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Road trip (Vienna)


philip42h
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We had a family wedding in Vienna last weekend. Back in the spring, when the invitations came out, it wasn't entirely clear whether we would actually be able to get there what with Covid, travel restrictions, airport chaos and flight cancellations so we decided to drive - book some cancellable hotels and a channel crossing nearer the date. And, anyway, it was a good excuse for a road trip in the RAV ...

The driving was spread across three days going out - mid Wales to Pas-de-Calais (Day 1), Pas-de-Calais across France to central Germany (Day 2), and central Germany to Vienna (Day 3) - and the same, reversed, coming back, giving a round trip distance of about 2,300 miles. We do the "mid Wales to Pas-de-Calais" leg reasonably often (Covid and travel restrictions aside) - it's not so far (only 340 miles) but it includes a channel crossing so takes most of a day. The "Pas-de-Calais  to central Germany" and "central Germany to Vienna" legs were around 700 km each and estimated as a 7hr drive by Google - the mid point in Germany was chosen to break the 1,400 km journey as evenly as possible!

The plan was to break each day's drive into four reasonably 'equal' sections - starting after breakfast and taking a break and swapping drivers at elevenses, lunch and tea - so that neither driver / passenger got excessively tired / bored on the way. And that approach worked pretty well in the main. Younger and more heroic RAVers may have taken a more "aggressive" strategy but we are retired ...

I'll add some specific observations in subsequent posts, but the bottom line is that the RAV is an excellent 'tool' for such a journey and a very comfortable place to be. Fuel consumption for the round trip was 45 mpg which isn't too bad at all considering that the target cruising speed for the Autoroutes / Autobahns was 120 kph ...

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Units: When we go to France I usually leave the car set to UK time and miles per hour - we've been doing that for a long time (especially in cars that didn't have the facility for change!). But since we were going to be there for a fortnight and would come across random speed limits I elected to set the infotainment system to Central European Time and the MID to kph (and km/litre). One side effect of this was that the odometer swapped to km (rather than miles) which made brim-to-brim fuel consumption calculations fractionally more difficult than they normally would be ... 🙂

Dynamic radar cruise control has to be the greatest invention since the automatic gearbox 👍 The aim was to set it to 120 kph - fast enough to make reasonable progress without causing excessive fuel consumption. Just set it, stay awake and steer! But it really came into it's own going through the road works (huge numbers in Germany) where the speed limit dropped to 100 kph, 80 kph, 60 kph and even 40 kph. Under these circumstances I just aimed at a lorry and followed - cruise set at 120 kph but following a 78 kph until we were clear of the 'obstruction'. You do have to 'understand' how the system works, be confident that it will slow you down appropriately and stay alert to deal with the 'unexpected' but it makes that sort of driving far more relaxing than it would be otherwise.

Two interesting asides:

  1. The set speed continues to adjust in increments of 5 - though now 5 kph at a time rather the 5 mph as we have in the UK. I liked the finer adjustment ...
  2. In the UK, the car will automatically speed up when you indicate right to pull out from behind a slower car to overtake. It does exactly the same time when you are driving on the right hand side of the road - which is just a tad irritating. I'd like a LHS / RHS setting to swap the behaviour appropriately or just for it not to do this at all - the accelerator works for this purpose anyway
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Motorways, Autoroutes and Autobahns: We all know what UK motorways are like so I needn't comment.

French autoroutes are glorious. OK, they are only two lane but the traffic is relatively light, the surfaces are good and it is easy to make relaxed progress. And you get to pay tolls but they are worth it. The speed limit is typically 130 kph and some drivers attempt to do such speeds downhill in cars that can't sustain the same speed going back up again but there are numpty drivers on all roads.

German autobahns are legendary and seem desperately in need to the upgrades that they are undergoing! So many roadworks! And so many lorries! There is a mix of two and three lane roads with speed limits typically 120 kph, 130 kph and truly unrestricted. Having an unrestricted outside lane occupied by a lorry doing 101 kph overtaking another at 99 kph is 'amusing' - yes they have numpty lorry racing there too! But, perhaps surprisingly, it all works reasonably well - the true autobahners that want to travel in excess of 150 kph (and maybe much more) seem to understand that they will get held up, drop back a respectful distance and give you a chance to get out of the way. I didn't experiment to find out what happens if you don't oblige ... 🙂

Petrol: We have E10 (SP95) and E5 (SP98); and it's the same in France. In Germany they add E5 (SP95) to the mix so you have a choice of the three. I was amazed to find no E10 In Austria - they have E5 (SP95) and E5 (SP98) which isn't an issue at all - E5 (SP95) will do just fine - but it was a surprise!

Fuel prices were 'interesting' and I know that you should avoid filling up at motorway service stations ... I bought fuel in the UK at £1.60 and £1.65 off the motorway. In Germany I bought fuel at a Raststation at £2.02 (and that wasn't the most expensive I saw!). On the way back I bought fuel off the motorway at £1.58. In France I bought fuel off the motorway at £1.34 before we set off and on the way back at a motorway service station, in the middle of the country with no competition for miles, for £1.30. Vive La France! (Obviously fuel over there is priced in €. I've used £1.00 = €1.15 as the average exchange rate for the period)

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Navigation: I used a three tier navigation strategy! 😁

  • The primary being Toyota's own built-in satnav
  • The secondary being Google Maps on my 'phone
  • The tertiary being a Road Atlas and "pace notes" - remember them?

Toyota's own proved faultless - both along the main roads and around Vienna. Google maps agreed (which was comforting) and gave better / earlier indication of what the next direction change would be, and a clearer indication (orange or red) that you were currently sitting in a traffic jam (though the other cars and lorries usually gave that away).

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MyT works just as well in France, Germany and Austria as it does in the UK - a bit patchy and with rather long delays. I was sitting in a hotel in the middle of Germany and Find My Car was telling me that the car was at a service station in France!

As things stand today, My T shows 53 'trips' out of the at least 60 'trips' that should have been recorded. Of significance it missed the journeys:

  • From Maidstone to Folkestone on the way out though it has us potting around the terminal in Folkestone
  • From Coquelles to our destination in France 

Though it does have the return journeys to Coquelles and from Folkestone ...

None of the steps could possibly be long enough to exceed the 2,000 waypoints limitation - the maximum 'trip' duration was under 2h30 and 150 miles and those show up (the missing trips are shorter in time and distance).

 

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And a little bit of "what worked and what didn't" ...

Towards the end of day 4, back in central Germany, we ran into a heavy storm. Visibility got to be very poor and I became concerned at one point that the radar couldn't see the Fiat 500 in front (I could only just). I chose to take back control and found a bigger target (which worked fine).

Day 5 started with a "broken co-pilot" - my wife awoke with "frozen" shoulder and couldn't use her right arm - which left me with 700 km / 7 hrs driving for the day. Fortunately I had only to 'escape' from Germany to get back onto the Autoroutes of France. I adapted the cruise rule to get up to 125 km - go faster to cover more distance in slightly less time. It worked wonderfully, we got the job done and I arrived reasonably relaxed. Previously we had averaged around 60 mph and returned 47-48 mpg; the 'go faster' strategy averaged 67 mph and 41 mpg. You pays your money etc. ...

Day 6 started with a fully packed boot and a Tyre Pressure Warning light as we set off for our booked channel crossing - which was a little disconcerting. The inflator was packed where it should be in the boot and under all our luggage. I could see that any tyre was particularly low; they all felt the same when I kicked them; the car didn't pull to one side or the other; and we had a check-in time to make - so we drove to Coquelles with the tyre pressure warning light lit. Back in the UK I pulled into a service station, found an air line and pumped all the tyres up to 36 psi (should be 33 psi cold so ??? ). The lowest was around 31 psi but they were all much of a muchness. The warning light went out and hasn't yet come back. Note to self to set all four tyres to exactly 33 psi cold and reset the TPWS.

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On 9/18/2022 at 4:40 PM, philip42h said:

In the UK, the car will automatically speed up when you indicate right to pull out from behind a slower car to overtake. It does exactly the same time when you are driving on the right hand side of the road

That sounds like a major defect; please do inform Toyota. 

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10 hours ago, Dippy said:

That sounds like a major defect; please do inform Toyota. 

It's not a defect as such - the car behaves exactly as specified. Before using any 'cruise control' system the driver really does need to read the handbook, understand how it works and be fully prepared to take back control as the need arises.

With traditional cruise control the car will happily drive into a slower car in front - the driver needs to ensure that does not happen!

With radar cruise control the car will adapt it's speed to follow a slower car in front. But if you change to an empty car, the system will recognise that there is no longer a vehicle in the way and resume the set speed. This takes a few seconds.

The "resume when you indicate right" feature is an attempt to optimise that - and works OK most of the time when in the UK but is clearly not so appropriate when driving on the continent. I guess that ideally a LHS / RHS setting would enable the car to adapt to the side of the road it is on - but that is probably overkill since most cars will travel abroad at best infrequently. I'd be happy to be able to switch the feature off, or even have it removed altogether, but it's perfectly workable as it is. After all, the driver doesn't have to use cruise control at all if they are not comfortable doing so.

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Having driven across Germany to Austria and elsewhere a number of times over the past 10 years or so, I can add a few more tips. Generally speaking Germans go on holiday by car so on summer weekends the autobahns will be heaving. When we left Austria this year (23rd July) the tailback of traffic heading into Austria was over 20 miles long…… You also need a motorway vignette BEFORE entering the country - which can be bought at service stations. HGV’s are banned from the roads on Sundays which has pro’s and con’s. This year getting into service stations or restplatz was quite a struggle, especially given we had the caravan behind the RAV! However notwithstanding the roadworks there is no doubt the German autobahn network makes our motorway system look very poor and inadequate. 

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1 hour ago, philip42h said:

The "resume when you indicate right" feature is an attempt to optimise that - and works OK most of the time when in the UK but is clearly not so appropriate when driving on the continent.

Which is why I call it a defect. A big comfy car in the uk should be expected to go to mainland Europe at times, and not have a feature that could cause a crash on the motorway. It might need a setting in the binnacle somewhere, as lights need a setting to change from one side to the other, but from what I understand (and maybe I understand wrong) it should be addressed as a safety issue. I guess most owners don’t read TOC etc and wouldn’t know about it. 

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58 minutes ago, Flatcoat said:

You also need a motorway vignette BEFORE entering the country - which can be bought at service stations.

Ah, yes! You can buy a digital vignette, online, before you set off to save a bit of hassle ... 👍... but only if you know to do so more than 18 days before entering Austria!!! 🙄 This is to do with the distance selling regulations which allow you to cancel the purchase for 18 days (apparently). We stopped in Suben - the first service station in Austria - and bough a 10-day digital vignette there.

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1 hour ago, Flatcoat said:

no doubt the German autobahn network makes our motorway system look very poor and inadequate

I suspect that depends on when you travel and the road conditions at the time. Our trip down to Folkestone on UK motorways was rather better than our experience on the German autobahns; and our trip home from Folkestone was rather worse than anything we experienced on the German autobahns. Admittedly that is a relatively small sample of journeys ... 😉

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19 minutes ago, Dippy said:

Which is why I call it a defect. A big comfy car in the uk should be expected to go to mainland Europe at times, and not have a feature that could cause a crash on the motorway. It might need a setting in the binnacle somewhere, as lights need a setting to change from one side to the other, but from what I understand (and maybe I understand wrong) it should be addressed as a safety issue. I guess most owners don’t read TOC etc and wouldn’t know about it. 

The only thing that "could cause a crash on the motorway" is the driver, and the driver has an obligation to understand how to drive his / her vehicle.

The LED lights don't dazzle so don't require any modification for driving on the right. But they do aim slightly to the left so a feature to adjust the lights to aim slightly to the right would be a good addition.

The sat nav knows when you cross an international border so an automatic feature to reconfigure the car - time zone, units, lights and radar cruise settings - would be wonderful ... though I'm not sure quite how many drivers would want to pay to have that fitted as standard?

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2 hours ago, Dippy said:

Which is why I call it a defect. A big comfy car in the uk should be expected to go to mainland Europe at times, and not have a feature that could cause a crash on the motorway. It might need a setting in the binnacle somewhere, as lights need a setting to change from one side to the other, but from what I understand (and maybe I understand wrong) it should be addressed as a safety issue. I guess most owners don’t read TOC etc and wouldn’t know about it. 

Maybe I don't understand as I've never driven with ACC abroad yet. But the way I understand it is when indicating right on a UK motorway/dual carriageway, you are driving slower than you want behind another vehicle. This gives a brief boost to account for the radar still tracking the vehicle in front until the manoeuvre is complete. It only seems very brief to me, until it get to the set speed or picks up a vehicle in the new lane.

If you were driving on the right I presume you would only indicate back into the right hand lane if there was no vehicle in front, or in the right hand lane? In which case, I'm not sure if it will speed up beyond the max set speed (which I'd presume the car is already traveling at), but if it does, it might feel a bit odd, but not necessarily a safety issue as the lane would likely have a lot of space to the next vehicle, otherwise you wouldn't want to be going into that lane? I suppose the exception would be if you were trying to get into the right hand lane in between traffic for a turn off, but I'd likely not be relying on ACC knowing I was making that manoeuvre.

I guess the lack of the temporary increase in speed when indicating left would also likely feel odd and be a bit of a delay over what you are used to but if the lane behind is clear to allow to pull out, again I wouldn't see it as a significant safety issue.

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The discussion about the indicator cruise control is a bit like mountains and mole hills…… In practice it’s the nut holding the wheel that is the most important safety feature….. Whatever flaws the RAV satnav has, it does recognise country boundaries and gives a summary of local driving laws when you cross a border. 

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23 hours ago, philip42h said:

The sat nav knows when you cross an international border so an automatic feature to reconfigure the car - time zone, units, lights and radar cruise settings - would be wonderful ... though I'm not sure quite how many drivers would want to pay to have that fitted as standard?

Our previous Kodiaq did exactly this, and it was a very nice feature I miss. Also flashed up a summary of the speed limits for different road types/conditions as you crossed a border. However, it wasn't perfect. ACC had a feature on that car which tried to prevent you undertaking. For some reason this functionality seemed to take 30 minutes or so to catch up after crossing into / out of UK - so you'd be trying to overtake, and it would decide you were going to undertake and start slowing the car down (a quick tap to the accelerator told it to get over itself). It would magically stop doing if after a little while, never did figure out what was going on with that.

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4 minutes ago, spicyhotone said:

flashed up a summary of the speed limits for different road types/conditions as you crossed a border

The RAV has this much too - it even tells you how much alcohol you can have in your blood stream!

But as you suggest, these 'smart' driver aids, while useful steps on the road to autonomous driving, can be a little too smart for their own good.

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Hey, interesting story and I do enjoy road travel as well! But have you considered also a cruise / ship travel considering that there are a lot of big ports and locations within EU zone? Even https://cruisedata.info/ships-rating/ best cruise ships now can cost a fraction of what they used to be priced a decade ago. Just want to hear your opinion on that. 

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