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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 08-07-2011, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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Spain to Portugal in Audi TT Part 1

Earlier this afternoon, we arrived in Madrid Barajas airport without any clear plan for how we would spend our ten day vacation. However, one thing that we surely had planned ahead of time was to reserve an Audi TT Coupe from Our two 21-inch luggage fitted nicely in the trunk with some extra room for a laptop bag and a small backpack. The privacy cover concealed our items when the fastback door was closed. Entering the cabin, I was greeted by the familiar superb interior craftsmanship. Round air vents, prototype-racing-car-style steering wheel, six speed manual gear box, polished metal with rubber grips pedals, and black leather sport bucket seats gave us a tingling sensation; our days ahead would be filled with fun driving for sure...

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One of the greatest traits of Audi Sports cars is the fact that Audi Sports car is also a perfect daily driver. This TT Coupe lives up to that expectation. Despite its sporty stance and dynamic handling setup, the car is easy to drive. This is my first time driving in a bustling and crowded city of Madrid. Additionally, I have to rely on my GPS to know where I am going. And yet, with this TT, I feel confident in navigating through various one-way narrow cobblestone streets and busy intersections directed by Spanish policemen. In modern time, artists, designers, and engineers at Audi are making their own remarkable work of arts, design, and engineering. Since its dramatic first generation TT introduction in 1990’s, TT has won varieties of design awards at global level. Recently, this second generation TT attained Drive Car of the Year, Top Gear Coupé of the Year 2006, Fifth Gear Car of the Year 2006, Autobild Most Beautiful Car, and World Design Car of the Year 2007. Additionally, it was a finalist for World Car of the Year...

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The sun is about to set and there is a perfect place to witness sunset in Madrid. We take a short drive but convoluted route to Parque del Oeste due to many one way streets. After finding a street parking space at the bottom of hill, we hike up to Temple of Debod. This temple, which originally was located not too far south of Aswan in southern Egypt, was dissembled piece by piece, transported extra carefully to this very spot via a ship to Valencia and a train to Madrid. Moving a master piece like Temple of Debod requires a very careful planning, packing, transportation, and unpacking. Audi had similar logistical challenges when they were planning to build TT at two different factories, 650 km apart separated by mountainous regions. They not only had to figure out how to do it once but they had to figure out how to do this daily. Furthermore, since the amount material to be transported daily was massive, the plan and the mechanism to transport had to be very efficient. Any disruption in logistics could lead to a supply chain issue that would affect production capacity, unnecessary energy waste, and finally customer satisfaction...

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Today, the body shell of Audi TT is built in Ingolstadt. Györ factory in Hungary is responsible for building the engine and assembling the various components into a ready-for-delivery car. The shells and other components are loaded to specially-designed-for-loading-and-unloading-efficiency train cargos. 10,000 hp Deutsche Bahn electric locomotive hauls the complete 650 meter train in 12 hour journey through Bavaria, Austria, and Hungary. The shells will come back two days later as completed cars. With just-in-time manufacturing, efficiency and reliability of shipment are the essence as part stocks are kept very low. While the first set of body shells make their way into the assembly line at Györ, the fully assembled TT’s are loaded into the emptied cargos. Additionally, they are stacked in accordance to an integrated and intelligent plan for direct transport to end customers...

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We get up early because we have a long but exciting drive to Cordoba with a stop at a medieval town of Toledo, which is just 70 km south of Madrid. The drive to Toledo is far from exciting because we are part of the commuter traffic and the highways are mostly straight and flat. However, the comfort and the agile nature of TT make the trip fun. Audi metallurgists pioneered and perfected unique and advanced techniques to bond two different metals that have different characteristics. A8 and R8 have aluminum bodies while A4, A5, and Q7 have new high tech ultra strength steel bodies. Through the masterful metallurgy techniques, Audi brought the best of aluminum and steel together in TT. The TT front end and the cabin are made of aluminum, while the rear sub-assembly, the door and the rear fastback door are made of steel. The extra rearward mass from the use of steel gives balanced weight distribution between the front and the rear axle.

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There are two ways to get to Cordoba from Toledo. First option is to get to A-4 South freeway all the way to Cordoba. Second option is to take the undivided highway N-401, N-420, and then A-4 freeway just outside Cordoba.N-401 is mostly deserted, and pastoral landscape is the main theme. N-420 south of Almodóvar del Campo town starts to pick up elevation. We are entering the rocky Sierra de Alcúdia. The slow straight climb becomes fast bends. Soon, we are enjoying switch backs and occasionally hair pins. Shifting gear manually from second to third and fourth and then back to third and second never feels this great. This is the moment when I wish automatic transmission were never invented. Rolling peaks and valleys covered by green lush shrubs accentuate our driving enjoyment...

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Power-to-weight ratio is the key to efficiency in racing or spirited driving. Because TT Coupé only weighs about 1.3 tons, it doesn’t need a mega horse power engine to give its driver a tingling sensation. The TT we are driving has the European 1.8 liter normally aspirated engine. It is the cleanest engine in TT line up producing only 149 g/km of CO2. But yet, it can still accelerate from 0 to 100 km in 7.2 seconds, which is about 1 second slower than the 2.0 TFSI version with the same 6 speed manual transmission...

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The next morning, after plenty of rest, we begin our tour of Cordoba. Because we stay in the center of the historic district, we leave our car beneath our hotel. Originally, the great Mosque-Cathedral was constructed in 600 AD as a Roman temple dedicated to Visigothic cathedral. In the 8th century after a new ruler arrived, a mosque was constructed and it took two centuries to complete. Finally, in the 13th century a cathedral was inserted into this immense structure by Christian conquerors. Because thousands of architects and builders from differing cultures had poured their passions over centuries of generations, the interior of this Mosque-Cathedral is impressive and yet odd at the same time...

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Cordoba is famous for its creamy Gazpacho. The rich flavors of ripe and fresh tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic, Spanish saffron, cumin, and virgin olive oil create delicious one-of-a-kind soup. While sipping this delicious soup, we are plotting our next destination: Lisbon, Portugal. The drive will take about six hours. With the car we have, we are looking forward to it...

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