DUBAI // Anyone of a certain age will look back on their driving lessons and recall navigating the roads in a beat-up Toyota Corolla, Peugeot 205 or perhaps something even older but, of course, that isn’t very Dubai.
For the VIP learners out there who would not dream of being seen in a grubby runaround, Emirates Driving Institute has come up with the perfect solution – driving lessons in either a Range Rover, Mercedes G500 or Chevrolet Camaro.
One could ask: “What’s the point of learning to drive in a powerful, luxury car?” And the answer would be, “safety”.
There is a serious risk that people who learn to drive in a small car will not acquire the skills to handle, for example, a 6.2-litre, 339-kilowatt Camaro.
Now beginners and experienced drivers with licences from their home countries can sign up for the Platinum driving course in Dubai.
Besides the safety aspects, the perks include registration from the comfort of the learner’s home or office, a fixed price course with unlimited training and tests until one passes, a dedicated lounge and training in a high-end luxury vehicle.
“We tried to understand the gap in demand,” said Fatima Raees, Emirates Driving Institute’s marketing and customer services manager.
“When it comes to getting a licence, we saw that there were many driving schools offering VIP services, but one with high-end performance vehicles used for training? That was not looked at.”
Learners can choose either a normal Range Rover or Range Rover Sport, Mercedes G500 or a Chevrolet Camaro.
“Driving itself is a very thrilling experience and having a high-end car adds to the thrill,” said Ms Raees, who drives a 4x4.
“You come to know the features of the vehicle and get accustomed to it even before buying one. We thought about how we could make drivers more safe and reduce the chances of them getting involved in an accident.”
Four male and two female driving instructors have been selected based on their experience and performance in terms of pass rates.
“We’ve had students telling us ‘I got a licence but my dad will not buy me a high-end car. He said I need to practise in a saloon car for three months before he’ll buy me a Range Rover’,” Ms Raees said.
“So, for these kind of people, they no longer have to worry about it because they are training with these cars with our well-experienced instructors.”
Shahzad Sheikh, editor of Motoring Middle East, said the whole idea was interesting and unique to the UAE market.
“One of the most dangerous and disturbing aspects of youngsters getting licences in our market is that they may jump out of the driving school Nissan Sunny straight into a V8-powered muscle car,” he said. “It’s immensely more powerful, with completely different driving dynamics.
“Every teenager has the confidence to believe that they will be good enough to handle a high-performance car, but you need to build up to these things. The difference in performance and driving styles are substantial, so training would certainly help.”
And it is not just for beginners. The course has attracted experienced drivers who either have a licence from their home country or who had trained at another driving school.
From three to four customers at its launch in April, the numbers have already tripled.
“We thought it would be popular among Emiratis, but we were surprised to see a lot of nationalities,” Ms Raees said.
Michael Dreznes, executive vice president at the International Road Federation, said the programme “made sense”.
“However, a graduated licence programme that would allow these individuals to drive the larger, faster vehicles with no young people in the car with them would also allow them to get the experience they need to be good drivers,” he said.
Neil Parkes, a Department of Vehicle Standards Agency-approved driving instructor who has been teaching new and experienced drivers since 1990, said learning in a luxury vehicle would improve the driver’s knowledge and understanding of their advanced safety features, but not necessarily make them a safer driver.
“Learning to drive traditionally focuses on basic skills – car control and interacting with other traffic,” said Mr Parkes, who is also a registered fleet trainer at Prodrive Driving School in the UK.
“Learning these skills is usually sufficient to pass a driving test. To reduce collisions involving new drivers, I feel we need to challenge attitude and beliefs about driving during training.”