My wife and I recently returned from our European delivery vacation where we took delivery of a 2011 AW E92 M3. I "blogged" it real time on Bimmerfest but wanted to post it to Bimmerpost for the permanent record.
Our itinerary was:
Munich days 1-3
Prague days 3-6
Romantic Road/Alpenstrasse (Nordlingen) days 6-7
Alps/Stelvio (Davos) days 8-10
Nurburgring (Cologne/Nurburg) days 11-12
Drop-off (Frankfurt) day 13
Arrived early morning and checked-in to the Le Meridien across from the train station. Nice hotel - typical Meridien quality and amenities. Spent the next 2 days in the cold rainy weather looking at the sights. I highly recommend the Pinakothek der Moderne - the collection is the best modern collection I have seen and the building itself is a work of art. What do you expect? We're in Germany! Hofbrauhaus is definitely a must see as well.
Day 3 we checked in to the Welt early for a 2:30pm pickup of our new M3. We were booked on the plant tour then off to Prague for dinner. The Welt is stunning, absolutely breathtaking. Most countries don't have airports this nice.
First Impressions of the Welt
Main check-in at bottom right
Staircase leading to delivery floor
Interactive exhibits on the ground floor
While snacking and marveling at the Welt in the lounge, we were told that our car would not be ready for our scheduled pickup - it had sustained damage to its trunk on the way to the Welt and they were frantically looking for a replacement part. However, as the BMW representative explained, M3's are rare and this piece is not easy to find.
We let them try to figure it out while we took pictures of the Welt, went on the plant tour, and had lunch in the restaurant. After lunch, we were told that the trunk lid was en route from Regensburg and would be installed tomorrow by lunch.
The Welt staff did as much as they could to keep us happy - they called and re-booked our hotel in Prague, booked us a room in Munich, and gave us a 535GT for the day/night, all at their cost.
Went back to the Welt the following day and decided to take in the BMW museum while we waited for news on our car. The museum is a MUST DO, even if your spouse/companions are not into cars. It is exceptionally well designed and highly interactive.
Interactive timeline of BMW
We finally got our car at 2:30, about a day late. It was worth the wait...
The introduction took as little or as much time as we wanted (about 30 minutes including photos). Was a little upset about losing a day in Prague, but after driving the M3 for about 5 minutes on the autobahn, all I could think of was "this is going to be fun at the Nurburgring". Made it to Prague in under 4 hours.
Prague was amazing (even in the cold rain) - it definitely offers lots to see but the massive waves of tours/tourists detracted from the experience. Stayed at the Cloister Inn (3 star) with private, self-park, in an interior courtyard, less than 5 minute walk from Old Town Square. Very friendly staff and nice feel that you can really only get with a well run private hotel (free in-room minibar, free wifi, OK breakfast). While our stay in Prague was cut short we were happy to head out on the road again in search of some sun or at least dry or warmer weather (must be the volcano).
ROMANTISCHESTRASSE (ROMANTIC ROAD)
From Prague we headed west to drive the Romantic Road and AlpenStrasse to our weekend stopover in Davos, Switzerland. We started our romantic drive in Wurzburg...a medium sized town with a "modern" pedestrian area and central square, unique Dom, and a massive Palace called the Residenz - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
the Residenz (all I could fit in with my 24mm wide)
Heading south out of Wurzburg we drove past hilly vineyards on one side and the Main River on the other side of the road...definitely a good start. The route to Nordlingen is a nice drive and since we left Wurzburg around 7pm, there was virtually no traffic.
Stayed at the NH hotel in Nordlingen, about the halfway point on the Romantic Road. The hotel was well located to the central square and nicely modern. Underground parking was available for a small charge.
Nordlingen is a definite must see on the route. It is a medieval town built entirely in an old meteor crater. Checkout the medieval wall encircling the entire town and the church belltower between 10pm and midnight when the watchman yells a centuries old traditional cry over the town every 1/2 hour.
the "Daniel" church tower in Nordlingen
About 3 hours from Nordlingen we stopped for the obligatory Neuschwanstein Castle photo. Couldn’t get to the official photo spot as there was an angry old man driving around yelling at me. Could’ve used a longer lens on my camera, but turned out OK nevertheless…
...see that tiny castle on the right?
Overall I’d say the Romantic Road from Wurzburg to Nordlingen is worth doing but Nordlingen to Fussen is mostly highway. Whatever you decide – the best time to drive is probably early evening.
After the castle we needed to head west then south to Davos. The Alpenstrasse is a MUST DO if you are heading west from the castle. Long winding roads, scenic vistas, switchbacks, elevation changes – truly amazing. Also a great way to break in an M car. Switched the transmission to D6 and the power to Sport and the M3 was awesome. Braking was so consistent at every turn. We started around 7pm and were at the Austrian border by 9pm – no traffic until the tunnel at the border. Navi won’t take you there though – you have to input intermediate towns to get to the start – like Wertach and Immenstadt.
Davos in the far background
In Davos we stayed at the ArabellaSheraton Hotel Seehof in Davos Dorf. The hotel is a "grand olde dame" and has underground parking in a secure garage. The hotel features a unique spa with saunas, steam baths, full body showers, foot baths, and relaxation areas. Davos Platz is where most of the action is but it is only a short bus ride/drive or medium length walk from the hotel. Most people come for the mountains anyways.
After hearing from the hotel staff that the Fluelapass was open we decided to attempt the Stelvio. We got as far as Santa Maria - the Umbrail Pass was closed (which connects to the Stelvio Pass south) and I assumed the Stelvio was closed as well since it is 100m higher than Umbrail.
...at least we made it to the Stelvio Hotel in Sta. Maria
No regrets though as the drive along 28 (via Fluelapass) from Davos to Santa Maria was spectacular. A little under 2 hours each way and plenty of small towns and passes along the way. Tried out M Drive set at S4, Super Sport, and Servotronic. Handling was amazing, never hinting at understeer and tires stayed firmly planted, even when braking/turning down 10% hairpins.
atop the Pass dal Fuorn @ 2150m
hairpin turn coming out of the mountains
small town of Susch on the route
Lots of motorcycles and bikers (saw 2 Corvettes, a Viper, a late 80's Camaro) but traffic was pretty light. I consider myself a good and safe driver...but it is humbling to be pushing hard to keep up with a motorhome on the mountain passes or being ridden by a station wagon towing a trailer full of tires! Had a black Mustang Cobra on my tail up the mountain but as soon as it got twisty and downhill, I never saw him again.
We had beautiful weather the 2 days we were in the Alps - the weather gods paying us back for raining on us every day we were in Munich and Prague.
The weather gods continued to shine on us as we left Davos for Cologne, with stops at Baden-Baden for lunch and the Nurburgring for our first look at the track.
Went to the Cafe Konig in Baden-Baden for lunch - it is definitely the place to people watch. Highly recommended. The town had a Mediterranean feel to it and was full of 70's glam style.
Many hours and over 775kms and a 120 euro toll ticket in Austria later, we made it to the Nurburgring. The long journey was instantly forgotten the second the entry gate to the Nordschleife lifted. DO WHATEVER YOU MUST DO TO DRIVE THIS TRACK. IT IS ONE OF THE WILDEST RIDES YOU WILL EVER TAKE IN YOUR LIFE.
About 20kms out from the track every other car is either a GT3RS or motorcycle. Then GTR's, Elise's and Ferrari's start to appear. About 10kms out, I could hear engines roaring by and caught glimpses of the track through the trees. Parked cars start to line the side of the highway then a large parking area appears off to the side. There are a couple of these parking areas 5kms to 10kms out where people park and watch the cars lap the track. Once I hit the welcome centre, the mini-vans and Volvos were more conspicuous than the sports cars. Every high performance car you can think of was either in the parking lot or in the queuing area for the Sudschleife - some you've never seen or heard of before. Buying the fare card took less than 2 minutes and then after taking everything in for a few minutes, out to the toll gates.
getting ready...unfortunately this mini would eventually crash into the guardrail on my 3rd lap
matte black John Player Special Lambo
line up when track opens...nice Boxster Spyder
Going through those toll gates absolutely blew my mind. I AM DRIVING MY CAR ON THE NURBURGRING!!! I flick up through the gears and the first of many huge hills comes at me before my mind catches up with my car. Check my mirror, let the first of what seems like dozens of cars pass me, then HARD on the brakes. Then repeat 50 times. Nothing can prepare you for the elevation changes around the course. Some are blind hills, some downhills you can see for a bit but are unsure what is around the next turn. Then the s's, blind curves, banked turns, double apex curves, uphill straights - it all assaults you like a 21 round title fight. I was passed and KO'd by SEAT's, Suzukis, and Renaults. The track was beyond anything I imagined. Such a unique experience, my wife, who is a VERY occasional driver back home, immediately demanded the keys after my 1st lap. She drove slow, but safe, and had a great time.
I had no previous Playstation experience so I learned the track on my first lap. By my third lap (and one additional one as a passenger/navigator for my wife), I estimate my time came down by 2 to 3 minutes. I also had my 2,000km service and took the luggage out of the trunk after lap 1.
The M3 was perfect. Throttle response through the 4,000 to 6,500 rpm range was so immediate and consistent in every gear. The brakes had incredible consistency and feel as well. I used all the maximum settings in M drive but kept the DSC on full. Downshifting was instantaneous and never threw the balance of the car off. The car remained planted 100% of the time and it never felt loose or unstable. Once finished and back in the parking lot, I could not believe that this was the car that I have been driving all over Europe for the last 7 days and it could unleash race car performance on an extremely difficult race track. I'm not sure how much the guys in their A4's or Golfs enjoyed their ride but the M3 was awesome and addictive.
Stayed in Cologne at the Dom Hotel (Meridien) between day 1 and 2 at the Ring and got my 2,000km service while sightseeing. The Dom Hotel shares the plaza with the Dom and is a beautiful building with a great history. Underground parking is available in a very spacious and modern parking garage. Went back to the Ring and the sun held out for a 2nd day. Laps 2 and 3 were smoother and faster. Actually had a "racing pass" of a TT. After the session we stayed at the im Tiergarten hotel in Nurburg, which is the Schmitz family's hotel. Nice hotel, very friendly, and a great restaurant. I must also single out the breakfast as exceptional. The hotel and restaurant are a shrine to racing and people who love driving. Highly recommended.
Overall, the whole Nurburgring experience exponentially exceeded our expectations and we think our M3 appreciated the experience as well.
viewing area at the end of the day
Stopped by the Burg Eltz on the way to the Frankfurt drop-off. Much more interesting castle than Neuschwanstein - has been with the original family for 66 generations. Nice drive there but no photo ops with the car.
Dropped the car off in Frankfurt - everything went smoothly - took about 20 minutes.
Some tips - always reserve your hotel for the correct # of guests to avoid rate hassles at check-in and always buy a vignette/toll sticker, which are easy to purchase right at the border from a gas station. We drove 13kms in Austria without one and were fined 120 euros.
We drove almost 2,800 kilometers over 9 days. A few thoughts about the Autobahn and German drivers - 160km/h (100mph) is a very average speed on the autobahn. Fast Transit vans and VW Golfs go by at least 30 to 50 kph faster. Mostly all of the Autobahns we drove on were 2 lane but we made good time - all due to the respect drivers give other drivers on the road by always driving in the right lane. Saw 2 major single car accidents but traffic only seemed to slow down for a few hundred meters. Drivers also don't mind letting you in if you are signaling - they know that you will pull into the right hand lane after you are finished your pass. I did notice that most drivers tend to ride your tail pretty hard if you are going slower than them.
Over the whole trip, most popular "sports" cars on the Autobahn I noticed were Audi TTs and Merc SLKs. Saw a few 911s but you don't have to own a sports car to drive fast in Germany. In North America, we all own fast cars but can't drive fast! Didn't see another E9# M3 the entire time I was in Europe (other than the 3 or 4 I saw at the Ring - I expected to see more there).
The M3 is just the perfect performance car. I cannot believe how confidently it drove the mountain passes and how I was able to push the car on the track and drive it "home" right after (with 2 large suitcases in the trunk). SUPERB ENGINEERING. The one thing about the car that stood out above comparison was the suspension - able to track perfectly and handle bumpy roads without losing contact or jarring the cabin. The Michelin PS2's were also excellent - pouring rain, track, cold mountain passes. Only slight negatives I thought were a wide turning radius and poor low end throttle response (I'm assuming this is because its a true manual gearbox which normally wouldn't have great throttle response until you release the clutch).
Thanks to Endras BMW (Toronto) and Bimmerpost for helping us finally do this trip. Also, thanks to everybody at the Welt who did everything they could to make-up for the damaged trunk and rim.
If you're thinking about doing an ED or buying an M3, you will not regret either decision. Do both!