A bright blue Toyota Supra with the keys in it. A wide-open afternoon. Perfect weather. The speed limitless Autobahn just minutes away. This is the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago, and here’s how I took full advantage of it without ending up in a mangled mess of steel and aluminum.
A few weeks ago, I attended German Car of the Year evaluations, and had a chance to drive roughly 45 cars all lined up in front of a hotel in a small town near Frankfurt, Germany. The three-day event was epic, thanks in large part to the GR Yaris, which is one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven. But following closely behind that hot little hatchback in the area of pure joy was another Toyota: the Supra.
“A Toyota Supra in Germany. Makes sense because it’s basically a BMW LOL,” many of you are probably joking in the comments right now. It’s a fair point, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Supra is superb. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do, in large part, because I know a good manual transmission would make the car more fun to drive. Still, when I got behind the wheel of the Supra, it’s actually the automatic transmission that wowed me the most.
Toyota calls it a “rapid-shift eight-speed sports automatic transmission,” but it’s basically just the ZF eight-speed automatic found in damn-near every car these days. The thing is, in the Supra, it’s calibrated perfectly. Truly perfectly. Tap the paddle shifters, and the transmission shifts before the paddle is even back in its original off-position. The car isn’t light at roughly 3,400 pounds, and 335 horsepower from that 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six is only 10 percent more powerful than a damn Camry, but none of that matters. The car is genuinely exciting.
On paper “automatic transmission, 335 horsepower, 3,400 pounds” might not do it for you, but this time, the paper lies. The Toyota GR Supra Jarama Racetrack Edition that I drove felt quick, handled absurdly well around tight roundabouts, and of course, managed to hit 160 mph with plenty of speed left in the tank. But hitting that figure wasn’t easy, because the Autobahn is flawed.
Hitting 160 MPH on the Autobahn was not straightforward. It never is, because, as I’ve written before, the Autobahn is often a pain in the ass. So here are three important tips to help you blast down the speed limitless road without compromising your vitality.
1. Use Google Maps To Warn You Of Construction Zones/Traffic
Baustellen, or construction zones, are a constant on the Autobahn, because Germany has very little tolerance for potholes or other flaws. This makes sense, as there are cars traveling upwards of 150 mph regularly; a big hole or a wave could send high-speed cars out of control. This is not acceptable.
So the Germans are always fixing their Autobahns, and when they’re not, there’s often traffic, since Germany is a relatively densely populated country, and the Autobahn is often only two lanes wide.
Sometimes the traffic seems to come out of nowhere, and if you’re blasting along at 160, that’s a huge problem. So keep Google maps on all the time just in case if you plan to do a high-speed run. You can’t afford to run into a traffic around a blind turn at those speeds.
2. If A Car Is Following Behind A Truck In The Right Lane, Slow Down
On the Autobahn, you cannot trust someone in the right lane to check in their side mirror for someone who is approaching and about to pass in the left lane. Even if the person in the right lane does check their side mirror, they may not see the fast vehicle approaching.
Just imagine there’s a Volkswagen Polo overtaking a vegetable truck, and you’re in a BMW Alpina B7 300 yards (900 feet) behind. The Polo checks the side mirror and sees nothing (as you’re very small, since you’re still so far in the distance), so that person moves the Polo into the left lane to pass the 55 mph truck.
Let’s assume that the little 1.0-liter, underpowered Polo speeds up to 70 mph (but has an average speed of 65 mph due to the time it takes to accelerate those 15 mph with that little three-cylinder motor), and has to not only travel the two car-lengths between it and the truck ahead, but also has to drive the length of the truck plus two car lengths to complete the maneuver. For simplicity, we’ll assume the truck is 60 feet long (that’s in the realm of a typical truck length), and the Polo is about 13 feet. To overtake the truck, the Polo has to travel 112 feet.
With a 10 mph difference in speed between it and the truck, the Polo can cover around 15 feet per second. That means the passing maneuver will take around 7.5 seconds.
Where is the Alpina in those 7.5 seconds? Well, it’s traveling 170 MPH (as I did in the B7 back in 2019). So there’s a 105 MPH delta (that’s 154 feet per second) between the Alpina and the Polo. This means the Alpina can make up the 900 feet it was behind the Polo in only six seconds.
The Alpina that was 900 feet in the Polo’s rearview mirror will be on the little car’s ass before the VW finishes its passing maneuver around the big rig.
Obviously, the Alpina driver could scrub off some speed once she or he sees the Polo ahead, but it’s not always easy, especially if the Alpina weren’t 900 feet away, but only 450. The BMW would still look small in the Polo’s mirror, but that Bavarian super-sedan would be on the VW’s Arsch in no-time.
This is one of the main dangers of the Autobahn, which is why I always slow down if I see a car in the right lane behind a big truck, even if the two aren’t that close.
3. If A Truck Is Following Closely Behind Another Truck In The Right Lane, Slow Down
This whole scenario happens with big trucks behind other big trucks, too. Germans call it “Elefantenrennen” or “elephant racing.” It’s just a term for a truck slowly overtaking another truck.
This is a little different from tip number two in that you don’t need there to be as much space between two trucks for you to safely pass at 160 MPH in the left lane, as trucks can’t accelerate as quickly. A small car like a Polo, as underpowered as it may be, can be much farther behind a truck and pass it fairly quickly, but usually a big truck rides another truck’s ass before making the slow passing maneuver.
If you do see a truck riding another truck’s ass, you should slow down. Far too often have I been driving quickly in the left lane, only to see a truck move into the left lane to try to pass another truck.
These are some of the pitfalls of the beloved Autobahn, and they are no fault of the lovely Toyota Supra, which felt stable and just generally epic at all speeds, even 160 MPH.