Finding Zen through Audi A5 Driving Vacation in Japan
Driving around Tokyo on the elevated ring roads reminded me of one of my favorite cartoon shows, the Jetsons. At about a twenty story building high, I was cruising at 70 km/h in a very comfortable and confidence 2009 Audi A5. To my right, the view of the urban jungle landscape was whizzing by. When the traffic slowed down enough and I was in the thick of the urban jungle, my eyes wandered to the skyscrapers and caught glimpses of the people living in their penthouses...
After going through a maze of Tokyo roads, we arrived at the Audi Forum (http://www.audi.co.jp/audiforum). I had been to several Audi Forums but I had never seen the one like this. Inside, the first two stories are occupied by Audi show rooms and café. It showcases the latest car models behind the backdrop of Audi history and heritage. If you are in Harajuku neighborhood in Tokyo and looking for a place to take some pressure of your feet, this will be a nice relaxing place...
Finding exhilarating roads in this region was very easy. By zooming in and out the navigation system, I was able to see the stupendous serpentine mountain passes. I decided to drive Toyo Turnpike. Toyo Turnpike is a very swift wide twisty road with mild elevation change. Looking up I saw the fast large radius bend followed by a few tight zigzags. The drive up was very leisurely in this A5 3.2 Quattro. The precise steering, the sport-tuned suspension, and the 265 hp V6 made the climb up effortless. We devoured the S turns and zigzags at almost double the suggested speed and the 19 inch 255/35 tires didn’t even squeal. It felt like we were on a roller coaster track. Japanese road engineers installed convex mirrors on every blind turns. This made the drive through hairpins a lot safer and more joyful. The F1 style pedal shifters enabled me to maintain my nine and three o’clock hand position on the steering wheel as I smilingly attacked the hairpins and switchbacks. The almost 50/50 distribution and the 40/60 front/rear Quattro torque split made this A5 extremely easy to rotate around very tight hairpins.
The Nürburgring, known as simply "The Ring" by car enthusiasts, is the famous motorsport race track in Nürburg, Germany. Ihora highway is like The Ring slapped on the steep brow of Mt. Natai. Additionally it has a lot more hairpins and several carousel turns! This public highway connects the town Nikko and lake Chuzenji, the highest elevated lake in Japan at 1269 meters above sea level. The highway is two lane one way up, ascending about 400 meter, and two-lane one way down on the another side of the mountain. On the way down of this pure driving ecstasy, I noticed the long sinuous rubber marks on many hairpins. Some marks went on a distance of three consecutive hairpins. I could only wish to have the skills and the defiance of the downhill racers who probably came here every weekend at midnight...
This A5 is equipped with the Audi Drive Select feature. This feature adjusts the variable-ratio steering, suspension, throttle, and gear shift programs based on three driving modes; Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic. The new damper regulation system has sensors at twelve points measuring road holding, steering motions, and the loading of the car. The data is used to calculate the millisecond adjustment on the dampers. Of course, I had selected the Dynamic mode for this rollercoaster-track-like road. I didn’t have the experience of the downhill racers nor their dare-devil spirit. But, thanks to the Drive Select and the Quattro, I surely devoured the hairpins and the switchbacks at a tingling pace...
It is very rare, a car manufacturer builds car out of passions for engineering, craftsmanship, and performance. Audi is one of those rarities. Additionally, Audi always have the driver and the passengers in mind when they design and build a car. Audi makes sure that the enjoyment of driving is not lost in translation of marketing requirements, product specifications, and engineering constraints. I know this not because Audi told me, but because what they have done with this new A5 (http://www.audi.co.jp/a5), and what I experienced in driving this engineering masterpiece. The car not only moved precisely the way I told it to, but the car generated so much positive emotions inside me. I found Zen through driving this Audi...