3 German Tuner Cars Done So Very Right
With great horsepower comes the responsibility to look tasteful. These three German cars do just that.
Let me preface the headline with a disclaimer: I can’t stand most tuner cars. Lightly modified ones, like those from Dinan, or heavily modified yet tasteful efforts from Saleen are perfect in my book. It’s just that most tuning companies, like the little girl in “Willy Wonka” who bloats into a blueberry, can’t stop once they bite a piece of the candy. Too often, their “creations” become grotesque, mismatched freak shows that subtract all dignity and taste. It’s why the SEMA show in Las Vegas has become a mockery of itself, an annual circus to look at Chrysler 300 pickups and slammed GMC Jimmys.
Aside from the one-offs, many tuner companies, such as Mansory, make a real living out of stuffing orange leather into a Rolls Phantom or putting polka dots on the inside of a Mercedes SLR McLaren; stuff like this is shown at the Geneva Auto Show. That’s not counting all the obnoxious chrome- and gold-plated cars in the United Arab Emirates, the Eterniti Hemera (looks as awful as it sounds) and any number of Hondas in Japan that ate the entire Mugen parts catalog and threw up on themselves. It’s disgusting.
This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t modify their cars or that stock cars are inherently too perfect to change. That’s silly, too. But there’s a way to do it right, without looking like Ron Artest, a Russian mobster or David Beckham. Here are three ways, all of them German.
Alpina has been racing and modifying BMWs since the late 1960s. After starting a separate winery business, the company registered as a car manufacturer in 1983 -- no easy task under the German Ministry of Transport, which is as strict as it sounds. It’s this honorable distinction that gives tuners such as Alpina direct partnerships with automakers, instead of receiving silent disapproval; Alpinas are sold at BMW dealerships, for example. The company pioneered automated manual transmissions in 1992, years before anyone would try a production dual-clutch transmission, and offered steering-wheel shift controls in 1993. On the styling side, Alpina has always done very little, and that’s what makes the work stand out.
The current B7, a modified 7 Series, features the most beautiful wheels in the entire world: ornate 21-inch rims with no fewer than 20 spokes. The interior replaces the BMW steering wheel badge with the Alpina shield, adds green and blue stitching to the rim, changes the gauges and replaces the wood trim with a special kind found only on the West Coast. The B7 has been the closest thing to the yet-undecided factory M7, with its twin-turbo V8 pushing out 507 horsepower; note that Alpina has been using twin turbos since the late 1980s. Rare and incredibly refined, the Alpina B7 is the luxury car for those lucky enough to know it exists. That’s why I want one.
Like Alpina, RUF is also an official German manufacturer. You may have heard of RUF’s famous CTR, which was nicknamed “Yellowbird” by Road and Track and which Car and Driver was lucky enough to drive this year. In 1987, that car topped out at 212 mph and did zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds. And remember, this was a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive 911 in 1987, which means it was properly life-threatening. RUF still builds the fastest 911s in existence, with aggressive yet tasteful aero kits and turbos packing 685 horsepower on otherwise normal-looking Porsches.
But RUF’s work doesn’t stop with kits. The automaker remade the 1967 Targa, complete with a steel roll bar and lift-off roof panels, and even threw in a soft-top rear window. It created a midengine, wide-bodied 911, in what looks to be the inspiration for Porsche's upcoming 918 Spyder, that comes with 750 horsepower and a sequential racing gearbox, and that tops out at an insane 236 mph. RUF even made its own all-electric concept, two years before Porsche would unveil its own 911 GT3R Hybrid. In short, the company is a technological marvel that supersedes even the masters in Stuttgart.
Want more proof? This neon green car, the RGT-8, does the impossible. RUF has stuffed a custom flat-crank 8-cylinder engine in a 911. An 8-cylinder 911. The car has 550 horsepower and RUF’s integrated full-body roll cage, which blends into the interior and goes into all RUFs. The company will sell the RGT-8 -- modified on the latest 991 chassis, unlike the 997 prototype shown above -- this year. I'd prefer another color to better avoid police, but that's all the wrong I see in this RUF.
Brabus 800 E V12
Once again, in Brabus we're dealing with a registered German manufacturer. Since 1977, it has specialized in extracting maximum power from Mercedes-Benz vehicles, a sort of insanity that separates it from Renntech, Lorinser, Carlsson and other Benz tuners. The car above is an E-Class fitted with a 6.3-liter twin-turbo V12, a bored version of the stock AMG twin-turbo V12. The result is an E-Class with 790 horsepower, 811 pound-feet of torque (limited from 1,047), and a 230-mph top speed, courtesy, in part, of rear-wheel side skirts that reduce drag.
The E63 AMG is already my favorite sedan on the planet, so the Brabus edition is several galaxies and advanced civilizations away from my comprehension. It appears to be a blacked-out, matte-finish E-Class with a custom leather interior. The red-faced, 400-kph speedometer is the only visible hint of its potential. It costs half a million dollars. My driveway. Now.
Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving and riding in cars he doesn't own. He was raised in Volvos and has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He lives in Boston, is a member of the New England Motor Press Association, and has reported for The Boston Globe, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics and The Times of London.
All of these car tuners have been around for a long time,I love them except they are wayy tooo expensive!!
I really like the Alpina B7. It is not over the top,lowered, Dubs and interior/exterior upgrades that don't shout "pimp my ride".
As for the Benz Brabus, I think it is a bit over the top exterior wise. But that engine is absolutely a monument to magnificent excess. Gas prices be damned, I want that engine for my 92 Benz SL Roadster!!!!
The Porsche is over the top too and the one pictured is just plain ugly. Great cars but they don't appeal to my type of driving experience. Reckon I'm getting too old for pocket rockets with 100K+ price tags.
All these are dream cars for most!! Probably the top 1% of Americans. Why not do an article on cars people can afford, so we know what to buy if we are looking for a top of the line (not a cheap plastic built interior junker) long lasting high-end sports car.
I don't think these car dealers get it. They charge as much as a house in some cases if not more for a vehicle. The banks will only loan money on most vehicle up to 60 months. By that time most cars are falling apart. Show me a car the is quality built, guaranted to last. Meaning the dealer isn't afraid to finance at a longer period themselves at an attractive interest rate and not a scandal or rip-off. I bet people would enjoy paying more and longer for something that is quaranteed to last, quality built, and a company that will stay in business long enough to back the parts and labor warranty that goes with it. The American Dream Car. U buy it and can pass it down to your children whom would love to have it when your gone kind of car!! Auto manufactures need to quit thinking short term profits and look at long term customers whom buy from them for generations.
Go cry somewhere else. If you don't like it, don't drive the damn car!! Besides, have you driven any of these? My guesss is no. Well, I had an opportunity to drive an Alpina V8 Roadster (based on the BMW Z8), and you know what? It was a FANTASTIC car, despite having an automatic. Unlike you, I don't just write off a car based on what transmission it has, especially if I haven't driven that car.
I am not crying - I am THUNDERING!
And you still have not learned how to drive a manual, have you? You will never master driving without it. You can not know what is a fantastic car until you are complete as a driver.
Got to admit, the RUF just sits there screaming HEY COP..TRY THIS !!
Now in traditional Porsche silver, or a decent medium blue metallic, I think it would be livable.
Correction, I KNOW it would be livable. Or perhaps a nice off-white ivory color.
I know I'd get too much attention from the cops anyhow, but it would be great fun until the paperwork from the DMV caught up with me. If I did it right, I might actually get to drive a month before they cuffed & stuffed me !
And agree, a car that's supposed to be fun needs a manual trans. Automatics are for true luxury rides (a Rolls would be absurd with a stick) or for the drag strip. A drag setup auto does shift faster than a manual, no matter how skilled the operator. But then too, a drag car can be driven by a CHIMP !!
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