Day 2: Audi and Hasselhoff VWs Audi R8
As you begin
your second day, you’ll appreciate being close to the Audi
headquarters. Starting at around $400, Audi Driver’s Day programs give
you the VIP treatment through the Audi Forums (the extensive museum
will definitely impress), the factory and, best of all, a guided drive
through the area. If you had more time, you could spend an entire
vacation here as packages are numerous and flexible. Tempting as that
may be, grab lunch at the Forums then fire up the even more alluring
R8. Point it toward Dresden
and cover the 230 miles or more in short order. It’s time for a close look at a misunderstood marvel.
We can’t help but wonder if David Hasselhoff owns a Volkswagen Phaeton.
Given their similar fan base, it would only be natural. Like the Hoff’s
musical career here in the States, the luxury sedan was coolly received
before quietly fizzling out. Back in Europe, both are big hits. In
Dresden, you’ll tour the car’s luxurious home. Known as Die Gläserne
Manufaktur ("the transparent factory"), the facility is architecturally
and philosophically unique. The dominant glass façade represents
transparency, authenticity and openness. This is carried through in the
build process as well. Had the U.S. market previously been more aware
of the Phaeton’s roots, it may have fared better in North American
sales. Tour hours conveniently extend into evenings, and it’s worth the
$120 or so for the exclusive tour. Though, we can’t be sure whether the
same would apply for a Hasselhoff show.
While you ponder that,
don’t wander far for dinner. The factory happens to house the pleasant
Resto-Bar Lesage. Though entrées are in the $20 range, they are just as
impressive as the factory and the architecture. Best bets here are the wild boar
or the veal.
Since you’ll be starting your final day with a decent stint at the
wheel, get a good night’s rest at Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski.
They happen to manage Lesage, so you know you can count on first-rate
accommodations. For spaciousness and a touch of class, book a Regent
Suite for about $575.
About the car:
Audi has always
built fine sedans and coupes, not to mention the TT sports car.
Significantly hotter than them all, the new R8 coupe was built to run
with the exotics. The aggressive, mid-engine design is a delight to
view and rewarding to unleash with its 420 bhp V8 sending you from 0
mph to 62 mph in a mere 4.6 seconds, and it will top out at around 187
mph. Day 3: The Green Hell Car: Porsche 911 GT3
You’ll have to wake early and start the day with a 300-mile trek to
Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, but considering your car is the white-hot
Porsche 911 GT3 and your destination is its birthplace, how could you
possibly sleep in?
With such a legendary presence, it’s easy
to envision Porsche headquarters being at least as sprawling as BMW’s
or Audi’s -- perhaps even more so. Like meeting a celebrity who’s much
shorter in person than perceived on the screen, the Porsche factory is
something of a small miracle. Inside, the cars come together partly by
human hand and partly by robot, but it’s all done with precision and
efficiency. So given the modern build methods and commercial success,
why isn’t the place bigger? Local restrictions dictate the plant remain
at more or less its near-original size (the last significant expansion
was in 1988 and, before that, in 1969). This isn’t to suggest property
growth is at a total standstill. Porsche is busy preparing a new museum
that promises to be as impressive as the vehicles within. It won’t be
complete until 2008 however, which presents a compelling excuse for a
return visit. In the meantime, the small but significant museum
collection is staffed by docents who are genuinely enthusiastic about