The Golden Triangle is the region formed by the roads between Munich, Ingolstadt, and Stuttgart, Germany, where the automobile museums of Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are located. While in Europe for Le Mans, we added a week to the trip to take an Audi Q7 TDI on a shakedown cruise and pay homage to the greats of the automobile industry. We discovered that this small piece of Europe just might be heaven for an automobile enthusiast.
Audi’s Q7 Silver Bullet
We picked up the Audi’s keys and documents in Munich, Germany from Hotel Keminsky’s front desk, found the four-door SUV stashed away in an underground parking lot, and managed to exit the facility using a call box to open the gate. After a little confusion about our route to our next stop, we pulled over and went about setting the Audi MMI Navigation system to English. We’d used the older brother to this system, however, this version was leaps and bounds better—after the display was converted to a language we could read.
We were happy we had Audi’s fullsize SUV—rather than the Q5, or even one of its sedans—as we crammed the Q7 full to the brim. Two large rolling suitcases, a large rolling camera bag, and a large duffel bag all managed to squeeze into the back hatch of the Q7. With a bed and breakfast programmed into the Audi’s navigation system, we were on our way.
The quick jaunt along the Autobahn from Munich to outside of Ingolstadt really got the 3.0L turbodiesel’s juices flowing. Traveling at close to 80 mph, the Q7 cruised through the night effortlessly. We arrived at our bed and breakfast a short while later, to find it dark, and locked. A few unanswered phone calls, and we had to make other plans at 1:30 a.m.—the perfect cap to our day. Fortunately, the next hotel we tried had an automated system that allowed us to check in. We found cold beer and pretzels in the vending machine for our evening meal before we crashed for some well-deserved shuteye. After a few short hours of sleep, we drove into Ingolstadt proper and spent some time exploring the town where Audi is king.
Ingolstadt is the corporate headquarters for Audi, and it seems to dominate the city, both from the size of the assembly plant, and the fact that you can’t turn around without there being an Audi of one kind or another in your rearview mirror, stopped next to you, or leading you through the streets. Audi has a wonderful building for its museum. Whereas you can get a plant tour at several of the other manufacturers, we were told in a nice way that if Audi showed us the inner workings of the plant, it’d have to kill us afterward. We declined both experiences.
Since it was getting late in the day, we decided to head to our next stop, Stuttgart, about 2½ hours away on what looked like a really fun road. The first thing we discovered on the drive was the Q7’s Audi Side Assist blind spot monitoring, which uses radar signals from the rear bumper and the Q7’s speed to monitor your blind spots. If a vehicle is in your blind spot, a series of small yellow lights will flash a warning in the side mirror to tell the driver if changing lanes would be hazardous.
With properly adjusted mirrors, this system almost eliminates the need for you to take your eyes off the road while changing lanes. Cruising along on a four-lane road with little traffic at around 75 mph, we discovered the adaptive cruise control. Audi’s system uses radar at the front of the car to control the vehicle’s speed. You enable the cruise control and also set a safe following distance to the car in front of you.
Although Audi indicates that the modest V-6 pumps out 225 hp, it has oodles of torque: 406 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm, according to Audi. Even at 75 mph, when you put your foot to the floor you feel the torque pushing your backside into those luxurious leather seats. At more than 125 mph, it is a solid driving platform, thanks in part to the Audi Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
The Porsche Museum
The Porsche Museum has dedicated the majority of its floor space to its rich racing history. One of the other great things at the Porsche Museum is that it’s also a working shop. The wing off the first floor is used to maintain, rebuild, and restore all the cars in the Porsche collection, with the workers on display in a shop where you could eat off the floors.
Mercedes-Benz takes credit for inventing the automobile, and the first diesel-powered car came off its assembly line in 1936. Mercedes-Benz’s museum shows you everything about the founder of the automobile and does so with the largesse one would expect from this global giant. At this massive building you can see virtually every vehicle Mercedes has ever made, and a few that never saw the light of day. This includes some massive Mercedes diesel trucks, some of which were used in truck racing.
A model of the original diesel engine Rudolf Diesel developed was there. This engine led to the 260D Mercedes-Benz diesel that was built with Bosch injection and first introduced in 1936.
The next morning, on the way back to Munich, we stopped in Augsburg, the birthplace of the diesel engine. The MAN Group, which built Rudolf Diesel’s first engine, still makes diesels and trucks. The MAN Group is now under the direction of Volkswagen, Audi’s parent company.
The MAN-Roland museum pays tribute to Diesel and shows off a number of the designs the company developed as the concept of the diesel engine went from the drawing board to the real world. The museum is quite complete and houses an example of the original diesel engine the company built—a far cry from the 3.0L V-6 that powered our Audi Q7.
BMW Welt (which means BMW World) is probably the greatest architectural design of any of the factory museums we visited. It’s part delivery center (where customers pick up their new car), part museum, and part circus. When we walked in, there was a BMW Isetta driving laps around the main structure, giving short rides to children, and others who waited patiently.
21-mpg German Road Trip
With our time complete at BMW World, it was back to the Q7 for a short jaunt in this amazing vehicle to our hotel in Freising on the outskirts of Munich. After filling up the Q7 with diesel, we noted our 373 miles of driving at Autobahn speeds required only 17.4 gallons of diesel. That’s about 21 mpg. Not bad for a four-day trip across the motherland of German automakers.