I remember the turn of the millennium and the world marveling at three things. First, the fact we were still here. Second, that all the computers didn't crash. And third, the release of the 400hp BMW M5 family hauler, at the time the fastest sedan in the world by far, and a true sleeper.
It was a bold statement by BMW, because only three years earlier the "quickest sedan" title was held by the same marque with the 1997 release of the E36 M3 sedan with just 240 hp-sub-Honda Accord power by today's standards. The folks at AMG were feeling the wake of the M5, having only the 349 hp, normally aspirated E55 to lean on. In an attempt to ante up and silence the Bavarian celebration, AMG released a revamped E55, this time with a new supercharged 5.4-liter V8 pumping 469 hp and gobs of torque-516 lb-ft to be exact.
The following year, 2004, Mercedes-Benz made it seem this horsepower war had no end in sight. Then, to really stir things up, AMG released the SL65, powered by a beastly 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12 that unleashed 604 hp and a tarmac-thrashing 738 lb-ft of torque. Apocalyptic times indeed.
Fast forward to 2008 and here we still are. And while the horsepower war hasn't ended, the underground world of the automotive aftermarket continues paving a path for the ego-maniacal few that demand the fastest cars around, bar none. VRP Tuning is one of those companies that caters to these certifiable speed demons. We got a chance to check out a couple of examples they'd been working on.
This silver E55 could be the ultimate sleeper. On a quick glance you'd notice nothing special outside the V8 Kompressor badging. But with an extra 140 or more horsepower and torque to the wheels it's easily one of the most understated, yet fastest sedans in the country.
The car sports VRP's VR700-55 package. This adds sport air filters and an 80mm throttle body (stock is 74mm), along with spec racing cams and ported cylinder heads. Boost was increased from the stock 11.6 psi (0.8 bar) to 14.6 (1 bar) with a new overdrive crank pulley. VRP's long-tube headers and cat-back exhaust system assist exhaust flow.
A VRP/Powerchip software tune maximizes these upgrades, giving a smooth idle and on-throttle performance. VRP's carbon airbox adds the finishing touch to the engine bay.
On the dyno, the above mentioned amounts to 570 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque, which the stock transmission is able to harness. VRP claims an 18 percent drivetrain loss through the automatic tranny, translating to some 695 hp at the flywheel.
Cruising around town the car is as docile as it was when it left the showroom floor. But stabbing the throttle instantly turns it from a granny-hauling, purring kitten into a vomit-inducing, roaring tiger, accelerating in a way that could shove you through the rear seats and into the trunk. As I climbed through the gears I felt as if I was going so fast that bystanders couldn't turn their neck fast enough to spot me. I was in my own little world, and no one around could understand the adrenaline rush I had experienced.
R-compound tires provide the extra grip needed to hook up second gear, but you'd think with so much power and mechanical grip that rear end squat would be excessive. Not so. The AMG-tuned suspension handles body roll and rear squat as it readily anticipates such massive torque.