I have been fortunate in that I have traveled all over the world on many occassions, both for business and for pleasure; I am happy to say that my first ED experience was incredible, and was one of the best trips of my life.
THE DELIVERY. I arrived at the delivery center at about 8:30 am on a Monday, and was surprised to see I was not the first one there. Evidently, this was a very busy delivery day. I met up with a few Bimmerfesters, had a bite, and after about an hour and a half, I was taken to my car after filling out the necessary paperwork. The Manager of the Center, Chris (Christian?) was to be my guy. He was very nice, but frankly, it did not seem like he was thrilled to be doing lowly deliveries due to the heavy volume on this day; he was the head of this place, and he was beyond this task. He gave me brief, but friendly explanation of things, and I think both of us were content to make this a relatively quick experience. We took a few pics and I was on my way.
THE CAR. 545i Jet Black/Tan,Sports Package,NAV,Logic7,Comfort Seats,Cold Weather Package,Steptronic,Satellite Radio....
I currently drive a 2002 M3 SMG convertible. I have always owned sports/sporty cars and almost exclusively convertibles (Porsche,Mercedes,BMW). Also, almost exclusively manual transmissions. This is the first four-door car I have ever purchased. So my concern was performance and lack of a convertible.
All I can say is....WOW!! What a gorgeous car. I love my color combo; I think the e60 looks fantastic in black. I also love the interior in beige. So, I'll have to work a little harder on maintaining it, ok; I can live with that. The comfort seats are incredible; by far, the nicest, most comfortable seats I have ever experienced in a car. This was my first experience with i-drive, and I think it is great. Maybe they have made significant improvements to i-drive over the past couple of years, but I find it very user friendly and easy to use. Is it the level of incredible design and functionality of my ipod or my BlackBerry 7100? No. But I like i-drive a lot; and it will only get better with time....The Logic7 system is the best stock audio I have ever seen/heard.....The NAV is far superior to my existing cd-rom Nav in my M3; it is hard to imagine doing the trip I did without it, since I was traveling alone.
DRIVING. The hardest thing about driving was that, as you know, during the break-in period, you shouldn't go above 4,000 rpms or so. I stayed pretty true to this, though I did not limit my speed to 100 mph, as advised. The autobahn is incredible; the first day, I was up to about 130, and the car was incredible. Unfortunately, for the duration of the trip, about 1200 miles total, I stayed out of sport mode (when normally I would be in sport mode the entire time), because it would send the rpms too high when I gassed it. So, while the car performed incredibly, I couldn't really hit it hard - I can not wait to push it when I get it back!!....This car is as nice a driving car as I have ever driven; on the Autobahn, on twisties, in town; just beautiful....
THE DRIVE. I drove from MUNICH to SALZBURG to FUSSEN (Neuschwantstein Castle), to BELLAGIO, to ANNECY, to LYON, to BEAUNE (BURGUNDY REGION), to PARIS.This was my first time driving on the autobahn, and it is beautiful. Definitely the most enjoyable highway driving of my life, with some beautiful secenery on the way to Salzburg and to the castles. Coming back here and driving has been painful. The roads in France were also excellent; and in Italy, it felt a bit more like home.
The HIGHLIGHTS of my drive were driving from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden, where Hitler's summer compound was, and driving around the mountains there; beautiful scenery and twisty roads. Driving through SWITZERLAND was incredible; specatacular mountain scenery and winding roads and passes. Driving through BURGUNDY; this wine region in France is beautiful, pastoral, and peppered with quaint little towns. Lake COMO is spectacular, but driving there is a nightmare (see below)
The LOWLIGHT of the drive: driving from LECCO to BELLAGIO. WARNING!!!!!!: Driving around Lake Como is treacherous. I consider myself a good driver, but I was not comfortable driving my new (relatively big) baby here. You are on roads that have room for about one and a half car widths, and somehow, this is a two way road. I am pleasantly surprised I made it out of there without a scratch. There are some ferries you can take to minimize exposure to the worst of the roads, but it is likely you will have some challenges. I am serious: IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING GOING TO LAKE COMO, DO YOUR HOMEWORK, AND BE PREPARED FOR BEAUTIFUL, BUT VERY HAIRY ROADS. I would not return with my own car.
THE TRIP. Brief comments from a somewhat spoiled, somewhat impatient, single, jaded traveler.....I had high expectations for MUNICH; and while the city was nice, I was not blown away; two days was perfect. I did not like the food in Munich at all, but I did discover a great, cool Thai restaurant called YUM; I highly recommend it as a break from sausage and beer halls. THE MERIDIEN was fine, but I did not like the location, a bit sleazy, and this a four-star hotel, not a five -star, as advertised.....SALZBURG is a nice little town in pretty setting; but there is not a lot going on, and one day was plenty. I stayed at The Sacher, which was excellent.....NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE and HOHENSCHWANGAU are cool, but a quick stop was enough for me.....BELLAGIO is beautiful, but there is nothing there; it is a tiny town, with little to do, I had planned on staying 3 nights, and left after one night. If I was with my girlfriend, Bellagio and LAKE COMO would have been more enjoyable; incredible natural beauty. Frankly, though I love Italians generally, I did not like the people here at all......ANNECY is a great little city with a charming little old section and a beautiful lake in the French Alps; I would highly recommend a day or two here.......LYON is a fantastic city without the attitude of PARIS. I stayed in one of my favorite hotels in the world, The Cours Des Loges; trust me, an incredibly cool place. If you are into good food, Lyon is incredible; bring your appetite. Two or three days here is perfect.....BURGUNDY is beautiful, though I wasn't crazy about the capital where I stayed, BEANE, just a bit quiet for me. If you are into wine and you are a couple, I highly recommend a couple of days or so here.....PARIS. I stayed in a great little hotel called The Artus, which I highly recommend if you are looking for a cool small hotel in St. Germain. I have always loved Paris, and I still do; incredible. Incidentally, I found the French, in general, to be far more friendly than the Germans, Austrians, and Northern Italians I encountered, though this may be partially due to the fact that I speak some french.
SUMMARY. An incredible experience. I can"t wait to do it again. Thanks to everyone on this board for all of their help and insight. Thanks again to Bee.