Automotive performance can be measured in more ways than we can count, but lap times at the Nürburgring are a great equalizer. It has almost 13 miles of punishing pavement and concrete with 1,000 ft of elevation change. It is home to several major races, and also to engineering facilities for most European automakers. But over the last two decades, American and Japanese marques have also realized the potential of The Green Hell. Jackie Steward coined that term after being witness to the brutality it inflicts on driver and machine. Many specialized cars have been built to make the ultimate lap time, and many street cars have also been fine-tuned at the track. The fastest cars to ever hit the track are also some of the coolest cars, but we will cover the race cars another day. Let’s focus on the fastest production cars from each of the big brands.
We’re going to break it down by manufacturer, so let’s see how many cars each brand has in the top 100 lap times.
‘Ring Rank: These numbers are each car’s position among the 100 fastest cars to ever lap the track. The number at the right is the lap time. (Duplicates of a same M/Y vehicle are not included, fastest lap is picked)
You might wonder how the Italians became so dominant at a German track. European borders are not the same as they once were, and neither are manufacturers. Volkswagen owns Porsche, Audi, and Lamborghini which helps them cut development costs by sharing platforms. The most obvious example has been the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo/Huracan. You can’t deny the power of V10 engines and quattro AWD.
Homefield advantage can be claimed here. The ‘Ring has seen more rear-mounted flat sixes than anything else, and its here where drivers like Nikki Lauda, Walter Röhrl and Sabine Sabine Schmitz learned the art. You probably guessed there would be a majority of 911s on this list, but two Panameras are here to mix it up. For a quick refresher, the 911 Turbo and Turbo S are AWD. The GT2/RS is twin-turbo RWD, and the GT3/RS are naturally aspirated and RWD. The Carrera GT is a naturally aspirated Formula1 V10, and the 918 Spyder is a twin-turbo V8 electric hypercar.
Enzo built his house in the middle of their test track. Piero lives there now, so why do they need to travel north to set lap times? None of the XX series supercars are on the list, and the only halo car tested in Germany was the Enzo. Perhaps they are waiting for the world to show up at Fiorano for a battle royale….
Karl Benz patented the original automobile (the Benz Patent Motorwagen) in 1885, so it’s fitting that his company is represented here. Three manufacturers are technically represented here, as AMG developed the SLS and GT-R on their own. McLaren built the SLR.
The Ultimate Driving Machine is also very capable on the track. It is shocking to see how fast the 2003 M3 was. Straight six power without forced induction and a perfect weight balance are why the E46 series is so admired.
Many laugh at the Americans, but you can’t argue at the price. The only cars that don’t need to be LS Swapped, the Camaros and Corvettes are powered by 5.7 and 6.2-liter small-block V8s. If you are wondering why the fastest car is a C6, Chevy is probably waiting on the C7 ZR1 to be finished. Notice that all the performance editions begin with the letter Z? Zora Duntov would be happy to see his innovations of fuel injection and independent suspension have evolved so far.
The MP4-12C was their first production car since the F1, and it arrived with technologies developed for and at the world’s greatest tracks. With carbon-fiber bodies and twin-turbo V8 engines, weight is kept low thanks to brilliant technology. All modern McLarens don’t have sway bars, instead fancy hydraulic suspension controls body roll. The weight savings and ride quality are simply amazing. Obviously, the models that have arrived since the 12C, but McLaren have been holding out for something special to raise the bar.
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