Europe's new Iron Lady

  @FortuneMagazine July 25, 2013: 7:28 AM ET
MER22 angela merkel

President Obama visited Merkel at the postmodern Chancellery building in Berlin in June.


I'm strapped low inside Mercedes-Benz's new all-electric SLS AMG sports car one warm afternoon in Berlin, gripping the hand-stitched, butter-soft leather seats, when the driver, Martin Zillgen, a company engineer, asks, "I go fast now, ja?" Ja, I answer. As my stomach lurches into my rib cage, we roar up Karl Marx Avenue, the trees and sidewalk flashing by in a blur, while Zillgen explains that this hunk of technological wizardry, which retails for about $500,000, takes 3.9 seconds to go from zero to 60 miles per hour, and just a few seconds more to reach 100. "We have seven preorders already," he boasts as we round the bend and purr back toward the commercial hub of Alexanderplatz. "Everything in the car is made in Germany, and a lot of it is handmade."

There are few better ways to gauge Germany's unique place in history, past and present, than to take a spin in one of its latest engineering marvels up a street named for the founding father of Communism, where Soviet tanks shot dead dozens of unarmed protesters in 1953. Sixty years later, both Germany's era of Nazi dictatorship and the Cold War that followed are fading from consciousness. Berlin is now the pulsating heart of Germany and home to the single most critical person in resolving Europe's economic crisis: German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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