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Driving in the Alpine region might be on the bucket list for many when it comes to road trips, and we learnt a thing or two about it with the BMW 1 Series.

16 Oct 2019

I thoroughly enjoy road trips and being behind the wheel driving long-distance. So the appeal of the autobahn and driving in Europe is one that many assume I have done many times.

Unfortunately, I have not. But when test driving the BMW 1 Series, we took it from Munich in Germany, to Tyrol in Austria. I had a pretty good opportunity to taste the open, unrestricted autobahn for a good amount of time, plus some roads that snake around the Alps.

And I learnt a thing or two about driving fast on the famed highway behind the wheel of BMW's all new hatchback. Here's some tips to survive a driving through the autobahn and B-roads in Germany and Austria.

1. Follow the speed limit

The road-sign recognition feature works very well in the BMW 1 Series, keeping you up to date on the latest speed limits on any given stretch of road
Many know that German highways have no speed limits. This is true only for certain stretches that are deemed safe for maximum vehicle velocity.

But speed limits can change very quickly. You can be maxing out at 250km/h (not a hard task for the M135i) for a few kilometres, but upon reaching busy intersections speeds can be reduced down to 80km/h.

Plus, speed limits can change during certain times of the day. This is indicated via electronic road signs. In all, there's no reason to break the speed limit in such areas, as there will be plenty of sections where you can do whatever speed you wish.

2. Keep right!

You should always keep right on the autobahn, even if you're carrying a significant amount of speed on unrestricted sections
It seems like a simple task to do, but back home in Singapore, this isn't always the case. Many believe that once you're driving at the speed limit, the overtaking lane is yours to keep.

In Germany, it is understood that the left-most lane is only used for overtaking. This means that even if you're trying to break the sound barrier, you don't do it in the overtaking lane when other lanes are empty.

The overtaking lane isn't a righteous path for fast cars. It is a simple rule that everyone respects, and it makes driving long distances a painless and relaxing affair.

3. You can use the shoulder, too

Don't be surprised to see vehicles driving on the road shoulder, as it is perfectly legal to do so when indicated via electronic road signs
During long traffic jams along the North-South Highway in Malaysia, you'll probably see many impatient drivers who shoot down the road shoulder.

It isn't just dangerous, but also bad driving etiquette. On the autobahn, you'll be surprised to see that sometimes, vehicles use the road shoulder, too. Depending on traffic situations, digital signboards will indicate that vehicles can use the road shoulder.

This effectively means that an extra lane is made available, easing up traffic. We experienced this first hand. While we went through some construction zones on the autobahn, traffic was still smooth flowing.

4. Fast B-road driving? No problem

This winding and narrow B-road we drove in Austria is meant for two-way traffic, with a 100km/h speed limit!
The B-roads in Germany and Austria are rather technical to a certain degree, and tight and narrow, too. One would expect roads like these to come with a rather slow speed limit of 50km/h.

Instead, these roads come with 100km/h speed limit. Such a speed limit might sound a little bit extreme for you at me, and we'd probably not be doing anywhere close to the speed limit. But with the exception of heavy vehicles, almost everyone was doing close to 100km/h.

It certainly takes some skill to drive at such speeds, considering it costs up to $3,000 to learn how to drive in Germany - almost thrice the price of Singapore!

5. No customs, just cross the border

The only time we noticed we were crossing into Austria was through a prompt in the 1 Series' navigation system
Being the least travelled person in the team, I assumed that we'd be met with a customs and immigration checkpoint when we crossed the border into Austria. Not forgetting the jam, of course.

But the only indication that we had crossed the border was through the navigation system in the 1 Series. In fact, there was an instance we crossed the border four times, as the road we were on snaked in between the two countries.

Under what's called a Schengen Agreement, both countries have removed border controls since 1997.

6. Autobahns aren't just in Germany

While speed limits do change once you cross the border to Austria, your focus shouldn't be breaking the sound barrier, but enjoying the views it offers
Colloquially, we know the autobahn as the name for Germany's highway network. But in Switzerland and Austria, they call their highways autobahns, too.

While they may have the same name, there is a big difference. In Austria, there isn't a single stretch of autobahn where there isn't a speed limit restriction.

The 130km/h speed limit on Austrian autobahns is more than adequate. But if you miss the signs that indicate that you've crossed the border, you might think you're still in unrestricted speed land.

As such, we found the road sign recognition system in the 1 Series a pretty useful feature to have.

But really, there is no reason to complain about lowered speed limits. The views that Tyrol offers is impressive enough that we found ourselves stopping ever so often to take it all in. Plus, if you're travelling from Germany behind the wheel of the hot-blooded M135i, there is more than enough time to experience pushing a car to its limit without any fear of a speeding ticket!
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