Two friends from London pull off a very ambitious 1200 mile, weekend round trip to Stuttgart.
The highlights? A ‘Porsche Drive’ 911 GTS, the Mercedes Museum, adaptive cruise control, cheap fuel, and the beer.
What made you decide to go for it?
Peter Herridge: when I was a bit younger (nearly 10 years ago now) me and a few friends (including the chap I went to Stuttgart with) used to get invited to car shows in Belgium, Holland and Germany.
I had a Skyline R34 GTT at the time which were pretty scarce in mainland Europe and drew quite a crowd.
These trips generally involved leaving work sharpish on Friday night, making a mad dash for the ferry (including the old Stena Discovery back then – amazing), or tunnel, then heading for some exhibition centre to abandon the car and pick it up Sunday evening for another mad dash back. The locations included Gent, Mechelen, Nurburg, Amsterdam, Zolder and Rotterdam.
Friday night we’d normally spend in the hotel bar. Saturday was a quick look around the car show before exploring the local area and back to sampling the local beers.
Essentially the Stuttgart trip was about recreating this experience, albeit self-financed, and with the car shows swapped for museums.
Did you realise quite what you were taking on?
Sort of. We’ve done the road trips before but I don’t think we’ve ever been quite that far – probably the Nurburgring was about the furthest we’ve been in circa 48 hours.
Munich was an outside chance too but I knew it would have been a lot of work. I contemplated getting the train first thing from Stuttgart but even that was a couple of hours each way.
When we found out about the Mercedes Museum we thought that doing two museums in Stuttgart would still be pretty good. A couple of guys we were speaking to outside a kebab shop in Stuttgart (1am Saturday morning) told us that the Mercedes Museum was very good which was enough to finalise our itinerary.
How were you at work the day after you got back – knackered or was it cope-able?
Monday was tiring but bearable. We got back to London about 6pm on Sunday which for one of these trips wasn’t too bad.
Which route did you take?
I picked up Kris at North Greenwich station at 8am Friday morning – we then drove straight down to Folkestone for the train. On the other side we went Calais-Brussels-Cologne-Stuttgart and the same back – the top route shown on the sat-nav picture (below) – based on your recommendation of avoiding tolls through France.
The route home was pretty much the same. We did 1200 miles in total. Two and a bit tanks of diesel.
Where did you stay?
Friday night we stayed in the Mercure City Centre in Stuttgart. This was a nice hotel with a lot of Mercedes Museum pictures, including in the room. I booked this hotel for two nights with the second night refundable (thankfully).
After realizing that Stuttgart is actually quite a long way away from London I cancelled the second night as soon as we had Wi-Fi access in the room and booked a room in Cologne for the second evening. It was obvious we wouldn’t make Stuttgart to Calais on Sunday without leaving at the crack of dawn.
After this we had a quick walk down the road to the city centre and had dinner in Hans Im Gluck, a burger place which was pretty good (very fortunate I had Google Translate on my phone). We then found another couple of bars including some where you can still smoke inside. I like Europe’s care free attitude towards smoking – not that I smoke myself.
In Cologne we stayed in the Ameron Hotel Regent. I’m sure I read this was a city centre hotel in the description but it soon became apparent that it was actually a good 2.5 miles from anywhere interesting.
We arrived around 10pm and by the time we’d unpacked and got a taxi into town we’d missed most of the action. We found a takeaway and had some (fairly average) currywurst and then headed to Papa Joe’s Biersalon to see the creepy robotic band thing, but it seemed to be closing early that night and the band had already called it a night.
Driving the 911 GTS, was that part of Porsche Drive?
Yes, we saw the Porsche Drive counter was empty and went up and asked if we could take one out. They said normally you have to book but since it was a quiet afternoon we went out straight away.
As we’d checked out of the Stuttgart hotel earlier I had my documentation with me so about fifteen minutes later (and €2500 deposit on my credit card) I was sat in the driver’s seat of a brand new 911 GTS convertible.
“Please let the oil temperature get above 90 degrees before engaging Sport Plus” was the last instruction – and off we went.
Where did you go?
The built-in sat-nav was programmed with three destinations – “country”, “highway” and “home”. We went for the highway and drove round a blind corner straight into back of a traffic jam. Thankfully this cleared quickly and we had a few good blasts between junctions.
Kris kept pressing the ‘Sport Plus’ button which turned the car into an animal. Violent, late gear shifts and incredible noise though all the power seemed to be up the top end of the rev range. I prefer cars with a bit more torque.
The funniest thing was that it had the same start-stop system as the Golf so when you pulled up at a junction everything fell silent.
We had a few quick runs around some country lanes keeping an eye on the time to ensure we didn’t get too far from the centre.
One hour was €99 which I didn’t think was too bad. I managed to get my €2500 deposit back too!
You were originally booked on the DFDS ferry but ended up on Eurotunnel, how come?
I looked at the weather forecast on Wednesday when I was reading updates from DFDS saying there were two hour delays and the weather for Friday looked worse.
I’m no shipping expert (although I did work for a shipping company previously) but I took a guess that the delays would be similar. Two hours lost in the middle of the day would have meant getting to Stuttgart around 11pm/12am. This wouldn’t have been much fun.
What were you driving?
A MK7 Golf GTD. I took delivery just before Christmas on a two year lease and thought a nice blast across Europe would loosen the engine up nicely. It performed effortlessly but I don’t think I could have done the drive without the adaptive cruise control which regulates the distance from the car in front.
It’s an incredible system and just enabled whoever was driving to relax a little more than you might normally. Very unusual at first, but once you get used to it you can sit with your feet flat on the floor and the car slows itself down, even if you’re tanking along at 100mph and someone pulls out in front.
What was the best bit of the trip?
The Mercedes Museum is spectacular. The number of cars in there and the layout is brilliant. For €8 including audio guide (and the lanyard which you get to keep) we both thought was amazing value.
Also, everything seemed really accessible – you could get close to the cars and have a really good look around. There’s also a great selection including commercial vehicles. At the time they had a display of all the safety cars from F1 and DTM.
Same with the Porsche Museum. It’s a great place (albeit a lot smaller than the Mercedes one) and again has an audio guide included in the price. Being able to see the evolution of the 911 and walk around a 959 and 918 was great. Driving one was the icing on the cake.
However, nothing is quite as great as the first beer on the Friday night, and the feeling you’ve made it somewhere. Always the best bit I think.
Did anything not go so well?
I wish the hotel in Cologne was slightly closer to the city centre and we’d been there one to two hours earlier to have some proper food. We did have some great food and drink but it was fairly quiet and didn’t really feel like a Saturday night.
I also wish I’d left a couple hours earlier and been able to come back a couple hours later.
Also, I wish Europe opened on Sundays.
I should have paid slightly more attention to my speed through Dunkirk which is now 90kmh where it used to be 110kmh. The cameras work [note: the UK is not yet signed up to the EU directive on cross-border info-sharing on traffic offences].
Anything else worth mentioning?
Diesel in Cologne was around 95 cents a litre meaning a fill-up in the Golf cost £33 (it seems to have a small tank) and we ended up back in London with over 100 miles range still showing.