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Well, I just got back from my trip to Germany -- had a great time!
Besides the usual ancient-edifice-ogling that one does in Europe,
we drove from Hamburg to Berlin, then to Hannover and back to Hamburg.
Needless to say, the autobahn drive was my personal highlight of our
trip! We rented a (OK, I'll say it) BMW 320i -- if only because the
only Audi they had (a 100) was substantially more expensive. I don't
believe BMW sells this model here -- it has a 2.0L in-line 6 which
makes 150 HP @ 5500 rpm. Must be among the smallest production
sixes around. Low-end torque was nothing to write home about (could
be the gearing), but it really came into its own at speed.
The first thing I realized after we got on the road to Berlin was
that the absence of a speed-limit makes for a *really* wide range
of vehicle speeds. There were trucks doing about 60 mph, small
cars at about 80, a substantial middle-of-the-pack at about 90-100 mph,
and a few doing 100+. And, not surprisingly, there was the occasional
brave Trabant desperately doing 50 mph.
Anyway, the result is that it was difficult to go "vollgas" for
more than a few minutes at a time: I settled on a 180 - 190 km/h
(112 -118 mph) cruise, so there were no sudden surprises in the
rear-view mirror. Initially, it's like looking through a race-cam,
but you quickly get used to it. Except when there's someone in
the fast lane doing (only!) 80 mph -- even though I was fully expecting
it, it's amazing how quickly you can see the texture on his license
plate. The car had great brakes, and even though I never had to
do any panic stops, they were quite confidence-inspiring.
On several occasions, I found an empty stretch of road long enough
to go full-blast for a few minutes at a time. The car has a quoted
redline-limited top-speed of 214 km/h : I could sustain about 212 km/h
before I started to worry about bad things that might happen to
the engine. It's a bit of an awe-inspiring experience : the only
two sounds you can hear are the rush of wind and the muted wail of the
engine. (Can you say adrenalin fix? :-)) The tach needle is
within a whisker of redline, but for some reason, you have the
feeling that this engine could do this all day without faltering.
Strangely enough, I saw very few new Audi's on the road. Lots of
mid-eighties models, though. The fast lane was dominated by big
BMW's and MBZ's, with occasional VW's, Opels and Fords. Hardly any
Porsches -- I was hoping I'd see a few blast by at speed like one
sees in commercials!