The Northern Cape is deceptive. At face value it appears to be a bit of a nothing province: a dry and desolate place peppered with only a few towns of any real economic significance. Yet in amongst all the dust and desert lurk many secrets. You see due to its excellent roads (straight and smooth) and amenable weather many of the world’s automotive manufacturers often use the Northern Cape as a practical testbed for proving new models and technology.
One of these manufacturers is the Volkswagen Group: a massive corporate conglomerate whose brands include Volkswagen (obviously), Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti. So whenever one of these marques is about launch a new model you can be damn sure that one of the preproduction test mules will end up rolling between this province’s borders. Especially when it’s hot. Cars don’t like hot weather. So if the next 911 can survive the broiling temperatures of a Kalahari summer then you can bet that it will survive a summer anywhere else on the planet.
The Northern Cape has taught the VW Group some valuable development lessons. It’s a place that makes them build better, more durable and reliable cars. Which is why they went and set up a dedicated test facility just a couple of clicks north-west of Pofadder. It’s been there for years. The VW top brass will usually deny its existence but Google Maps doesn’t lie. It’s there – a giant high-speed oval surrounding a curling mass of smaller dynamic handling tracks. Not to mention rows of black-roofed buildings that obviously keep test mules and equipment safe from prying aerial eyes. Although according to industry sources this area is a designated no-fly zone. So flying anything other than a small drone over the area might prove troublesome not to mention illegal.
So there you have it. An automotive Area 51 sitting right in our own backyard and most of us weren’t even aware of its existence. By all means try and get close when next you’re in the area – just beware the ‘Men in Black’ in their bulletproof Touaregs who are rumored to patrol the perimeter. You have been warned.