Summer is the perfect time to slip into a classic motor and put your foot down. NXG picks the world’s most beautiful routes and the cars to suit them.
German Alpine Road
PORSCHE 911 GT3
Cars don’t come much more exciting than Porsche’s 911 GT3. It’s stiff, noisy and often hard work, but it reminds you of what driving should be all about: thrills. And the German Alpine Road, linking Lindau on Lake Constance and Berchtesgaden on Lake Königssee, provides the perfect union between vehicle and route.
Adolf Hitler commissioned the road in 1933, wanting to give the populace easy access to the German Alps and plenty of invigorating fresh air. But World War II got in the way and it was only completed in 2002.
As you might expect, this is a road with plenty of room for making rapid progress. The weather here can change in a heartbeat, so you never know what to expect. One thing is constant: spectacular terrain. Lush meadows, gentle hillsides, jagged mountains, lakes, forests and valleys – there’s something for everyone, unless you’re really into deserts.
Reaching Berchtesgaden, there are fairytale castles to take in and a warm welcome from the locals. But then again, will you want to get out of the GT3?
Ferrari 458 Italia
Anyone who thinks the Middle East is bereft of decent driving roads is sorely mistaken. The United Arab Emirates deserts aren’t exactly friendly environments, but many of the routes through them are spectacular and Jebel Hafeet in the Abu Dhabi city of Al Ain is home to the best of them.
The twisting route up and down this craggy mountain looks more like a technical grand prix circuit when viewed from above. The tarmac is in perfect condition and, despite the ridiculously low speed limit, there are no cameras, so those 21 corners can be taken with some gusto if you’re in the right car at the right time of day.
What to drive, though? Ferrari’s 458 Italia is perfect for this 7.3 mile (11.7 kilometre) stretch of snaking, undulating piece of motoring nirvana because it’s totally balanced, goes like stink and, even with all the electronic safety aids working overtime, still manages to make you feel like a driving god. After you’ve experienced this, you’ll never view roads and cars the same way again.
Bergen to Oslo
Aston Martin V8 Roadster
There’s more than one route linking Norway’s two largest cities but the E16 is the best. With pretty Bergen disappearing in your rear-view mirror, you’ll soon realise that this is no ordinary journey as you climb and descend through savage mountainsides, emerging into a landscape of mighty fjords: the sheer mountainsides plunging into inky black water are surreally, staggeringly beautiful. The Aston Martin V8 Roadster is surreally beautiful, too, but the real ace up its sleeve is the noise it makes. You’ll need somewhere suitable to enjoy it: Lærdal tunnel.
At 15.2 miles (24.5 kilometres) long, it’s the world’s longest road tunnel and, when the Aston is opened up, there’s nowhere for the sound to go except be bounced off the hard rock surface and back into your ears. The road then crosses mountain passes, through the lovely, up-and-coming ski resort of Hemsedal and on to Oslo, where you’ll probably want to turn around and head for that tunnel again.
Pacific Coast Highway
Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
Yeah, it’s clichéd, but if you’re going to experience California on tarmac, you might as well take the best route there is. The journey takes in the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway and, if you take it slowly, the 150-odd miles should take about five hours.
And what better vehicle for it than a Harley-Davidson? All their bikes mix old school charm and looks with lots of lazy grunt. Twist open the throttle and enjoy that exhaust note, while soaking up breath-taking scenery.
We reckon the Fat Bob – Arnie’s ride in Terminator 2 – is perfect because it doesn’t look daft with a fairing and you can add pillion bags to house your maps and other paraphernalia while still giving the impression that you’re too cool for words.
Start in Monterey before joining PCH1 and ambling along to Morro Bay. Dozens of roads peel off, offering redwood forests, canyons and cliffs that plunge into the Pacific Ocean. In fact, turn it into a holiday. You might not go home.
Naples to Salerno
Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
There’s plenty of competition for the Mediterranean’s greatest backdrop but the Costiera Amalfitana is surely in the running. Exploring the Amalfi Coast is probably the only thing that could tempt you away from Sorrento.
Crumbling, pastel-coloured buildings form small villages that cling to steep mountainsides, which slide almost vertically into the bluest sea imaginable. The road has more twists and turns than a bowl of spaghetti and Ferrari’s 599 GTB Fiorano makes for an ideal companion, being part racer, part grand tourer, with an operatic V12 wail from up front.
The road, the SS163, is a triumph of engineering over common sense and in parts is very narrow, so watch those side mirrors. Best experienced in late September, Amalfi’s Santa Caterina or Positano’s Le Sirenuse will let you explore the cafés and restaurants in this heavenly slice of Italy.
Maserati Granturismo S
Nicolae Ceauşescu has a lot to answer for but Romania’s route 7C is the best thing the communist dictator left behind. Built throughout the 1970s, it’s more famously known as the Transfagarasan Highway.
A colossal amalgam of tight hairpin bends and narrow passages, it links the cities of Sibiu and Piteşti, climbing up between Romania’s two highest peaks: Moldoveanu (2,543 metres) and Negoiu (2,535 metres). It’s almost as though Ceauşescu deemed its construction a challenge that could not be turned down and over 40 workers (conscripted military personnel) lost their lives carving out this astonishing route. The Maserati GranTurismo S is the perfect chariot for this ultimate road trip. It’s refined, comfortable and has a Ferrari-built V8 engine up front, so climbing the peaks of Dracula’s old stomping ground is all in a day’s work. Lift off the throttle and the pops, bangs and snarls from its sports exhaust system will have the tiny hairs on the nape of your neck standing to attention.
Closed between late October and early June because heavy snow makes it impassable, time the trip right and it’ll be an experience to savour for the rest of your life. Stand at the top of one of its valleys, look down and pay silent tribute to those fallen soldiers. This stunning highway is their legacy.
Furka & Grimsel Pass
Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4
No list of great drives would be complete without at least one route in Switzerland and the Furka and Grimsel Passes provide more thrills than you’d rightly expect in one lifetime. For sheer, heart-stopping thrills, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 fits the bill nicely.
Linking the Swiss towns of Innertkirchen and Andermatt, this extreme stretch of tarmac climbs to 2,431 metres at Furka, causing most people to utter words that sound remarkably like the place name.
And with the Gallardo’s permanent four-wheel drive putting the power down in complete safety, you can try to outrun the bikers who view this place as heaven on Earth.
Deep blue lakes, green rolling hillsides, jagged mountain tops covered with snow and astonishing looking glaciers – they’re all packed into less than 50 kilometres of some of Europe’s finest road. If you’re sweet of tooth you might want to stop en route at Meiringen, because this – allegedly – is where meringues were invented. But when the scenery is so breathtaking and so imposing in its natural splendour, why would you stop? Just floor the throttle, hear that Italian engine scream its lungs out and try not to cause an avalanche.
Pictures: Maserati Granturismo © Getty; remaining © Shutterstock