Testing sports cars is a long and arduous task. There's endless amounts of tests that need to be done, some fact-finding, some for performance, some for stability, quality, durability, tests to see how a car performs under certain circumstances or extreme conditions. A sports cars primary goal is to handle excellently on the track, and engineers spend years developing these cars, using science and physics to create performance. They take the time to make sure it's as fast as possible. Of course, then the car needs to be tested on the road. And that's where test tracks come into play.
Depending on the type of car, it goes through different kinds of tests, to push the suspension to the limit, or the engine, or the wheels. When it comes to sports cars, there are hundreds of tests that need to be performed, and a plethora of test tracks for cars to be developed on. But there's no track more infamous, no track held in higher regard, and no track more definitive for testing sports cars than the Nurburgring Nordschleife. It's at this world-renown racing track in Germany that almost every sports car races at least once. Countless cars have not only been tested here but have been designed to achieve the fastest lap times. In fact, how fast a car goes around the Nurburgring is often held to be a measure of the actual quality of a sports car. You'd think European cars would hold the best times, but we're going to look at 10 domestic cars that smoked the Nurburgring, and 15 Surprising European cars that didn't.
25 Domestic: 2017 Dodge Viper ACR - 7:01.3
The Dodge Viper ACR truly is a metal beast.
A serious domestic sports car gone nuts, this thing is absolutely mad, with a blazing Nurburgring time of 7:01.3. It harnesses a staggering 645 horsepower from an 8.4 L V10 engine barely kept contained underneath that gilled hood.
That spoiler is massive, not to look cool, but to give the back wheels all the downforce and grip they can scrabble together, and even that is barely enough to keep this monster under control. The Viper ACR is a true titan on the Nurburgring.
24 Domestic: 2010 Dodge Viper ACR - 7:12.1
Coming in second place is, not surprisingly, the 2010 Dodge Viper ACR. This car really is an insane machine, built with no limitations in mind, and it has been since it's conception. It was built with blunt screwdrivers and with no budget, but that was what made it fun.
It felt like it was cobbled together from old, mismatched parts, but it produced insane power and torque, which made it terrifying to drive, and what made it so much of a thrill and so much fun. Since then, the Viper has become significantly more refined, but it still retains that absolutely mental power ratio, blitzing the Nurburgring in 7:12.1
23 Domestic: Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 - 7:13.9
The Corvette Z06 is an insanely fast car, it really is, a fact that's been proven over and over, time and again.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the pudding is a blazing Nurburgring lap time of 7:13.9.
I'd eat that pudding for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Z06 is the top performing model of the Corvette line, with a 650 horsepower 6.2 L V8 engine that propels it around any track in the fastest manner possible. It's good to see that Yankee horsepower can take on the world's most formidable track and come out the other end proudly.
22 Domestic: Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE - 7:16.4
This is one of the meanest machines made in the history of Chevrolet, and in the history of Camaro's. The ZL1 1LE is a sports car made in a madhouse. The 1LE means that this car has aerodynamic improvements to the whole body for downforce and stability, along with a spool valve shock absorber package.
This car is designed to race, to go fast, and (unlike many American sports cars before it) handle well in the corners and control its speed. This car is so mean and lean, it's banned from sale in Europe. That's right. Banned from sale in all of Europe. (Sounds hardcore, but it's really that the front bumper violates pedestrian safety laws. I know, kinda lame.) But that won't stop Chevy. The Camaro lapped the Nurburgring in 7:16.04.
21 Domestic: 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 - 7:19.6
We've got another Chevy Corvette in the top five, and that's okay. It's one of the fastest American production sports cars on the market, and with good reason.
That hood hides a 638 horsepower V8 engine, which is a lot. Because of that torque and a massive number of horses, it'll reach 60 mph from a dead stop in 3.5 seconds.
While this Corvette might not be the lightest sports car, or the most nimble, sometimes you can't make up for good 0l' fashioned American muscle. Which is why this Corvette from 2012 lapped the Nordschleife in an absolutely impressive 7:19.6.
20 Domestic: 2012 Corvette Z06 - 7:22.68
These two Corvettes (the Z06 and the ZR1) should be listed in tandem, as they are so similar. They both went through quite the overhaul in 2012, getting additional performance options, like Michelin Pilot Cup tires, and the introduction of Chevy's Performance Traction Management System.
Chevy started to finally foray into higher-end performance technology, instead of just brute force and raw power. It's only gotten better since then This Z06 has 133 horsepower less than the ZR1, but still pulled an incredibly close lap time to the next tier up of Corvette. This Z06 lapped the Nurburgring in 7:22.68.
19 Domestic: 2009 Chevy Corvette ZR1 - 7:26.4
The Corvette is clearly at the top of the charts when it comes to American performance. From its roots as one of the original muscle cars in the 60's, revered as being the ideal, the archetype for what an American muscle car should be, to the sports car as we know it today, not only setting great lap times at Nurburgring Nordschleife, but setting the bar for any and all sports cars. The 2009 model took down the Nurburgring in 7:26.4.
18 Domestic: 2017 Camaro ZL1 - 7:29.6
This Camaro is the same as the other one closer to the top of the list, minus the 1LE package. Basically, all that means is that this model has the same engine and base, but doesn't include the next level sports package additions, like the Formula 1 inspired spool valve shock absorbers, and the body kit aerodynamic spoiler and fins that bring over 300 lbs of downforce to the wheels.
Without those extra additions, though, this car is still one you don't want to mess with. An eager, menacing beast with that growling, nay roaring 6.2 L V8 with 650 horsepower ready to take on anything.
This includes the Nordschleife, crossing the finish line in 7:29.6.
17 Domestic: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 - 7:37.4
Seems like the Camaro is kind of the dominator on the list of fastest American cars to lap the Nurburgring. At least for the number of models on the list, year after year. This model of Camaro also marked a year with a lot of changes to the car, which made for some pretty big improvements.
This Camaro came equipped with Multi-Matic dampers and carbon ceramic brakes. Those two things coupled with four extremely grippy Pirelli tires gave this Camaro a pretty extraordinary lap time, despite being 75 horsepower less than the ZL1 (505 versus 580 in the ZL1). It zipped around the German behemoth of a track in 7:37.4.
16 Domestic: Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 - 7:39.28
If only Ford would publish their Nurburgring lap times for the world to see! We all know they test there regularly, and develop there cars based on how they perform at the Nurburgring, but they refuse to officially release any of their car's lap times. If they did, we'd be able to include some of the greatest American sports cars ever. Alas, we'll all just be left to wonder, and rely on unofficial lap times from private parties. Which would be perfectly fine, but they are few and far between.
This Ford GT500 is one of the few we know about, and it did incredible, harnessing an overwhelming 662 horsepower to propel it around the Nurburgring in 7:39.28.
Super impressive indeed.
15 European: Bugatti Veyron 16.4 - 7:40.0
No,w this is a surprising one. The Bugatti Veyron? Isn't that the fastest production car in the world? Doesn't it have over a grand of horsepower? The answer is yes, it is all of that. But cars aren't just about power or speed, they're about handling. And while the Bugatti handles nicely, there's no way around the fact that this Bugatti has an astoundingly heavy curb weight of 4,044 pounds. That's two tons.
By comparison, the Hennessey GT, which also has over one thousand horsepower, but a curb weight of 2,743 pounds. So almost half the weight to push around.
That's why on a track like the Nurburgring, the Bugatti Veyron pulls a heavy time of 7:40.0.
14 European: Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 - 7:40.0
Another surprising one for coming in so low on this list. The Murcielago isn't Lamborghini's best supercar, but it's by no means bad, or lacking in power, or slow.
It has an incredible 6.5 L V12 engine that creates 632 horsepower, controlled by Lamborghini's stellar four wheel drive system. Alas, seems like it's the kind of heavyweight supercar that just isn't cut out for a track like the Nurburgring. Part of its issue might just be the fact that it also weighs almost two tons. This isn't a light car by any means, and at the end of the day, a good lap time is based upon a good power to weight ratio. Which is why it got an average, borderline mediocre, 7:40.0.
13 European: Mercedes Benz SLS AMG - 7:40.0
This AMG Mercedes SLS is a really cool car. It's a menacing beast with a staggering amount of power. What kind of power?
A 6.2 L V8 that barely reigns in 583 horses fed directly to the back wheels, which means it's finicky and scary in the corners, but it'll make you feel like a kid again if you do it right, a smile will be plastered to your face.
Unfortunately, it's not a perfectly balanced car, more of a statement piece if anything. Which means it suffered a slow lap time on the Nurburgring, coming in with an okay time of 7:40.0.
12 European: Porsche 911 Turbo S 997.2 - 7:41.2
Porsche is a great car company, they really truly are. This is the only company to not only pioneer the rear-engined sports car but to also perfect it.
Porsche sports cars, no matter which models, are fun to drive, fast, have great handling, and are all around made in true quality. And Porsche also lays claim to some of the very fastest lap times on the Nurburgring, so it shows that they aren't making poor cars, they just offer a broad range of selection, meaning if you don't want an insanely fast car, you can have a Turbo S, which handles great, accelerates great, has wonderful power and zip, but won't tear your head off when you put your foot down. This 997.2 did a lap in 7:41.2.
11 European: Audi R8 Coupe - 7:44.0
I love the way the Audi R8 looks. To me it's one of the most beautifully styled cars I've ever seen.
The 5.2 FSI Quattro managed a lap around the Nurburgring in a kind of disappointing 7:44, but to me that doesn't change my opinion of it. It's still a magnificent supercar, with a beautifully designed V10 engine and a four-wheel drive system from Audi.
Plus this car is more about class and comfort than it is about raw performance on the track. Which makes it all that much more practical, in almost every single way that counts.
10 European: Pagani Zonda S 7.3 - 7:44.0
Another surprising car to find at the lower end of this list, well below those incredible American supercars, is this Pagani Zonda S 7.3, a spectacular car from a car manufacturer that specializes in making racing track supercars that are road legal, but only in technicality.
They don't have many of the usual creature comforts you'll find in the luxury supercars in a similar class to it, as their aim is to keep weight as low as possible, to make the fastest car possible. Doesn't seem to have impressed anyone on the Nurburgring track though, with a sorry lap time of 7:44.
9 European: Bugatti EB110 - 7:44.0
This Bugatti EB11o is a genuine gem of a car, retro, futuristic, cutting-edge, all in the same moment. It's got a certain timeless charm in its styling that looks vintage but never dated. Which, I suppose, is what makes a car a classic. That and rarity, which this one check off the books with only 90 ever made. It's also what resurrected Bugatti, the company itself.
With all the top engineer minds in the business, they crafted this supercar with not only a carbon fiber chassis, but 5 valve per cylinder, 12 cylinder engine that produced 612 horsepower.
It gave it a Nurburgring time of 7:44, which in 1993, was pretty incredible.
8 European: Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera - 7:46.0
You'd think this car, swinging around such big titles as "Lamborghini" and "Superleggera", would make this car phenomenally fast. While it's powerful, and pretty fast, it still falls pretty far short of the American cars leading the top of this list.
It has a great engine, the 5.2 L V10 with 562 horsepower, but falls short on weight and handling. It's curb weight comes in at almost 3,000 pounds. Much lighter than some Lamborghini's, which is good because superleggera means "super light" in Italian. Apparently this one isn't quite light enough, coming in with 7:46.0.
7 European: Ferrari 599 GTB Fioriano - 7:47.0
Arguably the most vanilla of all the Ferrari's, the 599 isn't exactly what most people think of when they think of the otherworldly, alien-looking, fine-tuned, super-luxury supercar usually made by the company.
On paper, it's stats are the same kind of impressive as you get from most European supercars, with a great re-tuned V12 engine producing 612 horsepower.
I think it looks pretty ugly, though, and it's 7:47 lap time is ridiculously underwhelming.
6 European: Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S - 7:47.19
This GTI set the lap record for front wheel cars, which is really incredible. Golf has been the definition of hot hatchbacks for decades, in fact, this car is what started hot hatchbacks. You can call the Golf the very first one.
The one that started a revolution, and unlike other cars that started similar movements or changes, the Golf, by and large, has managed to stay at the top, leading the pack the whole time. Even if they seem to falter, or start to fall back, Volkswagen steps it back up to do something like this, a record setting time from the pioneer of the hot hatchback. It raced around the Nurburgring in 7:47.19.
5 European: Audi TT RS - 7:48.0
The TT is an interesting car. I'm not sure I know exactly what kind of car it is. Is it supposed to be a subcompact or a full-on sports car? Or just a smashed VW Beetle with mad performance? While I've never quite understood it, I've always liked it.
I guess it fits in the same class as the Mazda Miata, or the BMW Z series. In any case, it thrashed its way around the Nurburgring and came out the other side alive. But its 400 horsepower 5 cylinder engine only got it around the track with a lap time of 7:48.
That's kind of disappointing coming from this car.
4 European: BMW M3 GTS Coupe - 7:48.0
The sports saloon is quite a popular car in Europe, especially for companies like BMW and Mercedes Benz. Occasionally they'll make a banshee version of their more normal sports saloons. The kind of car that has a mad engine with way too much power, and sporty body kits that appeal primarily to five year old children.
That doesn't make them not fun. They're a hoot to drive, with their overly powerful engines roaring, tearing up the rubber of your back wheels. It shows that this is a modified road going saloon, though, when you look at it's lap time: 7:48.
3 European: Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT8 - 7:50.0
It's surprising and disappointing for me to find out that an Aston Martin is this low on the list. The most prodigious and accomplished British sports car company in the history of mankind, Aston Martin makes incredibly good cars year in and year out.
They've defined the British sports car, they've defined all sports cars, and they've shown the world that a car can be insanely fast and still have James Bond level class.
Although not every car can be a winner, and the V8 Vantage only finished a lap with an anemic, asthmatic time of 7:50.
2 European: Volvo S60 Polestar - 7:51.51
This is actually a really cool car, one I wouldn't hesitate to own. The Volvo S60 Polestar, which looks sleek, modern, bold, but not like the kind of car you would expect to be hiding a 345 horsepower turbocharged engine.
Especially from a car company known for its practicality and its safety above, well, anything else. What's nice is that if you want a fast car, with this one you won't have to sacrifice any of that practicality and safety. The Volvo went around the Nurburgring in 7:51.51
1 European: Lotus Exige Mk1 - 8:42.0
It's a surprise to see a Lotus at the bottom of the list, but it shows quite well that no matter how incredible a European car looks or seems to be, sometimes it's disappointing to see how it actually performs. That is definitely the case for this Lotus Exige. Lotus is one of my favorite car companies, and my dream is to get behind the wheel of an Elise one day. While there's no disregarding the fact that they make spectacular cars, the kind that handle incredibly and are a great fun to drive, there's also no looking past a regrettable and embarrassing Nurburgring time of 8:42. Looks like domestic muscle is refined and powerful enough to compete with the European heavyweights!
Sources: roadandtrack.com, caranddriver.com, wearecurated.com