Let’s be real—you want to get a chance someday to cut it loose on the Autobahn. You know you want to, you always have. After all, the Autobahn is where it all goes down in the world of legal, high-speed driving. You're certainly not going to find yourself going 200 mph on an American Interstate, not even out in the empty western wastes of old route 6 in Nevada or the I-80 through the Black Rock Desert. You might get up to 100 mph in places like that, but you’d better watch out for that family in the Chrysler Town & Country hogging the left lane at 75 mph for hours on end. Not to mention, there are the Staties. Forget about the rest of Western Europe, too—England has so many cars that the idea that anyone could ever get anywhere in anything remotely resembling a hurry is laughable. And you’re taking your life into your own hands in places like Italy, Spain, and Greece, where the drivers simply don’t care about the rules of the road even if they do go fast.
No, the Autobahn is that mystical place that's become the stuff of legends, a place you can stretch your (metaphorical) wings. It’s so German, it’s not even funny. Sure, massive stretches of the road network still have absolutely no speed limit (at least 50%, by the most recent estimates), and that’s why we all want to get on them and go as fast as we can. But the reason it’s so awesome is often forgotten. It’s always under construction, which is why there are never any potholes or bad sections of the road but is also the reason so much of it now has speed limits. Also, since everyone drives on it but not everyone drives a Ferrari, the smart Autobahn driver needs to learn where and when he can cut loose. Ruling the Autobahn isn't as easy as it might seem, but as you’ll see, it can still be done, and it can still be done in style. Oh yeah... and in speed…
18 Lamborghini Aventador
I’ve always thought it'd be cool to have our speed limits here in the States set in kilometers per hour. How about you? It would make everything we drive seem to be going a just a little bit faster, something I have no problem with. A case in point would be this Lamborghini Aventador’s time on the Autobahn, which clocked in at a “measly” 199 mph. Saying it went well over 300 kph sounds so much better, doesn’t it? Well, hold on there for a minute. The fastest I’ve ever driven a vehicle was 147 mph on an empty stretch of I-90 between Madison, WI and Chicago. It sure as sh*t felt fast enough to me. So, to think that a reporter from the auto mag Inside Line managed (back in 2012) to get this baby to almost 200 mph on the Autobahn in the daytime with the usual construction and traffic is pretty darn incredible as is. After all, that’s over 50 mph faster than I’ve ever driven.
17 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
Are you shocked to find an SUV on a list of cars that absolutely owned the Autobahn? If you are, guess what? You shouldn’t be. If you’re reading this article, you already obviously are into cars. So, you know that the SUV revolution, which began way back in the ‘90s with a generation of big-ass clunkers, has come a very long way. Porsche’s entry into that market, the Cayenne (finally, an awesome model name), is nothing if not high-end.
The Turbo S is also a monster of a car in the power department, packing 577 horses.
But here’s why it rules German roads—the car has some of the most incredible brakes ever made. As one reviewer who tested this car on the Autobahn said, “I could theoretically be holding the accelerator at full throttle, at 180 mph, and then stomp on the brakes without taking my foot off the accelerator, and the 5,200-pound car would still come to a stop in a distance rivaling that of an AMC Pacer stopping from 50 mph.” Yeah, that’s pretty good.
16 Lexus GSF
The near-mythical and mystical qualities of the Autobahn in the gearhead community means that even carmakers who don’t typically sell much in Germany will sit up and take notice. A case in point is Lexus, which does just fine here in the States and in Japan but really doesn’t make much of an impact on the German car market. That is, they didn’t until they designed the GSF specifically for the Autobahn. Yup, you read that right—Lexus designed a car for the sole purpose of mastering Germany’s famous road network. I’ll tell you something, too—at 467 hp, this V8 beast has definitely succeeded. In a recent Road & Track piece about this new attempt by Lexus to enter the German market, the writer takes the GSF out on the Autobahn and says the GSF “has an aggressive, low stance and a low-profile grille that makes it resemble an angry wasp” (cool) and finds himself pleasantly surprised to be cruising along at almost 150 mph without even noticing that he was going that fast. Way to prove yourself, Lexus.
15 Audi RS5
First of all, if you want to see a professional test driver absolutely bury the needle in a 2018 RS5 and thereby show complete mastery of the Autobahn, just see the YouTube video of it. You’ll see that car hit just under 150 mph in about 22 seconds and then go all the way up to almost 200 mph very soon thereafter, basically in less time than it took you to read this. The Audi RS5 is a justifiably impressive machine that’s been making waves in the sports-coupe world for a few years now.
Audi is known for really solid engines, and the RS5 is no slouch with its 2.9-liter Biturbo V6.
This thing is also stylish as hell, which makes sense if you’re going to rule the Autobahn at about $75,000 MSRP. I’m a big fan of the tooled leather “massaging” seats. If I’m going to hit 200 mph on a regular basis, I definitely want to do it in style.
14 Porsche 911 GT3 RTS 4.0
First of all, Porsche, couldn’t you have named this speed machine something simpler, like “Roadrunner” or the like??? The name just doesn’t inspire the imagination now, does it? But you know what does inspire imagination? The test drive Road & Track took this thing on. The Porsche GT3 RTS just barely topped 200 mph before the driver let off the gas (it was at night after all, which is both optimal for light traffic and very suboptimal for visibility on the Autobahn). There's a possibility that this factory-prepped car (nope, it’s not a tuner) could've hit some higher speeds, given its insane engine capability, but you know what? If 200 mph is enough to make a Road & Track test driver giggle with glee, then it’s enough for me to say this Porsche ruled the Autobahn, at least for a day.
13 BMW 507 Coupe
We start our extremely fast trip across the Autobahn in this absolute classic of a car—the old BMW 507 Coupe. Now, obviously, this particular example has been, ahem, shall we say, “slightly” modified. That’s because this car is a rally driver's dream, and it was on its way home after competing in the famous Mille Miglia in Italy. For those of you not in the know, that historic race was a perennial favorite in the racing world from the ‘20s through the ‘50s but is now more of a homage to a bygone era. Drivers can only participate in classic cars, and those cars must be ones that participated in the original Mille Miglia. Now, I have no idea if this car did well in the 2012 race or was a total fail. But can you imagine tootling along the Autobahn—as the driver who took this pic was doing—and seeing this thing blow right by you? Talk about ruling the Autobahn for a day!
12 Volkswagen Golf & Jetta
I know, I know... how boring, right? But the truth has to start somewhere. With over 250,000 cars sold in 2010 alone (those numbers have only gone up) for these compact class mainstays, it’s clear that there's one particular German automaker who's ruling the road in its homeland. Maybe there's a reason why "VW" is translated as "the people's wagon."
Now, the Jetta and the Golf obviously rule the Autobahn not on performance— although there’s certainly nothing wrong with a good Volkswagen—but by virtue of their absolute dominance of the market.
In fact, VW has an almost 10% share of the German domestic market, according to the Kraftfahrtbundesamt, which is sort of like a federal DMV watchdog organization over there. The Autobahn is literally crawling with these suckers. So, if you’re out there in your Ferrari or Fiat, don’t be surprised if you cannot win the Autobahn game because you can’t get away from all of the VWs clogging its lanes. And if that’s not ruling, then I don’t know what is…
11 Kelleners BMW M6
Alright, back to the real rulers of Germany's roads. Now we get to one of the bigtime specialty cars known for being a beast of the Autobahn. Kelleners, like some of the other companies on our list, is known for modding out certain cars. In fact, it almost always tunes BMWs. Supposedly, it’s the lightweight but oh-so-strong wheels that Kelleners specializes in that adds so much speed to its cars. At any rate, it took out a massive (and modified) BMW M6 in 2007 and pretty handily hit 206.3 mph. That’s so easily over the magical 200 mph mark, it’s not even funny. I’m sure you want to see what it looks and sounds like when a “souped-up” BMW M6 gets the lead out, and if you catch the official Kelleners video, you’ll notice that this test run took place at 5 AM in the morning, when Autobahn traffic was very light. Nonetheless, Kelleners rocked the Autobahn that day.
10 Bugatti Veyron
Owning this car is like owning a dangerous exotic pet. Sooner or later, the thing is gonna bite you—you can mark my words on that. But apparently, it didn’t bite this guy back in 2011 when he got his Bugatti Veyron up to 219 mph. That, my friends, is a pretty sick achievement for anyone, especially some dude who appears to be filming his own “test” drive while clocking well over 200 mph. Please, please, please... if you ever get a chance to rule the Autobahn someday (and I hope you do), for the love of all that’s holy, don’t hold the camera yourself—it makes texting while driving look safe. It’s basically insane. Anyway, the Veyron has hit over 250 mph in closed-track tests, so this is child’s play for it. If you want to see a Bugatti Veyron in full-bore action check it out on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed.
9 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo
Of course, there was going to be at least one Lambo on this list, and here it is. For those of you who don’t keep up with Lamborghini’s output, the Gallardo was a V10 (yes V10) production model that was sold from 2003 to 2013. It's still Lamborghini’s number-one-selling model of all time, and here, we get to see why. Named after an infamous breed of Spanish fighting bulls, this badass ride will do whatever the driver wants, including letting a silly American tourist go almost 190 mph down the Autobahn for no good reason at all. (If you want to see the actual YouTube video of this average American Joe hitting 189 mph on an Autobahn straightaway, go ahead). I’ve gotta say, I almost want to proclaim that it was this regular guy that ruled the Autobahn that day, but I’m not gonna do it. Have you ever heard of the old saying “The clothes make the man”? Wel,l in this particular case, I think it’s safe to say, “The car made the man.”
8 Ruf CTR Yellowbird
I surely don’t care who James M. Clash is, but I'm definitely envious of him. OK, OK... you caught me—I’m lying. I do know who he is; I just wish he weren’t so darn lucky. You see, he’s an automotive journalist who got to take an infamous Ruf “Yellowbird” out for a day of fun in the sun on the Autobahn. He was invited by the actual owner of Ruf, Alois Ruf. Ruf, for those of you who don’t know, is a German automaker who specializes in tuning Porsches. Sure, it makes its own cars, too, and some of them are damn good, but it’s Ruf's mods on the skins of existing Porsches that are the coolest thing it does. As you can see from our pic of the Yellowbird, it’s clearly based on a Porsche 911—the 1987 model, for those who want to know (I know, you all want to know). Clash took one out for a little drive in 2003 and managed to hit 201.3 mph on the A81 outside of Heilbronn. Ruf described the whole thing as somewhat “nerve-wracking,” but I bet he'd do it again, the lucky dog.
7 Corvette ZR1
Going into the research for this article, I honestly didn’t expect to see any good ‘ol American-made cars appearing in it. When we think of the Autobahn, we definitely do not think of American engineering, as good as it often is. So, imagine my surprise when the Corvette ZR1 showed up! That’s right—Corvette managed to rule the Autobahn for a day when the Dutch testing team from the auto blog ABHD managed to get their hands on one of the very first ZR1s to hit Europe.
With almost 600 horses under its hood, the ZR1 did a very commendable job, clocking in at 192 mph.
The Dutch writers even mentioned that they hit some construction zones and traffic that might've kept the car from its peak performance. Still, way to go, USA! If you want to cheer on a homegrown hero, you can watch ABHD’s video of the drive.
6 Porsche 9ff GTurbo850
What is it about tuning companies and Porsches? It seems like they all want to get a piece of a Porsche and just go. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Porsche makes really, really good, really, really fast factory-production cars. Nah, it couldn’t be! OK, so 9ff is another tuner specialist, and in this case, they maxed out a Porsche 997 Turbo with an 850 hp (wait, what???) upgrade. Then, they put it on the road back in 2010 and tested it out. 236 mph later, they had one of the top three speeds ever rendered on the Autobahn. Mind you, they did this in the daytime with traffic. That, my friends, is one hell of a fast ride. It’s also one where you just know there was more than one white-knuckle experience.
5 Brabus Rocket 900
Look, it’s a Mercedes-Benz AMG 365 Cabriolet. Or is it? But wait... it looks a little bit strange… Oh, that’s because Brabus, which likes to tune cars (shocking) got its hands on yet another Benz and turned it into the Brabus Rocket 900. Then, Brabus took its newly tuned creation and ran it through its paces out on the Autobahn. And then... it ruled the Autobahn.
You see, the Rocket 900 is basically a land jet with a twin-turbocharged 6.3-liter V12 engine that’s been tuned by Brabus to produce 887-hp.
Yeah, that’s why it’s called the “900.” Some reviewers think Brabus may actually have hit the 900 hp mark with this vehicle. It hit its top speed on the Autobahn at 217.48 last November, but most people think it can outdo that time significantly. We can hope. I know I, for one, would certainly like to see that happen.
4 Ruf R Turbo
So, I’m sure you remember our earlier discussion of the premier and world-famous automotive journalist James Clash and his experience with the Ruf CTR Yellowbird. Of course, you do. How could anyone forget that Yellowbird? Or Clash himself, who I'm still jealous as hell at? Actually, I’m beyond the usual jealousy and envy now. Remember when I said he'd probably do it again? Well, the very same day that Ruf tested out the Yellowbird, he returned to find out that Alois Ruf was offering him another Ruf tuner to drive, this time the R Turbo. Ruf accepted (duh!) and soon found himself cruising along the Autobahn to the “tune” (see what I did there?) of 208.7 mph. So, in one day, not only did Ruf rule over the Autobahn, but James Clash also became one of my heroes. I suppose it helped that the R Turbo has just a few more horses than the Yellowbird (50 to be exact), but who gets to do such a thing twice in one day? James M. Clash—that’s who.
3 Bugatti Chiron
Bugatti makes the most exotic cars around—always has, always will. So, it’s no surprise that the Chiron makes our list. It's one heck of a fine-looking car, as it should be, but even more importantly, it has quite a bit to offer under the hood—enough to make the Autobahn sit up and take notice—that’s for sure. The Chiron actually set an incredible world record last year when, on a closed section of the Autobahn (I know, that’s not quite as cool as open racing), it went from 0-250 mph (well, 248.9) in 42 seconds. More incredibly, it came back to a complete stop in those 42 seconds. So, you know somebody out there is just dying to take it out at night on the Autobahn and see what both its monumental power and massive braking ability can really do. I just wish it were me…
2 Auto Union (Audi) V-16
So, way back in 1938, a car that no one had ever heard of before, a car from a fledgling carmaker no one had ever heard of before, managed to make history, albeit briefly. The car was a one-off called the "V-16," made by Auto Union, the brand that would soon become Audi (yeah, we’ve heard of them, haven’t we?).
Driver Bernd Rosemeyer drove a “streamliner” that had a mid-car V-16 engine, two superchargers, and right around 400 horses to its name—that’s still a pretty darn impressive lineage, even by today’s standards.
Guess who designed this speed demon? Ferdinand Porsche, of course. Who else? Anyway, Rosemeyer got his car up to 268.432 miles an hour, shattering the existing Autobahn speed record. Unfortunately for Rosemeyer (well, tragically, actually), he decided to go out for a second run, got caught in an updraft his lightweight racer couldn’t handle, flipped, and was killed instantly.
1 Mercedes-Benz W125
I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard of Rudolf Caracciola, but you should have, especially if you got all the way to the end of this article. You see, our previous entry discussed the incredible accomplishment of Bernd Rosemeyer, who drove that proto-Audi to such an incredible time. But Caracciolo was racing on the Autobahn that very same day in his V12 Mercedes-Benz W125, and he managed to just barely put in a faster time than Rosemeyer at 268.8 miles an hour. It’s safe to say that these two cars and their drivers ruled the Autobahn, but it’s also important to remember that the conditions weren’t quite what modern drivers face. The road was closed down to all other traffic during these speed trials, and each driver was driving a one-in-a-million specially designed vehicle. Even the Lambos and the Bugattis on this list are still production cars. Not so the Auto Union V-16 and the Benz W125. Those two cars were designed for one thing and one thing only—speed. From where I sit, it looks like they succeeded.