The first thing that went through my head when I first laid eyes on an Audi S5 was, “That is going to be my next car.” The second thing was, “I’m going to Germany to get it.”
My experience started back in early July 2009 when I began to research more about the car and the European Delivery (ED) program. The first tip to those interested in participating in this program is to start EARLY. Timing is everything for this type of trip. Unfortunately I did not get very much information from my dealership in Dallas. I think I knew more about the program from researching on the web than they did from actual customer experiences. For example, I found out about the awesome Driver’s Day programs that Audi offers as a separate package. It is not necessary to participate in an ED to register for a Driver’s Day. Each of these programs is scheduled by Audi and you will visit some amazing destinations throughout Europe and stay in fantastic hotels. And the best part? You can pick from ANY of Audi’s models to drive during your tour. That’s right…R8, TT-RS, RS6, you name it. Needless to say, I was starting to drool over the possibilities.
So in mid July 2009, I walked into my dealership to place an order for a 2010 S5 coupe (white, tiptronic, Tuscan brown interior, carbon atlas inlays, premium plus package, driver assist package). I also informed them that I wanted register for ED. It was at this point they told me that the dealership’s allocation of one S5 per month had just been sold and that I would have to wait until August. The waiting game began. My order was entered into the Audi system and I left a deposit to hold my place for the next allocation.
On August 1, I was contacted by my dealership who informed me that I did not have to wait for an allocation since I was taking an ED. My order was then officially commissioned by Audi. Now I don’t know exactly what happened and why the dealership took so long to inform me of this, but this late notification would affect my trip as I would come to find out. First, it takes approximately 2 ½ months from the time you place an order to the time your car completes production. Audi also requests an additional four weeks to prepare the car for ED. That put my expected delivery date sometime in early November. So I was going to miss Oktoberfest. No problem I thought. I’ll be in Germany; I’m sure I can find one or two places that serve good beer.
I then began making arrangements to participate in Driver’s Day programs and more importantly, the wonderful decision on which vehicle to choose. It was a no brainer…an R8 V10. I corresponded with Miriam Kufner and Christiane Strotkoetter from Audi AG in Ingolstadt who were extremely helpful in providing information on the DD programs and planning the trip around my ED. But, timing is everything as I mentioned before. I was told the R8 was not available in the winter months starting from November due to insurance reasons. What? They wouldn’t trust me to drive their 525 horsepower masterpiece in the snow? Okay, I’m from Texas. I wouldn’t trust me to drive a tricycle in the snow. But I wasn’t going to complain. I managed to book a Q7 V12 turbo diesel for my first tour called the Neckarsulm Tour. For my second, the Berchtesgaden Tour, I snagged an RS6 Avant. Yes! A 580 horsepower V10 at my fingertips. Now I really hoped it wouldn’t snow.
In early September, I received a very cool ED welcome binder in the mail informing me that my S5 would complete production in mid-October. So with the additional ED prep time, my delivery date was set for November 16. The agony of waiting was really setting in at this point. I finalized the sale paperwork with my dealership and forked over a massive check for European VAT. Thankfully you get that refunded back to you but it is a whopping 19% of the selling price.
With my ED binder in hand, plenty of warm clothing, and a building anticipation to finally see my car, I boarded my flight to Frankfurt on November 14. Arriving in Frankfurt on the morning of the 15, I took another flight to Munich. Included in the ED, is a one-night complimentary stay at a luxury hotel. I picked Hotel Kempinski at the Munich airport because is it within walking distance of the airport terminal, and there is a cool courtyard nearby where food and shopping vendors set up each evening. It also has an underground parking garage which would come in handy later. I had dinner at a nearby restaurant called Airbrau and sampled my first straight-from-the-tap German beer. I slept well that night. Tomorrow was delivery day!
In the morning, my complimentary shuttle arrived at the hotel to take me to the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt. This was no ordinary shuttle. A well dressed gentleman pulled up in an equally well dressed black A8. We hit speeds of 120 mph on the autobahn (I was doing the kph-to-mph conversion in my head constantly). After arriving at the Forum, I thanked the driver, snapped a few photos and headed inside to the beautiful glass building.
I was introduced to Hermann “the German” who was personally assigned to me for my delivery process. He gave me an all day pass to the onsite restaurant and several cool Ingolstadt key chains and pens. I was taken upstairs to the main waiting area for ED customers where I saw my name, “Herr Amit Desai” posted on a digital appointment board. Hermann told me that the Ingolstadt factory performs over 400 deliveries per week and of those only a small percentage are US customers.
There was still time before my appointment so he would come back for me. As I walked around, I looked over the balcony to see a row of shiny new vehicles on the ground floor awaiting their new owners. And that’s when I saw mine, the only S5 in the current lineup—better looking than I expected. The long wait was finally over!
At 10am sharp, Hermann took me into his office where I met another delivery representative. I presented the bill of sale, proof of VAT payment and signed some delivery documents—a very organized process. We then walked downstairs for formal introductions to my new ride. As I sat inside for the first time, I took in the smell of the new leather and perfect feel of the seats and steering wheel. We spent almost an hour going over the entire car. Hermann explained everything about it including how to operate the MMI navigation, how the TPMS functioned, engine compartment layout, you name it. He was well versed in the car and had an answer for every question I threw at him. As a service to US customers, he gave me a temporary navigation unit equipped with the European DVD to use during my stay (can’t use the one in your car since it only has US info). He also threw in a free iPod cable which was very cool since you don’t get one until it arrives at the dealership. Another tip: bring your iPod so you can listen to your favorite tunes on the exceptional Bang & Olufsen stereo. U2 never sounded so good.
Hermann handed me the keys and told me to enjoy my new Audi. My break-in rules: No heavy acceleration or heavy braking but I could drive as fast as I wanted. Not a problem I remember thinking. I started the car to the applause of several onlookers upstairs and to the sound of thunder outside. Did I already say timing is everything? I drove the car outside into the pouring rain…not even a few feet and it was already dirty. I parked in the open courtyard and went back inside to have lunch
Next on the agenda was the Ingolstadt factory tour. I joined a very nice British couple who just took delivery of an A3. Our English-speaking guide took us across the courtyard to the factory where they manufacture primarily A3 and A5 models and variants. We watched massive rolls of steel brought in and pressed into various panels that would form the body of the car. There were countless welding robots joining pieces of the frame. Sparks were everywhere. As we walked through the assembly line, each station had a team of workers assigned specific tasks to be completed within a matter of minutes. If there was any problem, they would pull an overhead wire that would sound a specific alarm tone associated to that team. That way the entire assembly line would know where the problem had occurred. No hiding here. Further down the line was the ‘marriage’ of the chassis to the body and then a station where the engine was started for the first time. The entire factory was an amazing site to see. The logistics of parts coming in and the coordination of the workers was quite impressive. I gained a tremendous amount of appreciation for how Audi builds their automobiles and how much thought and care they put into each one. After the factory tour, I visited the Audi Museum Mobile which had an amazing collection of historical vehicles dating back to the first Auto Union models. Movie buffs like me would appreciate the iRobot car which appears to have no tires.
Thankfully the rain stopped when I finished touring the museum. I got in my S5 and headed straight for the Autobahn where I hit 120mph. God bless those unlimited speed markers. I have to admit that I loved driving in Germany, unlike Dallas where people make an effort to deliberately block your path, Germans are much more conscientious and considerate of fast movers. Of course it is the law there to move over, but I truly appreciated the courtesy. As I arrived back at the Hotel Kempinski, the sky opened up with more showers. I parked in the underground lot and looked over my filthy new car. Still a beautiful ride despite the dirt.
Still on Dallas time, I woke up at 2 am and decided to walk down to the parking garage to check on my car and spend some time playing with the MMI. I also took the opportunity to buy some trash bags at an all-night grocery store in the Munich terminal. Why you ask? They make great temporary weatherproof floor mats.
The next morning I drove back to the Audi Forum for my first Driver’s Day program. After parking in the underground lot, I was greeted by Nadia, my DD representative. She gave me another all-day pass to the restaurant. I sensed a date with a treadmill when I got home. After a feast of a breakfast, she presented me with a personalized DD program booklet. My tour would take me to Neckarsulm which was about 200km west of Ingolstadt and about 150km south of Frankfurt. More importantly, this was the location of the R8 factory where I would get a private tour. We then conducted a walkthrough of my DD vehicle of choice, a red Q7 V12 turbo diesel with torque to spare. Nadia had already programmed the navigation system with several routes depending upon my preference for leisurely scenic views or Autobahn speedways. I chose the scenic route and drove through some absolutely beautiful countryside. The Q7 was a good choice as it was extremely comfortable and surprisingly easy to handle considering its size. Four hours and several bathroom breaks at McDonalds (you’d be surprised at how many there are in Germany) later, I arrived in Neckarsulm. I stayed at the Hotel Nestor which was nice but not as plush as the Kempinski.
I drove to the Audi Forum Neckarsulm the next day for my tour of the R8 factory. I was extremely lucky in that I was the only person on the English-speaking tour and even luckier because it was given by Angela, a very attractive blonde. The first thing she told me was absolutely no cameras or video equipment allowed near or inside the factory. We hopped a bus for a short trip to the factory which was a few blocks away. Outside the main entrance to the factory was a stack of pre-painted R8 body shells that were each wrapped in plastic and in its own wooden crate. They looked like matchbox cars in a large carrying case. Angela said that prior to assembly, each shell was taken inside and allowed to cool/warm to room temperature for about an hour. If the factory at Ingolstadt was impressive, then the R8 factory was an absolute wonder. Unlike Ingolstadt, the R8 factory had only a few robots and was unusually quiet. There is a dedicated section for building the R8 Spyder and the Lamborghini Gallardo.
The tour itself was awesome. Angela discussed each station in detail and allowed me to pick up pieces of the R8 such as interior body panels, a brake caliper and even a painted side blade. We also saw some pretty unusual exterior colors such as deep purple and gold. She mentioned someone was taking delivery of a flat black R8 later that day. At the end of the assembly line was the rolling test room where the R8’s gears were tested. The engine music emanating from that room was exhilarating. At the end of the tour, I thanked Angela and got some pictures taken with her in front of custom blue R8. I headed back to Ingolstadt to return the Q7 and took the speedway route hitting 140 mph on the autobahn. I paid the price at the pump though—diesel in Europe isn’t cheap.
Now for Driver’s Day #2. I arrived once again at the Audi Forum and immediately saw a white RS6 Avant parked all alone in the main courtyard. I knew immediately this was my ride for the next couple of days. Another freebie restaurant pass and another few pounds added to my frame, and I was ready to embark on my next tour. This time I would drive to Berchtesgaden which is near Salzburg, Austria. Considering I was in a 580hp V10, I opted for the speedway route this time. The RS6 is a beast of a car— no problems passing everyone on the Autobahn! And anytime I stopped for gas (which was quite frequent for that thirsty vehicle), I got tons of looks and even a few requests for pictures.
Berchtesgaden is nestled high in the Alps which meant twisty switchbacks and a ton of fun in the RS6. The weather that day was really nice so windows were kept down. Accelerating up the mountain, I was treated to sonorous echoes of a throaty V10. My destination, Hotel Intercontinental Berchtesgaden, was horseshoe shaped and had an absolutely gorgeous view of the Alps from every direction. The next few days were spent sightseeing in Berchtesgaden and beautiful Salzburg.
I returned to Ingolstadt hitting 150mph on the autobahn in the RS6 which would be the fastest speed during my stay. How would I ever return to 70mph speed limits? After staying a couple of days in Munich, I arrived to the final part of my trip which was the vehicle drop-off on November 23. Audi allows you to drop off your vehicle at any number of ports in Europe. I chose Munich since that was where my flight would depart.
If you have the time, I would suggest driving to France or Switzerland. The drop off location in Munich wasn’t what I was expecting. I suppose I envisioned a massive parking lot filled with new cars. Instead, it was an unassuming parking garage next to an office building. Despite this, the drop off process was quite simple and uneventful. This location served Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. The process took about 20 minutes and involved a lot of paperwork but nothing too painful.
The representative and I performed a walkthrough of my car ensuring all personal items had been removed prior to shipping the car to the States. Even the ski bag which comes with the car had to be placed in the spare tire compartment to prevent someone from stealing it. I turned over the temporary navigation unit and one master key to the drop-off representative. My car would remain in the lot for another few days. A trailer would then transport it to the Emden port where it would be loaded on a container ship. I was provided a tracking website to watch the shipment progress.
Before I said goodbye to my S5, I took a picture of the odometer: 239 miles. It was delivered with 32. What a cool feeling knowing that your first miles driven on the car were in Germany. I would fly back to Dallas the next day, and then more waiting. At least I would get my VAT deposit back when I returned.
I wouldn’t see my S5 again until January 8, 2010 when I picked it up at the dealership. Reunited with this white beauty on the speed limited roads of Dallas isn’t quite the same as the autobahn in Germany. But I love driving my S5. And I have some wonderful memories, pictures and stories from my European Delivery experience. Was it worth it? YES. Would I do it again? YES. What will be my next car? Keep checking quattro quarterly for the next article.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009 Order placed (2010 S5 w/ European Delivery request).
Saturday, August 01, 2009 Commission submitted to Audi.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009 Received ED welcome binder.
Monday, October 19, 2009 Production of 2010 S5 completed.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 Finalized paperwork and bill of sale.
Thursday, October 29, 2009 Received DD itineraries/invoices.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009 Received ED itinerary.
Saturday, November 14, 2009 Depart DFW.
Sunday, November 15, 2009 Arrive FRA/MUC.
Monday, November 16, 2009 Vehicle Delivery; Ingolstadt Factory Tour.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 Neckarsulm DD Tour – Day 1.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 Neckarsulm DD Tour – Day 2; R8 Factory Tour.
Thursday, November 19, 2009 Berchtesgaden DD Tour – Day 1.
Friday, November 20, 2009 Berchtesgaden DD Tour – Day 2.
Saturday, November 21, 2009 Berchtesgaden DD Tour – Day 3.
Monday, November 23, 2009 Vehicle drop-off (Munich,Germany).
Tuesday, December 08, 2009 Vessel departure (Emden,Germany).
Saturday, December 26, 2009 Vessel arrival (Houston,Texas).
Tuesday, January 05, 2010 Car arrives at dealership.
Friday, January 08, 2010 Pickup car at dealership.