Unfortunately, there is no video of me changing lanes at 120; #safetyfirst.
I do have a photo, though.
I’m not sure what the “120” outlined in a red circle means, exactly. 120 kilometers is around 74 miles per hour. I say I don’t know what the 120 is referring to because, if I was going that speed in the left lane, I would have been rear-ended in two seconds. See, the Germans don’t spielen games in the passing lane. You go, fast, faster, fastest; I was averaging 105 miles per hour and fit right into the traffic pattern. Of course, it’s easy when Lufthansa gifts you a Porsche Carrera 911 4S for three hours for only 99 euros.
Let’s back up.
My original United Airlines award ticket from Frankfurt to Seoul was on Asiana, one of South Korea’s two major airlines and a Star Alliance partner. However, you can only take advantage of Lufthansa’s “Porsche First-Class Excitement” if you are flying first class on, and only on, Lufthansa. Access to the First-Class Terminal at Frankfurt’s airport is also conditional on having a Lufthsansa first-class boarding pass. I wanted to enjoy both, though at no fault to Asiana’s first-class product.
Lufthansa makes it tricky to book a first-class award ticket, in that first-class availability opens to Star Alliance partners two weeks before the departure date (most carriers allow award booking up to 11 months in advance). Since United charges $100 (under the old rules, it was $75) to change an ticket 21 days or less before the departure date, the fee is inescapable and you are competing against a more exacting population than usual for the award space. Luckily, I was able to find space and make the change to my ticket about 4 days before my departure date. Once I received the confirmation email from United, I then made the Porsche reservation through Avis and waited, excruiatingly, for the day of days.
Fast forward to that day.
I had slept 5+ hours the night before in Lufthansa business-class from Boston to Frankfurt, so I felt ready to drive. After deplaning, I headed to the Lufthansa First-Class Lounge to have a proper breakfast. Cars need fuel, humans, too and the lounge has an excellent spread.
I also went to pick up a rubber ducky. Of course, it was World-Cup themed.
After grabbing a couple bottles of wasser, I headed to the rental car facility.
Shamelessly, I skipped 10 or so people in the regular line and walked directly up to the “Preferred Customer” desk agent. The agent asked me if I was a preferred customer, I responded affirmatively and that seemed to satisfy her. I gave her my passport, two credit cards and my driver’s license and after signing some forms, she handed over keys! Porsche keys!
My excitement through the roof, I walked extremely, extremely fast to the parking garage and followed the signs to the correct spot.
I really don’t have words for describing how amazing just seeing a car like that and knowing that it was mine, albeit for only 3 hours.
It was intoxicating to just slink into the driver’s seat. I’ve rented entry-level BMW and Mercedes sedans through Zipcar, but they aren’t sports cars and they don’t retail for $120,000. The car was made and made only to speed and I was happy to oblige.
The garage was several layers underground and I took this video while traveling up the circle.
Smartly, the garage was connected almost directly to the freeway. Not smartly, upon reaching the freeway, I realized I had absolutely no idea where I was going. The GPS was in German and I knew nothing about the local area. Lufthansa’s website had promised 3 pre-programmed routes, but neither the attendant in the First-Class Lounge nor the Avis agent had heard of this promise.
It didn’t matter. It was 1pm on a Thursday, the roads were clear and I had a brand new whip. Zoom time.
After deciding the city of Frankfurt had nothing to offer, I basically flogged the car up and down the highway for two-plus hours.
I’ve never had a car snap my neck back going from 80 miles per hour to 100, nevermind 100-120. The Carrera 911 4S has a 400hp turbo V6 putting down power to all four wheels, hence the “4” nomenclature. The “S” stands for the additional 50hp, as I guess 350 in the regular Carrera 911 just wasn’t sufficient! Going 0-60 in 4.3 seconds, it also has a top speed of around 180 miles an hour.
I didn’t go that fast. I averaged 105mph, often ramming it to 125 when appropriate and one time, one glorious time I had a personal best of 150mph. It’s crazy how “dead” the steering becomes at that speed, as it felt just as safe as when I was driving at 75mph, although the way my eyes were approximating tunnel vision was somewhat scary. The brakes, as I found out after filling my exhilaration quota, were impeccable in returning me to a more personally appropriate speed.
To return to the first picture, I’m still confused as to what the “120” meant. Ten tenths of drivers were not paying it any attention. Drivers were otherwise paying attention, however, as no one went at or below the speed limit in the left lane. Drivers also always signaled when changing lanes and drivers in front of you would move to the right if your speed was higher than theirs; no tailgating necessary. So yes, German drivers are much better than American drivers.
Unfortunately, paradise always ends and this was no exception – I only had three hours of playtime and the time was close to up. I dropped the car off at the Lufthansa First-Class Terminal, instead of the rental car garage. Nicely, Lufthansa will return the car for you.
It was with the heaviest of hearts I said “Auf widersehen!” to my baby, but an attendant was nice enough to take some photos of us.
Eventually, I handed my passport over to the attendant and headed towards security and the First-Class Terminal itself, which was a real treat.
I’ll never forget the experience of driving a Porsche on the Autobahn, though. The limit, for once, didn’t exist and I was doing exactly what the car manufacturer intended – I was flying.