Question: How do you say “screaming fast” in German?
Answer: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
Those German engineers know their craft, and they keep getting better, ever since Karl Benz patented the first practical petroleum-powered automobile, the Benz Patent Motorwagen, in 1886.
High-performance German engineering comes at a high price. The fastest German cars start around $100,000, but so far, even in these tight economic times, people seem to be willing to pay. German automobile manufacturers are enjoying record sales. Here in Colorado, average sales of the four brands through May 2012 were up 22.5 percent over the first five months of 2011, even with high gasoline prices, and even with the prevailing focus on fuel efficiency. Sure, the Germans have plenty of brainpower working on electric vehicles, hybrids and other alternatives, but the apex of current model lines are all V8s or more…cars that eat up no-limits autobahns.
Audi promises “Truth in Engineering.” That certainly applies to the R8 GT Spyder. The two-seater has 560 hp, a top speed of 198 mph and does zero – 60 in 3.8 seconds. This is definitely a price-is-no-object set of wheels, beginning at $210,000. If you have less to spend, Edmunds.com extolls the virtues of the R8 4.2 liter quattro, with 430 horsepower that does zero – 60 in 4.5 seconds for about $115,000. Its review praises the R8’s “preposterous power, quick reflexes and heroic grip.”
Watching the Olympics, viewers couldn’t miss BMW’s commercials: “We only make one thing: The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Perhaps the ultimate of the Ultimate Driving Machines are its M cars. BMW says M is “The most powerful letter in the world.” The new turbocharged M6 V8, with 560 horsepower comes close at 155 mph and zero – 62 (100 km) in 4.2 seconds.
BMW can’t say how fast it really goes, because it, and most of these cars, have electronic speed limiters, but one reviewer said it “…throws itself down the road with almost casual abandon and hooks up long sweepers and short, stabbing corners with impressive nonchalance.” TopGear.com called it “epically quick.” The coupe, available this fall, is priced at $106,100; the convertible is $113,100. They’re technically larger than two-seaters, but not really.
Car design aficionados love the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT coupe’s gullwing styling that harks back to the 1950s’ 300 SL. Looks aside, Autoblog.com says the 2013, on sale this fall, “ups the supercar stakes,” with its 583 hp, 6.3-liter V8 engine.
Mercedes says the SLS SMG GT should do zero – 60 in 3.6 seconds with a maximum speed of 197 mph. Pricing isn’t firm yet, but the coupe is expected to be $254,548; about $10k more for the roadster. It’s made for “an emotionally enjoyable and passionate driving experience,” according to Mercedes’ Overall Vehicle Development exec, Tobias Moers.
Porsche is synonymous with sports car, emphasized in the company slogan: “Our identity, our promise: Forever the sports car.” Notwithstanding the Johnny-come-lately Panamera and Cayenne, the top of its line is the 911; the fastest is the 911 GT2 RS at 620 hp and a top speed of 205 mph. It will do zero – 60 in 3.4 seconds. It’s got the top price, too: $245,000. The 911 Turbo S and 911 Carrera S are not quite as fast but cost $160,700 and a mere $100k, respectively.
Insideline.com said of the 2011 GT2 RS, “It’s this kind of street-legal racecar that makes Porsche one of our favorite carmakers.”
Why do people buy these high-priced, high-performance vehicles? To quote a friend who sells them, “The smiles new owners have getting into their performance cars for the first time always give me goose bumps … I’ve never heard one person say to me that it was a waste of money.”
With German cars like these selling so well, no wonder American automakers have brought back their muscle cars. And don’t think we’ve forgotten the hot Asian contenders, either.
Stay tuned. Watch this space in the coming weeks.