Fastest Sedans in Lightning Lap History

fastest sedans in lightning lap history

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

A fast four-door is something special—and secretive. Even the burliest, muscled-up sedans can slip under the radar of most fellow commuters, who see a family-oriented grocery-getter, not a track weapon. Yet there are a plethora of sedans that can throw down on a racing circuit, as our annual Lightning Lap shootout proves. We’ve run piles of four-door sedans at Virginia International Raceway—where we head each year with the hottest performance cars, in order to extract their quickest lap—and here we present the 12 quickest so far.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V — 02:59.8

There are moments on the track when you’d swear that GM just went out and hired half the Le Mans grid for its development team. Really, the ATS-V sedan’s chassis is that good. After rumbling out of the pits, you’ve got at least three solid laps of peak performance to extract your time. That may not sound like very many, but we’ve seen cars of much higher pedigree go soft after a lap or two. The Cadillac’s tires and brakes—especially the brakes, those wonderful, unbreakable brakes—soak up the abuse with a shrug and keep going. LAP RESULTS

2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo — 02:59.2

Like the last Panamera we lapped at VIR, a first-gen Turbo S, this gen-two Turbo packs a 550-hp twin-turbo V-8. But the new car carries 229 more pounds than its predecessor. More weight with no additional power isn’t typically a recipe for improved lap times. LAP RESULTS

2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S-model — 02:59.2

For the past few years, Mercedes has sent along a man, Karl-Heinz Seitter, to mind its cars at Lightning Lap. He’s also become a kind of Mercedes-Benz team manager, ­gently prodding our drivers to do better. Tell him you got a 3:02 and he’ll ask you if three-flat is possible. Get the three-flat and he’ll have you chasing 2:59. We love Karl-Heinz; it’s like ­having the great, globular Rennleiter Alfred Neubauer along, but without the gray serge and fedora. LAP RESULTS

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio — 2:58.6

There are few cars that, at first sight, inspire the emotional response the Giulia does. Unfortunately, aesthetics matter not one bit at Lightning Lap. Instead, performance and reliability are paramount. And reliability has been something of an issue for Alfa. While a new one hasn’t yet stranded us, every Giulia we’ve driven outside of a press event has been finicky. LAP RESULTS

Mercedes-AMG CLA45— 2:58.2

With a lap that’s 7.4 seconds quicker than the Audi RS3’s and 1.5 seconds better than the BMW M2 Competition’s, the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 blows away its natural competitors. Perhaps more remarkable is that it’s quicker than eight different V-8-powered AMGs of various body styles, including all but two models—the 2011 SLS AMG and the 2012 C63 AMG Black Series—from the spectacular naturally aspirated 6.2-liter M156 era. And it beat those V-8 AMGs despite having a worse power-to-weight ratio and a lower peak speed on the front straight than nearly all of them. With that in mind, those tires don’t seem so extravagant after all. LAP RESULTS

2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio — 2:57.2

We fell in love with the Giulias cornering and immediate power delivery all over again this year at VIR. But love sometimes carries heartbreak. We’d list all the warnings and yellow lights that warmed our knuckles during our laps, but we’ll save you the thumb-energy of scrolling here. We ignored such warnings until problems became so serious we had no choice but to acknowledge them. That didn’t stop us from beating our last Giulia’s time by 1.4-seconds. LAP RESULTS

2016 Cadillac CTS-V — 02:56.8

Some things, while physically possible, just shouldn’t be done. For example: flushing a public toilet with anything other than your shoe, driving a cargo van to pick up your prom date, or drinking a Skinnygirl Marga­rita at a football tailgate. You can add lapping a 4114-pound sedan at VIR in 2:56.8 to the list. Big sedans aren’t supposed to corner this fast; inhaling highway without compressing spinal discs over bumps is their prime directive. Yet GM’s ultrasedan does it all, sticking an all-American pin into the balloon of German dominance in this genre. LAP RESULTS

2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S — 2:55.4

The E63 S’s success on track starts with a long-­established Affalterbach tactic: Cram the sedan’s engine bay with as much horsepower as you can. This 603-hp 4.0-liter is more powerful than even AMG’s track-beast GT R sports car (keep reading), and it propels this altered E-class to 154.8 mph on the front straight. LAP RESULTS

2018 BMW M5 — 2:55.2

BMW’s F90 M5 was the quickest sedan we’ve ever run at Lightning Lap for 2018. But just barely. Its 0.2-second margin over the previous quickest, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4MATIC, makes the four-door contest within the top-five a close fight. It’s not surprising that their armaments and tactics are similar. LAP RESULTS

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo — 2:55.2

The Porsche Taycan Turbo S is like the company’s other cars in that it is easy to find and probe the performance capabilities. At Lightning Lap, drivers typically uncover many seconds over the three days of lapping as they solve the puzzle of extracting a car’s potential. Not so with the Taycan. The difference between our quickest lap from our first session and our overall quickest was just 1.2 seconds, the smallest improvement of any car this year. LAP RESULTS

2019 BMW M5 Competition — 2:54.0

It might’ve only been king of the four-door performance cars for a year, but since then, it hasn’t just been sitting around eating premium gas and tires in the off season. The M5 Competition has a new twin-turbo engine that gets a 17-hp advantage over the previous, returned suspension, and other minor improvements that keep the rubber boots on this all-wheel-drive monster kicking. LAP RESULTS

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4Matic — 2:49.3

Winning by nearly five seconds is pretty definite. Not even coupes are safe as the GT63 S was able to hit a higher top speed from Hog Pen to the front stretch than Camaro ZL1 1LE and the 911 GT3 RS. Its 630-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the GT63 S is serious business. It might cost over $200k, but that’s the price you’ll pay for a car this big to go this fast around VIR. LAP RESULTS

Check Out the Quickest Cars of the Decade Here

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