There’s something so special about driving a powerful, make that really powerful, car on the German Autobahn.
But let me rewind. The first time I drove on the legendary highway system was in 1998. There was no power involved. My rental car, an Opel Astra 1.4, could maybe hit 110 mph if I kept the throttle pinned for a long, long time. It was huge fun to drive flat out and push the little hatchback as fast as it would go for extended periods of time. I was 23 years old and that experience was good enough to keep me smiling for days. Further European travel brought with it better rental cars. A 130 mph Opel Vectra was a good balance of speed, comfort, and economy. But those pesky, powerful cars kept flying past me on the open roads of Germany.
Then I entered the magazine world. The first time I ran a BMW or a Mercedes up to 155 mph, I felt like a rock star. When the left lane opens and you work through the gears up to those speeds, it is such a good feeling to know you are exploiting the full potential of the car. But then you hit that pesky speed limiter at 155 mph and Porsche 911s fly by you. Like a drug, you want more and more speed.
And that’s just what I got in early April when an Aston Martin DBS was sitting at Munich airport ready for me upon landing. 155 mph top speed? I don’t think so. Try 191 mph, according to the press kit. The run to and from Maranello, Italy for the Ferrari 599 comparison test didn’t bring along any super fast runs but the drive did reveal that the Aston is rock solid at 165 mph.
On the way back to Munich, I had a few hours to burn before I needed to return the Aston so I headed to the A92 Autobahn that runs northeast from Munich towards Deggendorf. Our European editor, Georg Kacher recommended this stretch in his Autobahn story featured in our January issue. It seems BMW and Audi use this section for development testing. I can see why. Sure, it’s only two lanes each way but it’s wonderfully devoid of trucks and traffic, especially on a Sunday morning. Still, pushing much past 160 mph made the road feel quite narrow and you come upon cars at an alarming rate. You watch every approaching car for a course deviation or the flash of a blinker. You also need to judge the closing speeds. Not just your closing speed but the speed differentiation between two cars as they come upon each other in the right lane. At speeds like this, someone can check their mirror, look down for a second, and then pull out right in front of you because you appeared so quickly.
I was able to get a few 180 mph runs done on some straight sections of road but that super top speed run just seemed a bit too ambitious and unsafe that day. It was basically just a series of quick blasts followed by heavy use of the fabulous carbon ceramic brakes. That was until the road cleared and there were no cars in sight. A quick 6th to 4th downshift and we were off. Nearly 130 mph and I grab 5th gear just before the fuel cut kills the power at 6800 RPM. Approaching 160 mph and top gear is needed to keep accelerating. As I passed 180 mph, I was amazed at the stability of the Aston. The engine sounds amazing when it’s working this hard pushing the air out of the way. As I pass 300 km/h on the digital speedo (188 mph), the road is still clear and I now realize I’m going to top out an Aston Martin DBS on the German Autobahn. I manage an indicated 311 km/h (193 mph) before the tell tale flickering of the change up light came into play. At this point, I also saw a car approaching so I thought that was good enough. I think the DBS had a little bit left, maybe an indicated 195 or 196 mph but Aston’s listing of 191 mph as the real top speed seems very accurate.
It’s going to take quite a car and a very empty stretch of Autobahn for me to beat that speed. Don’t be surprised if that never, ever happens.