Last month the GTspirit team embarked on a five day road trip from Stuttgart to Turin and back. Our second annual GTspirit Tour was organized in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz. The theme of this year’s GTspirit Tour was ‘Luxury in Motion Meets Luxury Lifestyle’.
Walking towards the central square at the Mercedes-Benz HQ in Stuttgart, we found an absolutely stunning line up of cars that couldn’t have possibly met our expectations any better, especially in regards to this year’s theme. We stepped up the game significantly compared to last year. We received the keys to no less than four V8 and two V12s compared to last years V6 and V8s. After getting familiar with the cars, we left Stuttgart for five action packed days on the road.
Day 1 – Stuttgart to Bludenz
Our day 1 destination was a resort located near Bludenz, Austria. The route to Austria consisted of a smooth autobahn drive with light traffic and great weather conditions. The perfect time to explore the abilities and functions of each car. To be precise, we were driving two V12 powered Mercedes Maybach S600s, two V8 powered Mercedes-Benz S500 Coupé and two V8 biturbo powered Mercedes SL63 AMG’s.
And not ‘just’ two SL63 AMG’s, no, these were two limited special editions co-designed by Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in honor of their 2014 championship. Just to give you an idea of how rare these cars actually are; of these two collector’s editions – the SL63 AMG Lewis Hamilton Silverstone Edition and the SL63 AMG Nico Rosberg Hockenheim Edition – only 19 units of each model were produced.
All cars were equipped with the distronic plus function, the innovative adaptive cruise control that comes standard with the more luxurious models of Mercedes-Benz. It features active lane assist, steering assist and pre-safe braking. In our opinion, it works amazingly well. Without having to touch a single button or the steering wheel for that matter, you can drive endless stretches of autobahn without having to worry about a single thing.
The car adjusts your speed automatically to keep safe distances between you and other traffic, brakes automatically and keeps your car in the desired lane at all times. The S500 Coupes and Maybachs were additionally equipped with a seat massage function that is capable of giving you six different types of massages. That’s right, a massage while you are driving. Air conditioned seats, a car perfume, heated mid-console and a Burmeister speaker system are
just a few other features that are just the tip of the iceberg of what these cars have to offer
in terms of luxury.
All combined you can take our word for it that driving a long stretch of Autobahn in luxury cars like these is nothing short of comfortable and amazing. Not much later, we crossed the border into Austria. Having cruised on the Autobahn for a few hours, it was exciting to drive up some curvy mountain roads. Before arriving at the wonderful Schillerkopf resort in Bürserberg, we enjoyed the scenic views over the valley of Bludenz while gazing at the warm sunset.
This was an ideal location for a photo-shoot, and a time to get the drone out for the first time to shoot some unique footage. It did not take long for the manager of the Schillerkopf resort to get notified of our arrival, so he drove down to welcome us personally. The luxury resort had anything we could wish for in addition to a comfortable good night sleep. Make sure to read our separate review of this resort that is both in winter and summer an excellent place to spend a couple of days.
Before dinner, we chose to explore the area and take in its breathtaking scenery. Especially
the SL63 AMG’s were perfectly in their element here, as they cruised up and down the curvy mountain roads with the roof down. Abandoned hunting houses, picturesque towns and even Austrian cows added to the ambiance and facilitated us with an excellent photo-shoot environment. After having enjoyed the scenery and exploring the area, the pack of roaring V8s and V12s made it back to the Schillerkopf resort for a delicious five course dinner.
Day 2 – Bludenz to Lecco
After a comfortable night sleep, it was time to get back on the road again. The team chose to split up in teams of two, which was more convenient in terms of driving. The SL63 team took a detour through the beautiful alpine landscapes near Chur, and the Maybach and S500 teams first stopped by the castle of Liechtenstein. The castle, pretty as ever in the glowing morning sun, formed a nice background for a first photo-shoot of the day.
After a smooth cruise on the Swiss A13 and a few stops along the way we made it to Splügen, just in time for lunch. Splügen is a small town near the border with Italy, you might know it if you have driven the Splügenpass. Of course, we ought to drive it as well – but beware of the local police. The first and only mountain pass on our journey to Italy and back, was supposed to be a beautiful route for the ‘Mercs’… Well, on paper at least. Nobody told us anything about the fog, rain and chilly temperatures that awaited us halfway through the pass.
We thought driving a ‘ship on wheels’ like the Maybach S600 up those tiny mountain roads was a challenge by itself; imagine doing it in these weather conditions. All went well though, except for the amazing views we were promised. Maybe next time! We stopped atop the Splügenpass for a brief 5 minutes, and quickly realized that the transition from 28 degrees Celsius to 9 degrees Celsius and heavy rain was not so smooth.
We got the much-wanted shots on the summit of the Splügenpass and continued into Italy. The fog and rain created a mystic atmosphere above Lago di Spluga, which definitely has its charms. Many hairpins and tunnels later, a part of the team went for lunch in the historical town of Chiavenna, which was one of the waypoints on our route. The route continued through the mountains, until all of a sudden the magical Lago di Como showed up on our right side – errr – Tunnels! Yes, many tunnels.
Having decided that driving the route along the lake is far from safe because of its average width, we had no choice but to take the tunnels of the SS36 expressway instead. And believe us, that’s not necessarily a downside when driving cars like these. After having enjoyed and made sure that other road users enjoyed the acoustics of the Mercedes soundtrack as well, we arrived in Lecco, all the way at the bottom of Lago di Como and checked into our hotel for the night.
Of course, dinner had to wait. We drove up to Bellagio and took in the scenery left and right, and arrived to conclude that Bellagio just about fits into the Bellagio in Vegas. Compact, picturesque and barely space for cars. We chose higher ground and found some breathtaking spots with a view over Lake Como, or George Clooney’s backyard pool if you wish ;-) The slippery hairpins were no challenge for the cars.
We wrapped up the day with some traditional Italian pizza and gelato in Lecco and got ready
for the next day – a short highway drive to Turin, the automotive capital of Italy.
Day 3 – Lecco – Turin
The third day was an early start for the GTspirit team, starting with a routine daily fill-up stop at the petrol station. Taking over a petrol station GTspirit-style, is not new to us. It didn’t take long for the cars to get noticed and we got ourselves quite a number of Italian fans in the early morning wanting to know everything about the cars.
Okay, you may not realize it much when driving with this group of cars for a while, but it must be quite the view for a bystander. And imagine the look on the face of the cashier assistant when saying you are paying for six thirsty beasts at once. Yes, priceless. Miles and smiles, that’s what a tour like this is all about.
Shortly after we got onto the A4, a notorious highway known for its average speed control checkpoints. A perfect opportunity to explore the distronic plus function, the adaptive cruise control of Mercedes-Benz. This made for quite an effortless and relaxing highway stroll into Turin, where the traffic is everything but relaxing. The meeting point was a carwash, where all the cars got their much-needed shower in order for them to appear nice and shiny at the Parco Valentino parade the next morning.
Yes, we represented Mercedes-Benz on the Parco Valentino parade, which was quite an experience and surprise arranged by our chief editor. But first, we had the opportunity to visit the Parco Valentino Salone set in the park with the same name. Some of the highlights of the show were the Pagani Zonda Revolucion, Ferrari FXXK and Lamborghini Aventador SV among others.
The once in a lifetime Pininfarina car display at the Castello del Valentino was without doubt the highlight of the day. There was an abundance of luxury and rare cars on display. To be precise, a collection like this has never been on display together, EVER.
After visiting the Parco Valentino show, the team went for yet another Pizza dinner. Little did they know of the surprise that awaited them afterwards. Castello del Valentino was just around the corner… The Pininfarina cars that were on display were leaving the courtyard… You probably can guess by now what we are getting at.
The team was in for quite the surprise, a private photo-shoot at Castello del Valentino. There are just no words for this. Take in and enjoy the content we created that night below. After a long, busy but memorable night at Castello del Valentino, it was time to find our hotel and call it a night. The hotel we stayed in is situated in the old Fiat factory in Turin, which was redeveloped some ten years ago. Cool or interesting does not cut it.
The atmosphere and design was just amazing. About eight meters distance to the ceiling, the real industrial look, all glass elevators and the famous FIAT test track on the roof. Yes, the old Fiat test track was once placed on top of the Fiat factory, how cool is that? Long story short, this was THE hotel for petrol heads to stay at. Having noticed the pack of Ferraris at the front door, we realized we weren’t the only ones with good taste. After a few Gin & Tonics, we called it a night.
Day 4 – Turin to Baveno
Day four – a big day that most team members had specially been looking forward to. The day started with a nice breakfast in the gigantic breakfast hall of the NH Lingotto Tech hotel in Turin. Unfortunately there was not enough time to really appreciate the beauty of the hotel and do its architectural heritage justice. This is because we arrived late the night before and were heading out early in the morning for another surprise at Castello del Valentino.
The second day in Turin was all about the grand parade through the city, in which we were representing Mercedes-Benz. We placed the Parco Valentino parade stickers on the cars the night before. Arriving at Parco Valentino, the starting point of the parade, we had plenty of time to appreciate all the cars that were participating in the drive.
The Glickenhaus Ferrari P4/5 was the center of attention among hundreds of rare exotics. Mercedes-Benz was the last group of cars to leave for the parade, just behind the group of Pagani, who included the parade as part of their annual Vanishing Point owners rally. The 16 kilometer long parade, passing through some of the historical highlights in Turin would lead us to Palazzo Reale.
The moment we had been waiting for had finally arrived. The first group of cars, Ferrari, left the park and the parade was officially started. Wondering why the Paganis had not arrived yet, the first drops of rain started falling down the sky. Why, why now? All of a sudden there was this sound, or sounds we might add. Echoing through the Turin streets a pack of Paganis popped up. Yes, it was unmistakably that Zonda sound that we recognized from far away.
Before we knew, they were gone again. What do you mean parade schedule? It was raining and apparently they did not feel like sitting in it and waiting for their turn to drive the parade towards the royal palace. And you know what, who could blame them.
As disappointing it may have been for a part of the crowd that was not standing on the roadside at the time, the parade went on like nothing changed. We feared that the weather would severely affect the experience and would keep the people away from visiting the parade. Well, this is something you won’t have to worry about in a city that has oil running through its veins. Wow, what a turnout! Despite the weather, there was an amazing crowd along the 16-kilometer route.
People waving at you everywhere in the pouring rain was truly an unbelievable experience. It didn’t take long for the parade to be over, and we arrived at the royal palace in style with a police escort of course. Before we could park we passed the beautiful palace gardens. Shortly after we were able to park the cars in the palace’s garden, where all the other cars were parked up as well.
All those cars and the palace being in the background of it all, was nothing short of breathtaking. In a huge hall of the palace a large lunch was waiting for us. We had our own table and there were plenty of exquisite Italian specialties for us to enjoy. Barely having been able to finish lunch, the news arrived that a Pagani arrived outside the palace. Having assumed that the Paganis moved on with the Vanishing Point rally right after the parade, we didn’t count on them being here at the palace.
Going out to see what the fuss was all about, we saw a beautiful Pagani Huayra La Monza Lisa approaching. Just wow, check out the pictures and see for yourself. In the meantime it had stopped raining and we decided to check out the front of the palace.
Walking through a beautiful corridor we couldn’t believe our eyes as soon as we looked down the square at the front of the palace. ALL the pagani’s taking part in the Vanishing Point rally were neatly lined up around the square and its complimenting fountains. The rest was history… From the ’99 Zonda C12 driven there by Horacio Pagani himself to the Zonda LM Roadsters and Pagani Huayras. It seemed like the surprises on this tour were never ending.
It was hard to say goodbye to all the automotive beauty at the Palazzo Reale in Turin, but it was time to move on to our next stop during the tour. Our next stop was in Baveno, situated on the beautiful Lago Maggiore. We stayed at the luxurious Hotel Splendid, that is located so close to the lake that it has its own private beach. Now how cool is that?
We didn’t let the somewhat chilly temperatures spoil our fun and went for a swim in the crystal clear lake, to warm up again later in the spa and wellness area of the hotel. The hotel is equipped with a Finnish sauna, steam cabin and Jacuzzi. The spa area was just perfect to relax and slightly recover from a busy and from time to time stressful day.
To finish off the day, we had a mouthwatering three-course dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, with a nice view over the lake and the impressive mountain range in the background. Of course before bedtime, we could not resist ordering a few G&T’s and take care of some unfinished business. By unfinished business meaning an award to be awarded to the person that really carried the ‘GT spirit’ during our trip.
My valued co-worker Zaid Hamid had the honor of receiving this award. We are sure to remember the times seeing him drive by, gold watch on the door edge, wearing shiny shades, and of course, with the roof down. Besides this year’s theme award, we also had an award for the unluckiest guy of the trip – Rico who was covered in mosquito bites so big he looked like he got beaten up. Confident to continue the trend of organizing an annual GTspirit tour and the award ceremony, the last full GTspirit tour day came to an end.
Day 5 – Baveno – Stuttgart
On the last day of the GTspirit tour, a reasonable drive back to Stuttgart awaited us. The drive would take us along Lago Maggiore into Switzerland, passing through the Gotthard tunnel towards the North of Switzerland, from there Stuttgart isn’t particularly far. Despite being sad to leave the always-beautiful Italy, the fact that the sun came out to accompany us during a beautiful scenic drive along Lago Maggiore completely made up for it.
After filling up all the cars at the local petrol station in Baveno, it was time to move on. Traffic does get congested from time to time at the Gotthard tunnel, we took the shortest time possible to pass through. After having passed the Gotthard Tunnel we stopped for a quick lunch near Schwyz, in the heart of Switzerland. Afterwards, we made our way towards Germany without any problems. Just a short highway blast to Stuttgart remained.
This may sound boring, but it’s not ‘just’ an autobahn we are talking about. It is the notorious A81, which is frequently used by Mercedes-Benz and Porsche to test their cars. Sadly our last part of the journey was overshadowed with rain.
After an hour or two on the autobahn, the team arrived back at the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart at sunrise. It was hard to say goodbye to the amazing machines that we were blessed with during the GTspirit tour this year.
At this point I would like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank Mercedes-Benz for providing the cars for this year’s GTspirit tour. We would also like to thank the organization of Parco Valentino for giving us the opportunity to take part in the parade. Last but not least we would like to thank our readers and fans for showing great support throughout our journey.
Next year GTspirit celebrates its 10th anniversary and we will do everything in our power to make it even more spectacular!