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Thursday 3rd May 2012

PH Blog: What makes the autobahn brilliant

And we're not talking Kraftwerk albums here...


Is this the only sensible place to use a Veyron?
Is this the only sensible place to use a Veyron?
I think I've nailed-down what it is that makes driving on an autobahn such a pleasure. And it's not (entirely) to do with having no speed limits. No, the key thing is that, on the German motorway network, you are treated as a responsible grown-up human being, capable of making your own decisions and taking responsibility for your own actions.

It actually seems to be a feature of things in Germany in general. The rules of everyday life are laid down for you to follow, and it's up to you to be able to do what's expected, or face the consequences if not.

Ready for the 0-250kph test...
Ready for the 0-250kph test...
The Autostadt, VW's massive corporate brand showcase/theme park thingummy at the company's HQ in Wolfsburg that we visited lastweek, for example, is entirely a non-smoking venue, outside and in. But there are no signs; there's just a conspicuous absence of any ash trays, smoking shelters or any other of the associated paraphernalia. It's basically up to you to work out what that means.

This same concept manifests itself on the autobahnen, too, and in all sorts of ways. Most obviously of course, where that magic white circle with the black diagonal stripes applies, you drive as fast as feels safe (something Dan's trying in a Jag XJ). There's also much less nannying where speed limits are imposed, too. In roadwork sections you're unlikely to find the average speed cameras that are so ubiquitous in the UK, while when other speed limits are applied it's generally obvious why, be that lots of junctions, sharp curves, poor visibility or the like.

The consequence is that, because the rules imposed on the roads are manifestly there for a reason, people largely adhere to them (albeit with a +20kph or so margin of grace on the speed limits), and actually seem to pay attention. The possibility of a 911 Turbo appearing behind you at 180mph means that people actually seem to check their mirrors before moving out to overtake, for example, and there's generally an acceptance that everybody has a right to get along the road at a pace which suits them.

Your ticket to automotive freedom...?
Your ticket to automotive freedom...?
In short, you simply don't get some sanctimonious [expletive deleted] crawling past somebody in the outside lane at 70.5mph and refusing to move over because 'they're doing more than the speed limit anyway so I don't see why anybody should want to go any faster'. And if that makes me sound like the sort of chap who sits two inches from the car in front, then I don't intend it to - it's just ruddy irritating when you want to make progress.

Autobahn living isn't perfect, of course - the 75mph outside-lane bumper-to-bumper freight train you see on busy British motorways can be a 95mph one in Germany, which is rather unnerving. But compared with the UK's motorway network, it's paradise.

I'm not about to suggest we start to introduce de-restricted sections to British multi-laners - the pile-ups caused by over-exuberant yoofs as they try to max-out their Saxos really don't bear thinking about. But if you can, and if you have a sufficiently fast car to make it interesting, a high speed trip around Germany wil do wonders for your sanity. And your faith in humanity.

Riggers

Riggers
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PhantomPH

Original Poster:

1,262 posts

110 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
So does Germany NOT have 'yoofs' trying to mac out their Saxos?

I only ask, as yes I agree there would be a rash of people acting stupid in the UK, but surely the same must have applied at some point in germany...or is there a different culture amongst the youth of G?

Numeric

358 posts

36 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
Spent my formative early driving years hammering along the Autobahns and loved it - though the fall of the Berlin Wall caused a bit of a niggle as you mixed Trabbies with 911 Turbos :-))and all the cash for resurfacing got syphoned off to the poverty states.

But I agree they are great roads and if you have a big journey and get up early the chance to bash out 100+ miles in an hour journey times is a joy!

But the speed limits are increasing and these are stifling many bits of the network so make the most of it.

One final thought - if you are carefully delivering a customer car it is best to clear any memory systems that might indicate average speed - the new owner of a particular Pontiac never quite forgave me :-))

Baryonyx

9,616 posts

44 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
If only we could import German culture and economic policy to this country and get rid of our useless Conservative led nanny state.

UK motorway discipline is the worst I've ever experienced. In Italy and Spain, for instance, people will drive very fast down the dual carriageways, but doing so with courtesy and respect for others. So much of UK motorway driving is about 'being in the right' and getting your own way.

EDLT

14,710 posts

91 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
PhantomPH said:
So does Germany NOT have 'yoofs' trying to mac out their Saxos?

I only ask, as yes I agree there would be a rash of people acting stupid in the UK, but surely the same must have applied at some point in germany...or is there a different culture amongst the youth of G?
They are called Prols in Germany (according to the internet).

Blue62

1,849 posts

37 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
The older I get the more envious I become of Garmany, they really do seem to have it sorted in so many ways. I know it's not perfect, but there's a lot to be said for the place, especially in comparison with the UK. Sigh.
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t1grm

4,258 posts

169 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
Unfortunately more and more sections of autobahn are subject to a 130 kph limit and most of the western part of the network is in a permanent state of road works. The standard of driving isn’t quite as utopian as this article makes out either.

redback911

725 posts

151 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
Baryonyx said:
If only we could import German culture and economic policy to this country and get rid of our useless Conservative led nanny state.

UK motorway discipline is the worst I've ever experienced. In Italy and Spain, for instance, people will drive very fast down the dual carriageways, but doing so with courtesy and respect for others. So much of UK motorway driving is about 'being in the right' and getting your own way.
Completely agree, we just came back from a two-week tour of the continent, including a pilgrimage to the Nurburgring. Highlights were driving in Northern Spain and Germany. Excellent lane discipline and people seem to know that an overtaking lane, is just that. Soon as we hit the M20 we were shocked back to reality. Selfish driving, total lack of observation and sanctimonious attitude of people who flash you because they feel able to tell you your driving too fast.

Use Psychology

11,327 posts

77 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
coming home from work the other week I texted my wife i was 170 km away... I was home in an hour. including a fuel stop.

Riggers

1,851 posts

63 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
t1grm said:
Unfortunately more and more sections of autobahn are subject to a 130 kph limit and most of the western part of the network is in a permanent state of road works. The standard of driving isn’t quite as utopian as this article makes out either.
Certainly was in my 1,500 miles of it last week - maybe I was just lucky smile.

Having said that, there are plenty of roadworks, and I did see four (count 'em rear-end shunts between Wolfsburg and Hockenheim, all of which seemed to be due to a combo of sudden stops and tailgating.

And if it sounds Utopian, I don't intend it to. I just intend it to sound a damn sight more enjoyable than driving on UK motorways smile

Baryonyx

9,616 posts

44 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
Use Psychology said:
coming home from work the other week I texted my wife i was 170 km away... I was home in an hour. including a fuel stop.
Which car did you perform this feat in?

rickyquicky

45 posts

56 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
Baryonyx said:
UK motorway discipline is the worst I've ever experienced. In Italy and Spain, for instance, people will drive very fast down the dual carriageways, but doing so with courtesy and respect for others. So much of UK motorway driving is about 'being in the right' and getting your own way.
Agree 100%.

Adding average speed checks, local councils trying their very best to give you tickets/fines for every supposed misdemeanor, and ignorant bds who sit in the middle and outside lanes of motorways, people who don't indicate etc etc just makes UK driving a chore!



Edited by rickyquicky on Thursday 3rd May 10:47

Numeric

358 posts

36 months

[news] 
Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
rickyquicky said:
Baryonyx said:
UK motorway discipline is the worst I've ever experienced. In Italy and Spain, for instance, people will drive very fast down the dual carriageways, but doing so with courtesy and respect for others. So much of UK motorway driving is about 'being in the right' and getting your own way.
Agree 100%
I second that - the M4 and M25 yesterday had me steaming in frustration!!

German

197 posts

32 months

[news] 
Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
t1grm said:
Unfortunately more and more sections of autobahn are subject to a 130 kph limit and most of the western part of the network is in a permanent state of road works. The standard of driving isn’t quite as utopian as this article makes out either.
Im pretty sure you are referring to the recommended speed? Thats what the White sign with the lines means, 130km/h recommended. Anything else is up to you and your judgement...Think that one catches out a lot of Nurburgring tourists, Tom Tom just lists a blanket 130km/h limit for example. If there is a speed limit where I am in Bavaria its usually 120km/h, which is only ever temporary and due to traffic on a friday etc. If you can avoid that there is a lot to be said for driving home after a ste monday at 155mph biggrin

big_rob_sydney

1,322 posts

79 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
You guys in the UK have it good compared to some other places (like Australia, where I am now). Draconian speed limits, enforced by rabid revenue raisers who see motorists as moving ATM's.

Frankly, you're adjudged to be little better than a serial killer here when behind the wheel.

I cant wait to return to the UK, so guys, please, celebrate what you have!

The Crack Fox

9,780 posts

77 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
Not all Autobahns are brilliant though, some are potholed and congested, just like the UK. We also have a far higher density of traffic in the UK which doesn't help.

david.h

207 posts

133 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
A very reasoned article. You exceed posted limits at your peril..the fines can be heavy, bt absolutely right, you are treated as a responsible adult. We used to tell German friends that in Germany everything was forbidden unless it was allowed, but in UK everything was allowed unless it was forbidden! Sadly no longer true! Although things like starting up a business in UK are still much simpler than in Germany & when I wanted to set up a bank account in Germany so as to have access to Euros from cashpoints I found it almost impossible.

t1grm

4,258 posts

169 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
Riggers said:
Certainly was in my 1,500 miles of it last week - maybe I was just lucky smile.

Having said that, there are plenty of roadworks, and I did see four (count 'em rear-end shunts between Wolfsburg and Hockenheim, all of which seemed to be due to a combo of sudden stops and tailgating.

And if it sounds Utopian, I don't intend it to. I just intend it to sound a damn sight more enjoyable than driving on UK motorways smile
Fair enough. smile I had to commute from Brussels to Dusseldorf once a week a couple of years back and the run from the Belgian boarder to the office was one long cone-lined traffic jam from hell. Also the run from Brussels to the Swiss border is not much better. I always go down through France now. I see you were heading east. Perhaps the north and the east are better.

German

197 posts

32 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
The Crack Fox said:
Not all Autobahns are brilliant though, some are potholed and congested, just like the UK. We also have a far higher density of traffic in the UK which doesn't help.
True, but thats why there are all the contra flows and building sites that were previously mentioned. They actually fix them here, which is nice smile

Johnboy Mac

2,666 posts

63 months

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Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
The first time I drove in Germany, back in the early 80's it seemed magical. 911's going for it, S-Class's travelling at a very steady 120mph cruise, De-badged Merc's & BMW's confusing the hell out of me and 1.3 Golf's not getting in the way. Great times and nearly worth the trip just to be in the 'action'. Happy days.





t1grm

4,258 posts

169 months

[news] 
Thursday 3rd May 2012 quote quote all
German said:
Im pretty sure you are referring to the recommended speed? Thats what the White sign with the lines means, 130km/h recommended. Anything else is up to you and your judgement...Think that one catches out a lot of Nurburgring tourists, Tom Tom just lists a blanket 130km/h limit for example. If there is a speed limit where I am in Bavaria its usually 120km/h, which is only ever temporary and due to traffic on a friday etc. If you can avoid that there is a lot to be said for driving home after a ste monday at 155mph biggrin
No I’m talking about 130 in a red circle. I assume that if it is in a red circle it is an enforced limit and not an advisory limit (quite happy to be corrected on that smile ). Quite a lot of sections of autobahn I have used (mostly Koln, Bonn, Dusseldorf region) have permanent 130 in a red circle signs.

Also the section from Frankfurt to Worms, which I used to drive quite regularly in a rental car from the airport is unrestricted but, has variable speed limit overhead gantries rather like the Surrey section of the M25. They light up with 130 (or less) in a red circle when traffic is dense. They were on nearly every time I drove that stretch of road.

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