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A tour of Autostadt, Volkswagen's 'Disneyland for cars'

Volkswagen's engineers wanted to elevate the car buying experience to something of an art form, to make picking up your car a truly memorable event. The result? Autostadt, an automotive theme park like no other.

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Tim Stevens

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Volkswagen Autostadt
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Volkswagen Autostadt

Welcome to Volkswagen's Autostadt, a mixture of delivery center, museum and vehicular theme park. It opened back in 2000, but has been continually upgraded and updated, making it a very interesting destination. Anyone who purchases a VW in Germany can choose to pick up their car here, rather than at the dealership. There's a fee (approximately 300 Euro, or roughly $380), but that's actually significantly cheaper than the delivery fee at a dealer. For that, you get free admission to the theme park.

Volkswagen Autostadt
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Volkswagen Autostadt

Prior to opening Autostadt, designers visited Disney's iconic parks to get some ideas and inspiration. Some of the fun and whimsy is definitely present in the architecture.

Volkswagen Autostadt
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Volkswagen Autostadt

The park is quite large, covering some six square kilometers (about four square miles). Big, open areas feature crazy means of transportation -- perfect for tiring out the kids before the long drive home.

Volkswagen Autostadt
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Volkswagen Autostadt

The facility offers a series of museums, starting here with a look at the process of vehicle creation.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Here's a full-scale clay model of the latest Volkswagen Golf, showing both how it was sculpted and, on the other side, how it actually looks.

Volkswagen Autostadt
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Volkswagen Autostadt

Of course, you wouldn't start with a full-scale model. Here a 3D machining robot converts a digital model of the Golf into clay.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Here, a look inside of some of the cars of the broader Volkswagen Group, cross-cut and exploded for your viewing pleasure.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

This is the rear end of a Lamborghini Aventador, sliced through to show the carbon fiber bodywork and composite chassis.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Here, something a bit more posh: a Bentley Continental. (Bentley and Lamborghini are, these days, both subsidiaries of Volkswagen Group.)

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Finally, the engine compartment of a Porsche Panamera, the hybrid model with its supercharged V-6. You can see the supercharger sitting on top of the engine cylinders, and the bright orange cabling that drives power to the hybrid system.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Autostadt has an large section dedicated to fostering greater knowledge about the environment, including the sourcing of raw materials and how much water is used in manufacturing cars. No surprise, that section of the museum is green.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

More eye-catching, bizarre architecture -- and more places for the kids to play.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Off in the distance, a pair of towers loom. We'll be visiting those shortly.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Autostadt features a small but impressive museum full of cars that are rotated regularly. Obviously the focus is on cars that are part of the Volkswagen Group, but there are plenty of other "icons" to be found here.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

This is a cherry example of a 1983 VW GTI, the last of the first generation of Rabbit. This is the car that kicked off the "hot hatch" trend that, 30 years later, is still very much a thing.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

The museum is a great mix of attainable cars, like this Porsche 914, and less attainable ones, like the lovely Lamborghini Miura. Both were produced about the same era, but while a 914 in beautiful condition will cost you about $20,000 today, a Miura like that one is more like $1,000,000.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Even bikes get their due, like this 1930s Ariel.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

A beautiful mix of architecture is found throughout the park. This awning is dedicated to Ferdinand Porsche, and houses the Porsche Pavillion.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Inside, a series of modern Porsches are backed by a look back at the company's lineage.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

All the cars are silver: the classic color for German racing cars. This is thanks to Auto Union stripping the paint off their early grand prix cars to save weight, running them bare.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Now, to the towers. This isn't an office complex...

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Get a little closer and you'll see it's full of... cars!

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Yes, cars. New cars, all waiting for delivery. Autostadt, you see, is actually the world's largest delivery center, and these two towers house all the cars that will be delivered on a given day.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

600 cars are picked up every day at the Autostadt, and every night they're loaded up into the tower. On this monitor, customers can watch their car being retrieved.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

A robot arm swings up and retrieves each car automatically, delivering it to the ground floor with no human intervention. If this is looking familiar, that's because a similar set of towers appeared in "Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol." They actually wanted to film at Autostadt, but VW turned them away, as it would have disrupted too many deliveries.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

Once retrieved from the tower, the cars go through a final bit of preparation behind these doors.

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Volkswagen Autostadt

And, finally, delivery. Here, a family picks up their brand new Golf Sportvan, which likely rolled off the assembly line just the day before. That's fresh.

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