The Need for Speed: My Most Memorable Runs to Triple-Digit MPH


2 hundred miles an hour in a automobile. For civilians, and even most automotive journalists, that’s a bucket-list achievement.

I’m not speaking scorching laps on a racetrack, both, although repeatedly hitting 181 mph on the bowl at Daytona in an Audi R8 just a few years again was a spotlight. As was that point I took a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse to 210 mph at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien check monitor—with the roof off.

I’m speaking sustained pace. On actual roads.

Germany is the place. Excessive-speed cruising remains to be authorized there, although for the way for much longer I don’t know. Rather more of the autobahn community is pace restricted than it was 30 years in the past, and ruthlessly policed. Swarms of heavy vans clog the busiest routes. However going quick in Germany has at all times been about discovering the proper second. In the proper automobile.

Listed below are just a few of the automobiles and moments I’ll at all times keep in mind. (Editor’s observe: Please don’t try this on American freeways.)

Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon

I’d picked up the Volvo from Frankfurt Airport in March 1986 as a part of an Australian press journey that might see us drive right down to Monza, Italy, for a spherical of the European Touring Automobile Championship. Instantly, the large, boxy wagon stunned and delighted with its capability to cruise, as typically because the visitors would enable, at an indicated 210 kph (130 mph), which steered it was fortunately working at near its claimed prime pace of 124 mph.

It stunned the locals, too: I had a whole lot of hassle clearing Mercedes-Benzes from the quick lane on the run right down to Munich. Few Benz drivers appeared ready to just accept they have been about to be handed by a Volvo, not to mention a Volvo wagon. It took a number of well mannered flashes of the headlights to get them to maneuver over, after which, as a rule, because the brick-like 740 slid previous, the stunned sidelong look was adopted by some decided urgent on, a three-pointed star glinting within the Volvo’s rearview mirror till their focus waned they usually dropped again into the gap.

I nonetheless vividly recall the second I flashed, at properly over 100 mph, previous a white-and-green BMW cruising in the proper lane, two German cops inside, the chilly dread rising till I noticed: I’m on an unrestricted autobahn. That is authorized!

I laughed out loud. And I used to be hooked. The necessity for pace…

BMW M5 (E28)

I wasn’t blown away by the E30 BMW M3 the primary time I drove it. Even at present, I a lot want the six-cylinder E36 mannequin, which I feel is a extra rounded and completed piece of labor. Wanting again, although, I feel one of many causes the E30 M3 has at all times left me a bit chilly is that, instantly after my first drive in a single, I slid behind the wheel of an E28 BMW M5.

Even on that September day in 1986 the E28 M5 regarded stiff and starchy, upright and angular, barely old style. However stuffed into the engine bay was a 3.5-liter, twin-cam, 24-valve straight-six lifted, with solely a handful of modifications, straight out of a supercar—BMW’s sensible M1, to be exact. It produced 282 hp at 6,500 rpm, extra energy than the V-Eight in a Ferrari 328, and 251 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm.

I had been cruising at 100–110 mph, browsing the ebb and circulate of the visitors on the autobahn between Salzburg and Munich, the M5 as relaxed and environment friendly a gran turismo as I’d ever skilled, when the highway forward all of a sudden cleared. I dropped again to fourth gear and punched the fuel.

The M5 sprung ahead as that marvelous race-bred engine howled and yowled to six,500 rpm. I grabbed fifth, cautious to not rush the longish throw, and buried my foot as soon as extra. The surge of acceleration continued because the revs constructed. Speedo, tach. Tach, speedo. My eyes flickered backwards and forwards as I questioned the place this intoxicating rush would finish.

There! 6,500 rpm.

It was the primary time I’d ever taken a automobile to 150 mph—152 mph, in reality. And to today the E28 BMW M5, the unique four-door supercar, stays the one automobile through which I’ve ever hit peak revs in prime gear. On the highway.

Volkswagen Golf R

It’s early on a glowing Saturday morning in March 2018 as I roll out of the Hilton Munich Airport. I’ve 700 miles to cowl at present, and I couldn’t be happier. No emails, no conferences; simply me and the highway, an excellent half of the gap on the autobahn.

I’m driving a Volkswagen Golf R, a European-spec guide, which implies it packs the 306-hp model of VW’s versatile EA288 turbocharged four-banger beneath the hood as a substitute of the 292-hp model bought within the U.S. It’s, as I’m about to study, a stealth supercar.

I shortly settle right down to a 120-mph cruise. Brisk physique motions make you conscious you’re in a smallish automobile with a shortish wheelbase, however the Golf R doesn’t really feel out of its depth within the left lane. The largest drawback is drivers of Benzes and BMWs who refuse to consider the Golf looming up behind them is touring a lot quicker than they’re.

Someplace west of Nuremberg, I shut in on an E-Class loafing alongside at 100 mph. I see the eyes flicker within the Benz’s rearview mirror and watch for the inevitable surge of acceleration. I keep proper with him, and certain sufficient, after a minute or so, he eases the E-Class to the proper.



I punch the fuel laborious. With exceptional linearity, the curiously syncopated exhaust observe booms louder as pace builds. The tach needle swings into the purple zone as I seize sixth gear. I look down on the speedo and grin. I’ve simply turned into prime gear at 140 mph. In a Golf!

I noticed an indicated 160 mph on that stretch, sufficient to counsel the Golf R was closing on its electronically restricted most of 155 mph, and all of a sudden I needed it was a DSG with the non-compulsory Efficiency Pack. That automobile will do 166 mph, making it about as quick as a Lamborghini Miura.

Miura pace in a Golf? That’s a bucket-list merchandise, proper there.

Cadillac XLR-V

Nobody handed us on the autobahn that late summer season’s day in 2007. Not the silver-haired man within the massive, black Audi S8 with Wuppertal plates. Nor the man within the E46 M3 who tried to run with us close to Nuremberg. And one of the best the man within the AMG Benz might handle was a chilly, laborious stare as we blew by close to Mainz. They couldn’t sustain. The Cadillac was just too quick.

That’s proper, a Cadillac. A Cadillac XLR-V, in reality, the origami roadster with an influence folding laborious prime constructed on Corvette mechanicals and powered by a 443-hp, 4.4-liter supercharged Northstar V-8. This XLR-V was particular, although: I’d requested for the 155-mph digital pace limiter to be disabled. Then Cadillac boss Jim Taylor, bless him, had agreed.

We bought loads of stares, and quite a lot of thumbs up as we cruised within the visitors at 100 mph. And when, because the visitors thinned, I upped the ante, I discovered the XLR-V’s pure gait to be between 135 mph and 140 mph, the supercharged Northstar turning restrained 2,800 rpm to three,000 rpm within the moonshot sixth gear of the GM 6L80 computerized. The Caddy felt as relaxed and secure at these speeds as an SL Mercedes, although with much more wind noise.




Lastly, the autobahn runs empty, flat, straight forward. Third gear peaks at an indicated 124 mph, fourth pegs the analog speedo at its 160-mph restrict. However the head-up show remains to be ticking off the increments. 163 … 164 … 165 … The transmission slips into fifth, and the increments tick extra slowly now. 169 … 170 … 171 … That’s it. Gasoline pedal pinned, Eaton blower gulping air, the Northstar V-Eight giving its all. 171 mph.

It was the primary time I’d ever pushed an American automobile that quick. But it surely wouldn’t be the final.

Dodge Challenger SRT8

Summer time 2008: We cross the border from France into Germany, and the A4 autoroute turns into the A6 autobahn, and I give the Dodge Challenger SRT8 its head. The 6.1-liter Hemi harrumphs like a giant ol’ grizzly bear clearing its throat on the shift from third to fourth at 118 mph. We see an indicated 157 mph on one stretch, storming previous the Audis and BMWs and canter alongside at 120 mph the place we are able to.

I can really feel the Mercedes DNA buried deep within the Challenger’s chassis. Excessive-speed stability is spectacular, the large coupe merely sashaying mildly as we hit a big truck’s aero wash halfway by a flip at 138 mph, and the steering weighting stays properly constant as pace builds.

I’d been informed the Challenger will hit nearly 180 mph, however Germany’s climate takes a flip for the more severe, and rain stops play. We cross over the Alps and into to Italy, to the quiet stretch of speed-camera-free autostrada the place a colleague repeatedly exams Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

We prerun the highway and discover solely the lightest sprinkle of automobiles and vans. Time to get severe. The large Dodge surges to 140 mph, then 150. The climb previous 160 mph takes just a few heartbeats longer.



Photographer Brian Vance is within the again seat, digicam skilled on the digital readout on the backside of the dial. 161 … click on …163 … click on … 165 … click on … 168 … click on. There is no such thing as a lightness within the steering, no harmonic pace wobble or front-end elevate to point instability. 171 … click on … 173 … click on …and the readout begins flickering between 172 and 173 because the physics attain equilibrium. That’s it. I elevate barely, and the Challenger arrows by a delicate sweeper at 160 mph, rock regular all the way in which.

Not that way back, in the event you had needed to go this quick in an American automobile, you wanted a Corvette or Viper. However I’m in a giant, snug coupe with a roomy trunk.

That’s progress.

Nissan GT-R NISMO

The autobahn south of Berlin is sort of empty. I scan the highway forward, far into the gap, and let the Nissan GT-R NISMO run as quick as visitors and topography enable. The third R35 Skyline to hold the storied NISMO badge, it’s sharper and extra centered than any Skyline this facet of the GT3 race automobile. However that’s not what’s impressing me proper now. I’m impressed by how civilized it feels.

Earlier, in stop-and-go visitors on less-than-perfect Berlin roads I’d been delighted to find the dual-clutch transmission not feels like a bucket of bolts in a cement mixer because it shuffles the ratios in computerized mode. And the experience high quality—with the suspension set in Consolation mode—was greater than acceptable for a automobile on 20-inch, low-profile run-flat tires.

However now, because the GT-R NISMO cruises at a relaxed 130 mph to 160 mph vary, monitoring true on the straights with minimal steering inputs, and feeling resolutely planted by the lengthy sweepers, I’m considering how straightforward it might be on this automobile to pack a 1,000-mile, transcontinental stint right into a single day.

The engine makes the identical 600 hp at 6,800 rpm and 486 lb-ft from 3,600 rpm to five,600 rpm as within the earlier GT-R NISMO. But it surely feels livelier than earlier than. New turbochargers lifted straight from Nissan’s GT3 GT-R race automobile have thinner turbine vanes, which implies a 24 % discount in inertia and a 20 % enchancment in engine response from zero to wide-open throttle.

I really feel it when, as I exit a sweeper at 160 mph or so, I squeeze the throttle and the GT-R NISMO effortlessly surges to an indicated 309 kph (192 mph) and remains to be pulling strongly once I elevate for visitors within the far distance. The unique R35 GT-R used to really feel prefer it was working out of breath above 120 mph. Not this one.

Bentley Continental Flying Spur

Suppose 200 mph in a highway automobile, and also you’ll invariably consider some shrieking, low-slung Italian unique; all noise and carbon fiber; all edge and sweaty palms. But right here I’m, arrowing alongside the M92 towards Munich in a 5,456-pound luxurious limousine with leather-based on the roof lining, burr walnut on the sprint, and Mozart tinkling on the CD participant. At near the double century.

Immediately I perceive precisely what the Bentley Continental Flying Spur is all about. There is no such thing as a quicker, extra snug means of crossing a continent this facet of a personal jet.

Whereas German manufacturers caught to the gentleman’s settlement that restricted their automobiles to 155 mph, the Flying Spur was free to run as quick because it might. To 195 mph, in reality, making it simply the quickest sedan on this planet on the time. Although then-engineering chief Ulrich Eichhorn later informed me this was a conservative quantity.

As I enable the 551-hp, twin-turbo, 6.0-liter W-12 to run all the way in which to the redline by the gears, the Flying Spur surges on the horizon like an airliner on takeoff. It’s not as silky as different 12-cylinder engines, buzzing again by the steering wheel rim above 5,000 rpm, however aside from that the loudest noise you hear above 150 mph is a distant wind roar, like in a Boeing 747 cruising at 36,000 toes.



The steadiness is unbelievable. Whereas many quick automobiles begin to really feel flighty and nervous, dancing on the balls of their toes above 170 mph, the Flying Spur, with its all-wheel drive and air suspension, is nailed to the highway. It tracks with the iron certainty of a bullet prepare by lengthy, extensive, open 180-mph sweepers.

Right this moment’s Bentley Flying Spur is healthier wanting, higher dealing with, has extra energy, and has a claimed prime pace of 207 mph. However I’ve to remind myself my near-200-mph run in that Continental Flying Spur was fifteen years in the past. It stays one of the vital extraordinary sedans ever constructed.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

The A9 autobahn between Nuremberg and Munich is one in every of Germany’s busiest, funneling visitors from the north of the nation previous the hometowns of Audi and BMW, and on to main highways main into Austria, Italy, Slovenia, and Hungary. It’s extensive—three lanes every means—and open, however a lot of it’s topic to variable pace limits that cut back visitors to a mere 80 mph or much less when the highway is closely congested. Because it continuously is.

However on this Monday night in 2011 the visitors is inexplicably gentle. I’m on the wheel of a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, on the time the quickest, strongest Corvette ever constructed. And for the previous 25 minutes I’ve been in a position to drive it as quick as I dare, the sonic increase of the mighty 638-hp supercharged V-Eight rattling the squadrons of Benzes and BMWs and Audis minding their very own enterprise within the center lane.

For 25 minutes the speedo needle has by no means dropped under 120 mph and has repeatedly kissed 180 mph. However now the visitors is constructing as we close to Munich, the variable pace restrict indicators blinking into life, and I again off. I shortly do the mathematics: I’ve simply lined 55 miles at a median pace—common—of 132 mph. Not since that harum-scarum blast to Wurzburg within the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton 20 years earlier had a automobile taken me to this point, so quick.

And the ZR1 did it with not one of the white-knuckle drama of the Vauxhall. The marginally nervous, squirrely feeling by the steering I’d observed from the super-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires at lesser speeds had disappeared because the aerodynamics kicked in, an enormous invisible hand gently urgent the automobile into the tarmac, steadying it.

There have been only a few automobiles of that period that would speed up from 160 mph to 190 mph with the fierce urgency of this Corvette, as I used to be to find the following day throughout repeated runs to 200 mph whereas filming an episode of the MotorTrend unique sequence, Epic Drives.



I had to consider it afterwards. 200 mph. That was the quickest I’d ever been on a highway.

At one degree the Corvette ZR1, so planted, so composed, so effortlessly highly effective, had made it appear straightforward. However because the surroundings rushed at me and the shock-and-awe soundtrack of that mighty supercharged V-Eight boomed by the cabin, I couldn’t assist however chortle out loud as soon as extra. 200 mph! On a highway!

The necessity for pace. It’s actual.

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