Road warrior

The Garage Long term diaries


For driving enthusiasts, the promise of a good road is all that’s needed to load up the car

The S1 goes mountain climbing in Victoria’s Alpine region


Australia is a big place, yet the world itself is getting much smaller. International travel has never been cheaper, and we’re jetting overseas at an increasing rate – which is fantastic – but how many of us have truly explored our own country, our own state?

For driving enthusiasts, the promise of a good road is all the excuse needed to load up the car, and good roads is one thing the Victorian Alps has in strong supply. The Great Alpine Road is one of Australia’s most spectacular drives, but there are a number of roads in the region that appear, on Google Maps at least, to offer plenty of driving entertainment.

One of these is the C543, which winds its way south-east from Wodonga to Omeo and resembles a seismologist’s graph in an earthquake for much of its 182km length. The full extent of its twistiness is revealed in Google’s 3h15min predicted travel time – an average speed of just 56km/h.

Surely with all-wheel drive and 170kW/370Nm we can better that?

The journey originates during last month’s trip to Winton, and begins badly when on autopilot I start heading towards Heathcote on the Calder Freeway rather than towards Benalla on the Hume – time to take a break from performance testing I think… I tell shooter Alex Rae it’s all part of my plan to thoroughly test the S1’s fuel range, and we roll into Benalla with the gauge showing beyond zero. Skill and judgement, as my dad always says. The S1 takes 47.15L into its 45L tank.

Hot laps at Winton complete, it’s a short hop to our overnight halt at A h j Wodonga. An early start the next morning quickly puts us on the C537, which links with the C543 50km down the road. The sky is a clear blue and in the morning light the scenery is stunning, the road meandering through huge valleys.

The driving is undemanding, which gives Rae and I time to tackle the big issues that invariably raise their head on road trips. Problems like Fleetwood Mac’s incorrect assertion that thunder only happens when it’s raining, or thinking up an international symbol for idiots who fail to realise they haven’t reattached their fuel cap and now have it flapping behind them at 110km/h.

Our mindless meanderings are interrupted by a quick ascent and descent, with some decent corners tackled in third and fourth gear, before a right turn puts us on the C543, also known as the Omeo Highway. The town of Mitta Mitta comes and goes and the road begins to get serious, winding its way through a canyon in a series of cambered left-right switchbacks.

Fast, flat sweepers become progressively tighter as the road climbs steeply, before opening out again on the downhill run with blind crests aplenty. It’s at this point fatigue begins to set in as there’s been almost 100km of constant corners.

Concentration needs to remain high, however, as the tarmac narrows significantly for the next 30km.

Thankfully, the town of Omeo offers a chance for both car and driver to refuel and, if you’ve made good time, the opportunity to push on to the east coast for lunch via the awesome B500. But that’s another road for another time. – SN


fi ve


Corners, corners and more corners


Tight bends are a bit frustrating in the S1

MOMENT favourite

The winning combination of stunning scenery and fantastic roads