Driving The Autobahn

Every American Gearhead dreams of driving the German Autobahn. Last week I lived that dream

In Germany for a week on business, I needed to drive from the Franz Joseph Strauss airport in Munich up to Nuremburg. Unfortunately the dollar is near an all time low against the Euro, so a key part of that autobahn fantasy was a bit out of reach, I couldn’t afford the Porsche required to live the dream. For a bit over a thousand dollars (including a tank of gas, insurance and value added tax) I got this:

opel_meriva.jpg

The 1.6L Opel Meriva. Yes, the dream had to be lived with the automotive equivalent of a sewing machine.

The nice thing about the Opel Meriva is that there was no MPH calibration on the speedo, only KPH. It isn’t difficult to convert, but it does take effort which wasn’t worth it. So I cruised at a blistering 120KPH with absolutely no fears aside from the very real possibility that the Meriva would simple wad up and fly off the road like a wind blown tumble weed. At 140KPH, the Meriva was as exciting as I could stand. For the numerically lazy, that is 75MPH, and 86MPH.

Happily, I was only getting blown around by the wind, and not by the hordes of Bahnstorming Porsches I had always imagined. I was overtaking more cars than were overtaking me. Although there was one VW Vanagon with a canoe on top that must’ve had a transplanted F1 engine since it passed me at well over 170KPH (105MPH).

Sadly I typically make my morning commute at a better clip than I drove on the autobahn, but thinking of my morning commute brings the answer to what the real difference on the autobahn is: lane discipline. On my morning commute and at just about every other instant you drive on a US highway there is some numb-nuts that thinks it is his duty to enforce the speed limits by driving slowly in the left lane. On the autobahn people drive as far to the right as they can, with great regularity and predictability. I wonder how much safer our highways would be of “slower drivers keep right” was enforced with same vigor and rigor that the speed limits are.

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