crankandpiston head to Sweden for some hooning around a frozen lake in a Mk7 Golf. Welcome to the Volkswagen Driving Experience.
Slap bang in the centre of Swedish Lappland, in the province of Norrbottens Län, sits the little community of Arvidsjaur. Located a mere 110km south of the Polar Circle, temperatures can get a bit chilly around here – in February 1966 it reached a decidedly frosty -52.6ºC. So what in Odin’s name is crankandpiston doing here at the same time of year? Well, I have grabbed the reindeer by the horns (and packed the thermal undergarments) for an opportunity to drive a Mk7 Golf – on ice – as part of a programme known as the Volkswagen Driving Experience.
The timing could not have been better as Sébastien Ogier, with co-driver Julien Ingrassia, picked up the win for Volkswagen in the WRC Rally Sweden only a few days ago. Who better then than Volkswagen to teach me the skills needed to drive in the Swedish winter? After almost two days in transit from Dubai, in three different aircraft of diminishing stature, arrival in Arvidsjaur is a welcome sight. It is also extremely beautiful. I haven’t seen knee-high snow since I was knee-high and my knees were not as high then as they are now. Yes, awesome white covered landscape has reactivated my inner child and I immediately start eyeing up potential targets to receive a palpable hit from a freshly fabricated snowball.
A short bus journey to the hotel is swiftly followed by our driver briefing which proves a thankfully short affair with no extended waffle about projected sales figures for the next financial quarter. Instead, a friendly welcome from the Volkswagen team is followed by some peculiarities that we may encounter while driving in Sweden – Reindeer and the Eurasian Elk have right of way on public roads. The main focus, however, is on the challenges that will face us over the coming days. We are going to be learning the basics of driving a car on ice in preparation for the main event – racing around an almost seven kilometre circuit on a frozen lake. All useful information is digested and mulled over before it was time to get outside and behind the wheel of our steed.
The Volkswagen model we’ll be piloting is the new Mk7 Golf Highline Bluemotion Technology 2.0 TDI 6speed 4Motion – a typically catchy German name for sure. With 150hp from a turbocharged 2-litre diesel engine and producing an impressive 236 lb ft of torque from 1,750 – 3,000 rpm it certainly has the on-paper credentials to (hopefully) handle the conditions that we would be throwing at it over the next few days. The 4Motion all-wheel drive system plus the studded winter tyres should also provide adequate traction in the snow. However, my biggest relief is finding out our cars have been equipped with a proper six-speed manual transmission. Although as I drop it in to first gear to follow the lead car I promptly stall it. Damn it.