Destination: Prague

By Jonathan Spira on 10 May 2010
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Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is a city of many names.  The home of 1.3 million people, it is known as Zlaté město, the Golden City, Stověžatá Praha, the City of a Hundred Spires, and Praha matka měst, Prague – Mother of Cities.

It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, with an estimated 4.1 million visitors per year.

One of the defining characteristics of the city is the Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic.  Known in English and German as the Moldau, it is crossed by 18 bridges and over 31 km of the river run through Prague. Its spirit was captured in the best known of the six symphonic poems by Bedřich Smetana that comprise Má vlast (My Fatherland).

Leaving Munich, the 366 km drive to Prague in the new BMW 530d (internal designation F10) took a little over four hours.

We started in Garching on the Bundesstraße 11 and headed over to the Autobahn A9, which we took for 37 km.  The A9, known as the A3 until a new numbering plan was implemented in 1974, is one of the oldest Autobahnen in Germany, with sections of it dating back to 1936.  After German reunification, the A9 was expanded from two to a minimum of three lanes in each direction plus an emergency lane.  Traffic was light on the A9 and we were able to cruise at speeds ranging from 160 km/h to 220 km/h.

Near Holledau, we switched to the Autobahn A93, which took us past Regensburg as we headed in the direction of Nürnberg and the Czech border.  The A93 is an older two-lane Autobahn and as a result a bit slower at times.

After 128 km on the A93 after we passed Nürnberg to the west, we switched to the A6 and twenty or so minutes later (ca. two hours into the drive) we crossed the border into the Czech Republic.  The stretch of Autobahn between Nürnberg and the Czech border is known as Via Carolina.  The A6, much like the A8 to the south, is relatively old and ill-suited for the amount of traffic it gets.

Once in the Czech Republic, after stopping to purchase a Vignette (toll sticker), we continued on the D5 (Dálnice 5) motorway for 153 km.  The D5 runs from the German border past Pilsen on to Prague.  After leaving the D5, we continued on a smaller motorway for 7.5 km and that left 6 km in Prague to make our way to the Four Seasons Hotel in the city center.

Despite some congestion, we averaged 180 km/h on the German Autobahnen and 140 km/h on the Dálnice 5.  For the 366 km trip, we used 8.9 l/100 km (26.4 mpg).  This figure is in stark contrast to the fuel economy figures we saw for the BMW 730d 18 months ago, with the larger 7er using only 7.4 l/100 km (32 mpg). It’s also not as good as the 8.0 l/100 km (29.4 mpg) average fuel economy figure that BMW reports for the 530d, although that figure is based on significantly lower speeds than we averaged on German Autobahnen. (The 730d’s fuel usage is rated at 9.5 l/100 km.)

One explanation for the poorer showing was the amount of stop-and-go traffic encountered on the drive from Munich to Prague, which was far more than on the previous trip from Munich to Portorož.

We’ll have a complete review of the BMW 530d in an upcoming issue so stay tuned.

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