photos and signatures. (Unlike the adult driving courses, the LernPark is open only from April through October.)

Next page: Car towers, customer center





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Photo (c) iStockphoto.com/Robin Ahle

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