Top Gear’s Top 9: Nürburgring tribute cars

By topgear, 01 December 2020

1. Lexus LFA Nürburgring

How do you make a carbon-tubbed 9,000rpm V10 supercar even more ultra-special? Swap the pop-up rear spoiler for a whacking-great fixed wing, add lighter wheels and front aero flicks, then get nerdy.

Each of the 50 LFA Nürburgrings had an extra 10bhp to compensate for the taller wing’s increased drag, while gearshifts were trimmed by 0.15 seconds. Each owner received Nürburgring driving lessons and got a 12-month circuit pass thrown in on the house. Beats a set of floor mats and an air freshener.

2. Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nürburgring

See, it’s not just exotic lottery-win stuff that gets the magic ‘Ring dust sprinkled on… wait that sounds wrong. You know what we mean. Even the humble Corsa – never our favourite small hatchback in the same way that Brussel sprouts aren’t our favourite bit of Christmas dinner – got the treatment. 

The list of upgrades was mighty. A new turbo, exhaust and remap lifted power from 189bhp to 202bhp, which arrived at the road courtesy of a limited-slip differential. You got Bilstein dampers, a slammed ride height, better brakes and tyres – the lot. We suspect a load of Renaultsport engineers broke into VXR, tied up the accountants and had a go at making the Corsa awesome. Pity it cost the wrong side of £22,000. But that was far from the start of the hot hatch ‘Ring arms race…

3. VW Golf GTI Clubsport S

Volkswagen did remember to tell us how fast its Nürburgring-honed hot hatch with a special suspension setting just for the ‘Ring lapped the, um, ‘Ring. It took just 7min 49.21sec for the stripped-out GTI to get round, which was a front-wheel drive record for about 7min 55sec, until Honda tried a bit harder with the Civic Type R, and snatched back the crown.

4. Seat Leon Cupra Ultimate Sub8

Here’s a future car bore pub quiz question: what was the first production front-wheel drive car to lap the ‘Ring in under eight minutes. The big picture of a tango-wheeled Seat and the ‘Sub8’ is a real clue here.

Nope, it’s actually this Seat Leon. Really, you should’ve got that. The pricey £4,200 Ultimate Sub8 pack added lighter wheels, beefier brakes and disappeared the air-conditioning and eight-speaker hi-fi, to shave off chunks of weight. After all, a stuffy car with no entertainment means you won’t have any friends. Might as well bin the passenger seat as well. 

5. Renault Megane RS Trophy-R

But if we’re talking nerdy hot hatches and um, we are, they come no more wonderfully, ludicrously over the top than this king of front-wheel drive geekery: the Trophy-R. Complete with carbon wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes and a fetid puddle of dank sweat where the back seats used to be, shopping cars come no more ‘Ring focused than this loony. 

Nothing with front driveshafts and a numberplate has been around the Nordschleife quicker than this 7min, 40.1 second hero. Look at it like this: when a Bugatti Veyron did the Green Hell dance in 2005, it recorded a 7min 40sec lap. Yep, the £74k Renault just became a bargain.

Though this 'Ring special isn't available to us in this sunny side of the world, we did get a glimpse of its potential in its base form not too long ago. Click these blue words to know what life with Lé Még was like...

6. Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec II Nur

The Skyline has been a Nürburgring legend ever since the R33-gen car became the first sub-eight minute lapper way back in 1996. To celebrate the R34 GT-R’s lifespan and the track at which it was developed, Nissan built 1,003 ‘Nür’ GT-Rs, with bigger turbos and more power as a result. Nowadays it’s one of the most sought-after Skyline specs going.

7. BMW E34 M5 Nürburgring

These days it’s a given that a super-saloon will have modes for suspension stiffness, variable-weight steering feedback, and multiple settings of headrest massage in the touchscreen.

Back in the 1990s, it was a simpler time, and that includes super-saloons. So you can imagine how cool it must’ve been for BMW to quietly add the ‘Nürburgring Pack’ option to the E34 M5, which included a thicker anti-roll bar, wider tyres, suspension that stiffened at the touch of a button on the dashboard, and steering weight that increased as the speed rose. Best of all, you could option the kit on the M5 Touring. What a way to take the family pet over Flugplatz.

8. Nissan GT-R Nismo N Attack

Nissan GT-R not extreme enough for you? Try the Nismo. Still no? Have you tried skydiving into white-water rapids while wearing concrete shoes? Oh, you have. Then back in 2015, Nissan came up with this: the N Attack package. 

Basically, it homologated the bits Nissan used to haul a GT-R around the ‘Ring in 7mins 8.679sec. So, that included bespoke suspension, a fixed carbon rear wing and front splitter combo, and bucket seats. But not the talent needed to guide this 1,700kg plate of very raw sushi through the world’s scariest racetrack quicker than a Pagani Zonda F.

9. Mercedes-AMG GT R

The GT Black Series currently holds the lap record at 6mins 43.616 seconds, but the original GT R had its moment in the sun as a ‘Ring-king too.

It was marketed as the ‘Beast of the Green Hell’, not because of its lurid paintwork, but because it briefly held the rear-wheel drive lap record at 7mins 10.9sec. Now you can spend twice as much, to go 28 seconds quicker.

Maybe the slogan for the Black Series should be ‘time is money’.

So, it's fast around this legendary German course - naturally. And, as we discovered earlier this year, can be quite a riot on Malaysian roads too. Click these blue words to find out what a weekend with it was like.