From the January 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
London is a tourist’s delight, but we aren’t just any old travelers. Send the rest of the family on the “Palaces and Parliament” walking tour. We’re going to drive.
Located on the North Circular orbital road in Wembley, the Ace became a popular hangout in the ’50s and ’60s for youthful motorcycle gangs (think the Who’s Quadrophenia). Motorcycles congregate there, but cars are welcome too. The Ace does a superb breakfast; order the bubble and squeak.
Next to the Tower of London, this neo-Gothic Victorian suspension bridge is one of the few places where vehicles can cross the river Thames without paying the congestion charge. It is often gridlocked, but the views from the queues are spectacular.
London is a terrible place to drive, but it has plenty of exotics. Go car spotting in the Knightsbridge area around the pricey Harrods department store. For window shopping, visit Jack Barclay Bentley nearby.
All of London’s 20,000 or so licensed taxi drivers have passed a test called The Knowledge, which requires them to memorize the city’s layout. Every cabby can tell you 221B Baker Street doesn’t exist.
Head to the ‘burbs to scope out a collection of Formula 1 cars or drive a modern AMG on the original Brooklands circuit. Across the way is the Brooklands Museum.
1. A40 Westway: Once officially known as London’s autobahn, this elevated multilane highway was formerly the site of night races. Nowadays, speed cameras police its 30-mph limit 24 hours a day, but you can easily imagine the illicit thrills as you cruise.
2. Mini Safari: Small Car Big City rents original Minis fitted with rally lights, racing stripes, and paint schemes inspired by the ones in The Italian Job. Dinky dimensions make the cars easy to maneuver, particularly for those not used to driving on the left side of the road.
3. London Transport Museum: London’s famous double-decker buses, traditional black-cab taxis, and Tube trains are celebrated in this centrally located museum near Covent Garden. Do you think calling London’s subway the Tube was decided at a pub?
4. Tunnels: The so-called tunnel run is a modern London gearhead tradition. Here, motorists brave numerous speed cameras and race through the Blackwall and Limehouse Link tunnels, which echo with wonderful noises on Friday and Saturday nights.
Inner London is an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), meaning drivers operating noncompliant cars must pay a roughly $15 daily tariff. Anything produced since 2016 should be exempt, even the scuzziest rental car. Within the ULEZ is a congestion-charge zone, where all drivers pay a daily fee of about $18.
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