The Green Hell – the name given to a track so legendary and integral to race history that it is still often used as a benchmark for rating some of racing’s greatest cars and drivers. When Jackie Stewart gave that now famous name to the Nurburgring Nordschleife (the track on which he achieved he last-ever Formula 1 win) he wasn’t being overly dramatic. Stewart honestly believed that each time he challenged the notorious German circuit, it could very well be his last. The Nurburgring has taken the lives of over 60 people in sanctioned races and competitions. The mix of allure and danger posed by this course continues to draw drivers and fans long after Formula 1 stopped using it for competition. Just how integral the Nordschleife is to race culture and history was further reinforced in the film Rush where Niki Lauda had his infamous crash while battling for the Driver’s Championship with James Hunt.
Since Jackie Stewart’s time, the Nurburgring has gone through a number of revisions and modernizations to shorten the track and make it safer. The Nordschleife (aka North Loop) has been shorted from 22.8km in the 1920s to a little over 20.8km today. Much of the shortening was done by removing corners and straightening out sections of the track. Additionally, barriers and sand traps were added while notoriously bumpy sections were smoothed to improve handling and stability. Despite this, the Nordschleife remains extremely narrow by modern track standards, has little to no run off over much of its length, has numerous blind corners, experiences vast changes in elevation and continues to have a very rough surface in certain sections. This hasn’t dissuaded race enthusiasts nor car manufacturers who come every year to test their vehicles and use lap times when advertising their newest vehicles in comparison to the competition – those who conquer the Green Hell exercise their bragging rights.
The following list looks at 20 of the fastest production cars to lap the Nordschleife. This is not a fastest lap-time list but looks at fastest vehicle models, thus cutting out repeat entries and model types. In all cases, the vehicles undertake the 20.6km track which is a slightly altered and shortened version of the 20.8km circuit. Of course, there are critics (like James May from Top Gear and Ford’s chief engineer Jamal Hameedi) who say lap times at the track are worthless as a measurement. In part, they are correct. There is no standardization among the cars when manufacturers lap them. Tires, settings, weather – it’s all different for each car and the lap it undertakes which means these results can’t be taken as the bible for who has the best car. Additionally, real life conditions are not tested on the track. That said, let’s put all that regulation and realism garbage behind us, just for one moment, and enjoy going through some truly awesome cars which are legal to buy and drive by ‘regular’ people like you and me.
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20 Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series – 7:25:67
Starting off this list is the Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series. The SLS is a nod to Mercedes’ famous 300SL Gullwing of the 1950s and 1960s. The modern interpretation will, no doubt, turn heads and isn’t too bad around a track either. The car is powered by a 6.2L V8 which produces 622hp and can get the car going 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. In 2013, an SLS was piloted around the Nordschleife in an impressive 7:25.67. It must be noted that this specific car had a slightly uprated engine and reportedly put out 631hp.
19 Ferrari Enzo – 7:25:21
This car looks fast just sitting still. With only 400 produced, they are one of the rarest and most sought after cars by performance enthusiasts. The Enzo comes in slightly above the Mercedes SLS AMG Black Edition in this list largely thanks to a bit more power and less weight. The Ferrari weighs almost 200kg less than the Mercedes and has about 20hp more thanks to its 6.0L naturally aspirated V12 which produces 651hp. The car driven around the Nurburgring by Marc Basseng in 2002 was rated at 660hp.
18 T16. Porsche 911 GT3 (991) – 7:25:00
The third generation of the 911 GT3, this Porsche started production in 2013. The 911 GT3 is powered by a 3.8L naturally aspirated flat-six. This high-revving motor puts out 475hp at 8250rpm and can get the GT3 up to 60mph in around 3.5 seconds. As with every car, Porsche tested the new GT3 around the ‘ring’ in 2013. The RWD, 1425kg car finished its circuit in 7:25. This is a real testament to Porsche’s design given it beat the significantly more powerful and lighter Ferrari Enzo’s time.
17 T16. KTM X-Bow R – 7:25:00
Apparently KTM makes more than motorcycles – who knew? At first glance the KTM X-Bow looks like something Batman would drive around the Go-Kart track. It weighs well under 1000kg and is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged Audi motor. The motor produces a wide range of power depending on model but the ‘R’ is rated at 300hp stock. It’s the lowest power output of any car on this list. Nonetheless, German racer Christopher Haase drove one of these Austrian cars around the Nordschleife in 2011 in a time equal to the Porsche GT3 and the next Italian super-car on our list. Not too bad for a mini-Batmobile. Yes, it does come in black.
16 T16. Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 – 7:25:00
This $393,000 Italian exotic looks fast and it is. The Aventador is the successor to Lamborghini’s very successful Murcielago. Like its predecessor, the Aventador uses a mid-engine AWD setup. It’s powered by a massive 6.5L V12 which puts out 690hp and lets the car go from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. The car weighs nearly twice as much as the KTM X-Bow and has more than twice the horsepower. Still, it makes this list thanks to the skillful handling of German driver and Nurburgring specialist Horst von Saurma, who managed to get this beast around the track in 7:25 in 2011.
15 Pagani Zonda F Clubsport – 7:24:65
An exotic-looking car to say the least – would we expect anything else from an Italian company which reportedly had some engineering input from the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio? The Pagani Zonda F (F for Fangio) is one of the higher end versions of the car. Powered by a huge 650hp 7.3L Mercedes AMG V12, this car can go 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and has a reported top speed of over 200mph. Costing around $650,000 new in 2005, the Zonda F driven by Marc Basseng just beats out the Lamborghini thanks to being over 300kg lighter.
14 Maserati MC12 – 7:24:29
Yet another Nordschleife time set by Marc Basseng – this time in a Maserati MC12. The MC12 is far closer to being a modified Ferrari Enzo than anything else. Only 50 were built from 2004-05 and all were immediately sold for around $750,000 each. The MC12 uses a variation of the 6.0L V12 found in the Enzo. With stock power of 620hp, the car can get from 0-60 in around 3.8 seconds. It’s slightly less powerful, but also slightly less heavy than an Enzo. On the track this translated into nearly a second faster lap time by the Maserati.
13 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (with Z07 Package) – 7:22:68
The Chevrolet Corvette is an icon of American racing and performance development. Often left out when considering performance cars and exotic racers, Chevrolet has produced a few high-performance variations on the historic Corvette over the years. The Z06 is one of those enhanced variants. The Z06 is powered by a 7.0L V8 which puts out 505hp and gets the car up to 60mph in around 3.6 seconds. This particular model benefits from a beefed-up suspension, increased brake and transmission cooling and a greater use of aluminum and carbon-fiber in the body and chassis.
12 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 – 7:19:63
Yet another Corvette, but this one is a bit different from the Z06. The ZR1 takes the Corvette’s performance and power to the next level. Like the Z06, the ZR1 uses aluminum and carbon fiber to keep weight down. Power is a different matter and comes from a supercharged 6.2L V8 which makes 638hp. All of this combined to produce a car which driver Jim Mero (who also drove the Z06) was able to take around the Nordshleife in a time that was over three seconds faster than the Z06.
11 Nissan GTR – 7:19:10
Nissan’s GTR is like a giant computer on wheels. This AWD high-tech super-car killer was much anticipated when it was released in 2007/08. In many competitions and tests, the GTR has shown itself to be more than capable of taking on the best Audi, Chevrolet, Lotus and Porsche can throw at it. Giving it the performance necessary to compete is a 3.8L twin-turbocharged V6 which produced 545hp. In 2012, a 550hp GTR set a time of 7:19.10. This is impressive given some of the more powerful and lighter cars it is up against.
10 Radical SR3 Turbo – 7:19:00
In 2003, driver Phil Bennett smashed the then Nordschleife record of 7:32 by 13 seconds driving the Radical SR3 Turbo. Some may scoff that this limited edition car is included on this list. Yet, the SR3 Turbo is road legal and was available for public purchase in 2003. What makes this car so potent on the track is its power and light-weight construction. The SR3 uses a four-cylinder 1.5L turbocharged motor which produces 320hp. This is made all the more impressive by the fact this power moves a car that weighs only 500kg.
9 Porsche 911 GT2 RS – 7:18:00
This $245,000 Porsche is not only a beauty to look at, but does the Porsche brand proud around the Nordschleife. The car’s 3.6L twin-turbocharged flat-six engine puts out an impressive 620hp to the rear-wheels. Its interior screams ‘racecar’ with an abundance of race-grade carbon fiber and Alcantara. Notorious for getting a bit loose in the back, it’s a good thing that German racer Timo Kluck was in control when this Porsche was setting its Nordschleife time in 2010.
8 Donkervoort D8 RS – 7:14:89
Despite having a funny name, the Donkervoort D8 RS is a potent car. First, it’s very light and only weighs 600kg. Around the ‘ring,’ results have shown that light-weight cars can have a real advantage. This small package is given its get-up-and-go by a 1.8L, four-cylinder turbocharged Audi engine. With 350hp in such a light car, it’s unsurprising the Donkervoort can boast such an impressive track time – even beating the impressive Porsche GT2 RS by over three seconds.
7 Lexus LFA Nurburgring Package – 7:14:64
In September 2011, news came that a Lexus LFA had set a Nordschleife track time of 7:14:64. Many people didn’t believe the results until Lexus confirmed it and provided a video for proof days later. The LFA that set the time was a race-oriented version known as the Nurburgring Package. The car used the same 4.8L V10 engine, but was uprated to 570hp – the stock Nurburgring Package is reportedly 563hp. Lighter wheels and body parts along with better aerodynamics give this specific LFA version improved performance over others. Included in the $450,000 price-tag is an instructional session at the Nurburgring itself.
6 Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR – 7:12:13
Some people will be surprised a Viper set such a good time around the track, not because of any power related questions but because this car can be quite difficult to control when pushed. The ACR is a performance enhanced version of a ‘regular’ Viper. It uses the same 8.4L V10 but benefits from a slight weight reduction and improved aerodynamics. At $100-$120,000, this 600hp beast is a bargain compared to most of the super cars on this list. It also caught a lot of attention when it set this time on the Nordschleife, beating out cars from Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
5 Gumpert Apollo Sport – 7:11:57
Another car with a funny name, the German Gumpert Apollo Sport is a very fast and excellent handling car. At $344,000, this car is in the Lamborghini price-range but, around the Nurburgring, it comes out head-and-shoulders above its Italian rival. The Apollo is powered by a 4.2L V8 twin-turbocharged engine which produces anywhere from 640hp to 790hp depending upon version. Weighing just 1200kg, such power enabled this car to get around the ‘ring’ in just under 7:12.
4 Nissan GTR Nismo – 7:08:68
Set to be sold for around $150,000, the 2015 Nismo edition of Nissan’s successful GTR takes the car’s performance up a notch. The same 3.8L V6 twin-turbocharged engine is used, but, thanks to improved intake, exhaust, ignition and turbochargers, performance is significantly boosted to the range of 600hp. This power boost comes in a GTR which is now lighter and more aerodynamic. All of this combined to produce a very potent car which, as demonstrated in Germany, set an impressive sub-7:10 time which is over 9 seconds faster than the ‘regular’ GTR.
3 Porsche 918 Spyder (Weissach Package) – 6:57:00
Most people don’t like spiders, what with their legs and eight-eyes and all that other creepy stuff. You’d like Porsche’s spyder, it’s not furry, lacks eight legs although it can provide a bit of a bite. Production of this car started in 2013. Interestingly, it’s a hybrid but not in the Toyota Prius sense. Instead, the 918 is powered by a 4.6L V8 which produces 608hp. Additionally, there are two electric motors on the front and rear axles which produce 279hp for a grand total of 887hp. The 918 which set a sub-7 minute time on the Nordschleife in 2013 was a special Weissach version which weighed over 60kg less than the standard 918.
2 Radical SR8 – 6:55:00
If you think back to the Radical SR3, you know coming into this one that Radical means light-weight cars with responsive and relatively powerful motors. The SR8 follows this formula to a tee. Powering this car is a 2.6L high-revving V8 which produces 363hp in a 650kg car. Weight is kept down by ensuring only parts necessary to drive are included – there are no features, options or luxuries found here. That power to weight ratio means great lap times and that was clearly shown when this car, driven by Michael Vergers, lapped the Nurburgring in 6:55 in 2008.
1 Radical SR8LM – 6:48:00
Michael Vergers returned to the Nurburgring in 2009 in an even higher performance Radical SR8 – the LM edition. The SR8 LM uses a larger 2.8L V8 engine which produced 455hp (roughly 90hp more than the SR8) in the same 650kg body used by the SR8. The results, as you could imagine, were very noticeable. Vergers shaved a whole seven seconds of his previous SR8 time. Despite this, there are those who refuse to accept these figures because they believe the Radicals are not ‘real’ production cars. We are sure those lucky enough to get their hands on one of these $180,000 performers won’t care one way or another. They’ll be too busy keeping an eye on the Porsche in their rear-view mirror.
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