Venue offering try-before-you-buy winter driving

Thinking about buying an expensive new car but wondering which one will handle the snow and ice the best?

A new business in the Cardrona Valley is working on plans to give vehicle buyers the chance to try before they buy.

For many years, the southern hemisphere Proving Ground on the Pisa Range has provided car and tyre companies with icy roads on which to test their products in winter conditions before they are released to the market.

But this year, for the first time, it has added the Snow Park Ice Driving Experience where those who get behind the wheel are not necessarily expert test drivers.

General manager Steve Gould told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the park had already hosted several corporate groups, including a conference of Asia-Pacific real estate agents.

''There are a lot of corporate groups who will come to Queenstown and they've done the Shotover [river] and they've done the bungy and they have done all that sort of stuff, and they are looking for something a little bit different, and a little bit exclusive, as well.''

In the park's first big event, the Pirelli tyre company demonstrated, in winter conditions, one of its new products to 200 of its Asia-Pacific dealers.

But as well as watching, the dealers got to try the product - attached to a late-model Maserati.

While the park can provide cars and driving instructors, the tyre company chose to provide its own cars. Mr Gould believed there was potential for more of that type of use of the park by potential vehicle buyers.

''That's possibly another little market that's going to open up for us.''

Mr Gould said for most people a new vehicle was a reasonably big purchase and ''they want to try it out; they want to see how it works''.

It would be a ''point of difference'', he said, for car companies to be able to put their customers into the latest model and show them what to do in winter driving conditions.