Having trouble interesting your teenager in a family vacation in Europe when he’d rather be tinkering with a car? Tell him about Stuttgart and plan to spend a couple of days there — the rest of the family will find plenty of diversions while he basks in automotive nirvana.
Not only is Stuttgart the home of two major manufacturers, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, but its suburb of Schorndorf is the birthplace of Gottlieb Daimler, inventor of the first fast-running gasoline engine, considered the father of the motor vehicle. Serious car-lovers begin at the small museum at his house (take the S2 line of the Stuttgart S-Bahn).
Most visitors, however, begin at the two manufacturers’ museums. The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart follows automotive history through more than 130 years, with 160 vehicles displayed in two circular tours. The audio-guide in English brings the displays to life, but the highlights are the cars themselves, shown in both historical order and by brand profile.
The Gallery of Names displays the Popemobile, Princess Diana’s red SL, the Grand Mercedes Type 770 owned by Japan’s Emperor Hirohito and the bus used by Germany’s national soccer team. In the “Silver Arrows – Races and Records” exhibit are simulators where your teen can experience firsthand what it’s like to drive a racing car. Admission is half price for students and free up to age 14.
Next to the company’s headquarters is the Porsche Museum, which shows the Porsche brand from its earliest days, with changing special exhibits on various themes. Audio guides in English add even more color to the 80-plus vehicles, pointing out highlights such as a new version of the Type 64, the first Porsche. Its design language — the Porsche DNA — lives on in every model even today.
There’s a section on Porsche’s racing history, and a highly popular interactive Porsche Touch Wall, where you can touch parts of the wall and hear the sound of the various engines, horns and brakes throughout the years. This and a special illustrated kids’ guide make this museum fun for younger siblings, too. The inexpensive guide called the “Kids Rallye” includes games, a maze, pictures, funny facts and other activities to engage youngsters in the museum. There is a special audio guide for younger visitors, as well.
To see how cars are made, reserve a free tour of the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant. This is no ordinary factory tour: You’ll see parts made in the press shop, get an up-close look at the fascinating shell construction system where more than 5,000 robots assemble and weld the bodies, then an even closer look at the final manual assembly process.
For total immersion, book a room at the new V8 Hotel, a 4-star hotel with classic-car theme rooms. Choose the scrapyard feel of the Nostalgia Room, or one themed as a vintage filling station, drive-in theater or Route 66, even a car wash. The V8 Hotel is located at Motorworld Region Stuttgart, a center for classic vehicles, sports cars and motorcycles with sales displays, workshops and themed exhibits.