Planning a 24-hour journey across the continent might not sound like fun, unless you intend to drive a BMW 7 Series. Add the prospect of a world record for ‘most countries visited by car in a day’ and you have all the ingredients of the road trip of a lifetime.
That was what journalist Simon Heptinstall and photographer Adrian Sherratt set out to achieve in a BMW 745i this summer. Amazingly, their epic journey took them through a record-breaking 12 countries in just 19 hours 40 minutes – a feat thought to be unparalleled in the history of motoring.
Beginning in Folkestone the pair drove their BMW 745i through France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy and Slovenia before finally ending their journey in Croatia. And although they covered a massive 1,145 miles, their record-breaking journey still left them with more than four hours to spare, according to the summer edition of BMW Magazine.
Simon Heptinstall said: "Forget the backpacker’s view of travel that dominates guidebooks, this is the only way to do it, by luxury limousine. I’d been working towards this project for years, starting with a trip across six countries on my own, then through 10 countries in a day for a feature for The Times three years ago. But that trip was beset with problems including map reading disasters, alpine blizzards and even a head-on collision with a mountain fox.
"This time I was convinced that 12 countries were possible with careful planning, a good co-driver and a superb transcontinental cruiser like the BMW 745i. The car was so luxurious that when we stopped for a break, we realised we were actually more comfortable and rested in the BMW.’
"On arrival in Croatia we were greeted as if we’d conquered Everest. My only reservation was a nagging thought that in those four remaining hours we could have driven across Croatia and reached Bosnia, adding country number 13 to the tally."
Anyone planning to replicate the duo’s epic journey, or attempting to break the unofficial record, will find a BMW 745i the perfect vehicle. Its 4.5-litre V8 engine makes light work of the motorway – and autobahn – with maximum power of 333 bhp, and a (limited) top speed of 155 mph.
Satellite navigation takes the pressure off route planning, providing on-screen guidance throughout, while air conditioning keeps passengers cool even in the worst Zurich traffic jams. Fully electric Nasca leather seats and Dynamic Drive, which virtually eliminates body roll in corners, bathe passengers in comfort and luxury, mastering the sharpest of Croatian hairpins.
The journey needn’t break the bank either. With combined fuel consumption figures of 25.9 miles per gallon (34 on the motorway) and fuel tank capacity of 19.4 gallons, the 1,145 mile trip could be completed on little more than two tanks of petrol.Published 19 August 2003