At first: The Legend.
The Transfăgărășan was earmarked as the highlight of the #ChasingStars road trip. But we wouldn’t be doing justice to the unbelievable 1,700 kilometre long journey from Graz to Bucharest if we judged it solely on the basis of this famous pass road. First things first: the legend. The G-Class. On the market since 1979 and for the most part still built the way it was 40 years ago. A tour of the factory reveals how much of the work on the body construction and in the upholstery shop is hand-finished, as well as the self-assurance and skill of the staff. Later, on the way up to the summit of the Schöckl – the testing and development route on the local mountain in Graz – the off-road vehicle can then show its strengths to the full and demonstrate why it is the best of its kind.
Graz: More than mere production site of the G.
Of course Graz is more than just a production site for the G-Class and a place for mad off-road experiences. The old part of the city is a Unesco world heritage site. The spectacular view over the city and the mountains is best enjoyed at sunset on the Schlossberg (Castle Hill) in the shade of the clock tower. On the whole, it is that detailed, romantic quality of Austria which sweetened the start of the road trip. We definitely didn’t want to take the shortest route to the Hungarian border, but drifted on as the mood took us.
Agility and off-road capability.
The new GLC 250 d 4MATIC Coupé was the ideal companion in our search for the extraordinary along the route to Bucharest. The sports coupé with the “G” genes unites dynamic agility on the pass roads with solid off-road capability for small trips off the beaten track, whilst also providing the driver with the relief necessary for relaxing travel on this long journey. All of this comes paired with the very best ergonomics and the most modern Intelligent Drive assistance systems.
And thus it was above all during the long trek across Hungary that the 204 PS diesel engine was pushed discreetly into the background by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. Instead, it was the COMAND Online infotainment together with the Burmester sound system that provided a real road trip feeling. Because nothing is more pleasant than just unwinding with your favourite playlist coming out of the speakers and inspiring your thoughts while foreign landscapes roll by.
And this is precisely the reason I prefer every road trip to flying: because this way, I’m really travelling and am not just suddenly “there”. You see something of the country, the change in vegetation, the architecture and above all the people. Just being able to stop any time, to be able to make contact with locals, listen to their stories, and to discover new things. For example, that wonderful clear but spicy interpretation of goulash soup at Lake Balaton, the nightlife in pulsating Budapest or the wonderfully restored Alba Carolina in Alba Iulia.
Pearls of the Transylvanian Alps.
However, the absolute highlight was not the picturesque towns on the tour but the Transalpina and the Transfăgărășan. These pearls of the Carpathian Mountains and the Transylvanian Alps are not just worth a trip on their own, the combination of the two will take your breath away. Starting from Alba Iulia, it takes a full day to complete the Transalpina and halfway along the route you drive into the Făgăraș mountains – at this point the route couldn’t be any more fantastic. Every kilometre that the strip of asphalt twists up towards its summit at 2,145 metres rewards you with even greater driving pleasure.
GLC 300 4MATIC Coupé: Fuel consumption combined: 7.8–7.5 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 177–169 g/km.*
Long curves, steep climbs.
Long curves, followed by snaking bends, and then steep climbs which alternate with light downhill slopes. But above all, there is next to no traffic. At the top, just below the cloud cover, you are rewarded with a view which just has to be seen. Being able to take the GLC Coupé on a detour off the beaten track and along the mountain ridge further intensifies the experience. Stopping off in one of the traditional shepherd huts where you can immerse yourself in the unadulterated culture of Romania whilst enjoying mutton goulash and polenta is definitely to be recommended.
The Transfăgărășan: Most beautiful bends.
The Transfăgărășan can no longer offer so much intimacy. It has possibly become a victim of its own fame, but a view from the summit on to the northern section is simply spectacular. It actually appears as if Nicolae Ceaușescu lined up the most beautiful bends of the world’s best racing circuits and put them here in the mountains. However, in order to really be able to enjoy the route, you need to be patient and wait until the tourist traffic starts returning in the direction of Bucharest. The end of the day, when you have the road all to yourself, is the perfect time to enjoy the DN7C – and it doesn’t matter if that means the route itself or this breathtakingly starry sky.
#ChasingStars? Oh yes. And we didn’t just chase them, we found them, too!
All statements in this article are personal opinions and impressions of the author and sometimes not of the Daimler AG.