Training Insight: Audi revamps driver experience programme

  • We take part in Audi’s latest driver training day
  • Lessons cover handling in the wet, off-roading and braking
  • Prices range from £299-£1,699

When your fleet manager utters the words ‘driver training’, it's usually followed by a collective moan and visions of being desk-bound, spotting hazards or being quizzed on test questions from your provisional driving test.

However, today’s breed of driver training courses can be far more exciting. Many of the more 'premium' car companies offer such events, where fleet drivers are welcome to come and learn about their car first-hand in a safe environment away from public roads. We’ve been sampling Audi’s reformulated driver experience programme to find out how it all works.

What does the course involve?

Based at the Silverstone GP race track, the course is broken up into five different modules which include braking and avoidance techniques, off-roading, manoeuvring and general handling skills - including wet weather conditions plus plenty of laps of Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit, some of which are ‘hot laps’ driven by an instructor.

In terms of the cars, you gain access to the S, RS and R8 models plus the A6 Allroad for the off-roading.

What will you learn?

All the modules focus on different driving techniques - the first module we tackled on our driving day was the ABS Brake and Avoid session in an Audi Q5 which involved accelerating hard and then slamming on the brakes and manoeuvring around the cones while braking.

This first session was especially useful for learning reaction time, not to panic and also how to control the car when braking. It’s also useful for highlighting how the ABS systems work and how they can affect stopping distances.

The second module concentrated on corning in an Audi RS5 which shows how you should be taking and approaching corners, how to handle the car when accelerating and how to control your steering.

Driving off-road came next in an Audi A6 Allroad. What was particularly useful about this module is that we completed the course in an estate car rather than a traditional 4x4 - it was very surprising to see how well the car coped on a variety of terrains. An instructor is sat with you the whole time talking you through how you should approach the trickier parts of the course.

You don’t need to work in the countryside to find off-road training useful. We all have to deal with wet, muddy or snowy roads from time to time, knowing how to handle the car and what systems to turn on will help the drivers travel much safer in those conditions.

Another Brake and Avoid course came next in an Audi TT this time. The big difference to this part of the training was that the surface was made wet too. It involves approaching a corner at high speed and then having to control the car in the corner in the wet. The first few runs were with the traction control off and then the final few with it on, the difference in the control you have over the car is quite staggering.

Some timed laps round tight cones was next, which as well as being really good fun, also teaches you how to handle the car at high speed.

The final part of the course involves laps around the Silverstone circuit in an Audi R8 supercar, where an instructor drives in front of you, showing you how the race drivers do it. Experiences like this, even as a non-enthusiast driver or a non-F1 fan, will be something to tell the grandkids.

How much does it cost?

Courses start from £299 and are available to UK driving licence-holders aged 21 and over. The courses include breakfast and light refreshments in half-day programmes plus lunch for the full-day courses.

Would we recommend?

Technology is advancing at such a rate these days that it’s difficult to keep up. One thing this course definitely demonstrates is how far safety has come. It'll open your eyes to how these advanced systems really make driving on the roads that much safer.

For us, learning how to control the car in emergency situations was the most useful and potentially life-saving part of the course. It's the aspect we can see most value from, but let's not forget, it's also fantastic fun.