This is my kind of show car. The two-seat land yacht measures 232 inches from bow to stern, exceeding the stately Maybach 57 on which it is based by the length of a Davidoff stogie--if that's not overkill, I don't know what is. Equally outlandish is the engine, a frighteningly free-breathing, twin-turbocharged, 5.9-liter V-12 that coughs up max power of 691 hp and 752 lb-ft of very low-end torque.
And then there's the styling. Vulgar, over-the-top, and utterly beguiling, it's perfect transport for Darth Vader. It looks as if it eats parked cars for breakfast, parties with dinosaurs, and went to school with the Frankenstein monster's son. In the unlikely case that the stance and the proportions leave you cold, the sound effects will grab you by the eardrums. The two pornographic side pipes emit a thunderous, earth-shattering noise. Oh, and by the way, it does 218 mph.
When I arrive at the test track to drive it, the monster coupe's makers are lined up behind it: Jrgen Weissinger, chief engineer and project manager; Harald Leschke, design coordinator; Joachim Lang, program test engineer; Rolf-Dieter Stohrer, senior product manager for Fulda tires; and Helge Jost, marketing manager for Fulda tires. Fulda? The little-known Goodyear/Dunlop affiliate triggered and funded the Exelero to promote a new range of high-speed, ultra-wide, low-section gumballs. I'm the first journalist to drive their precious baby--and to lay some Exelero rubber.
By show-car standards, getting into the malevolent-looking monster is a piece of cake. The long door opens wide, and the cushy leather seat moves back far enough to accommodate the longest limbs. Despite the Fulda-red stripes and the shiny carbon-fiber door panels, the instrument panel is essentially pure Maybach. The piano-black center stack, for instance, incorporates Comand along with the familiar HVAC controls, and the power adjustable steering wheel is a four-spoke device with a hub cushion so big it could house enough air bags for the entire Addams family.
Leschke sticks his head through the side window and helps me tighten the fire-red, five-point racing harness. "When designing the cockpit," he says between puffs of a Marlboro, "we combined elements from the Maybach 57 sedan with racy new touches like the transmission gate, bespoke neoprene and carbon-fiber trim, aluminum accents, and draft-free air-conditioning." What air-conditioning? To make sure that all 691 horses are on board, the A/C system has been deactivated.
But that's a small price to pay for an overdose of power and torque that ensures I'm still on a high when I head home from Stuttgart that evening. The tip of my tongue is numbed by the acid aftertaste of the 110-octane racing fuel. My nostrils are still clogged with pun-gent traces of Eau de Exelero. My field of vision has been badly blurred by the force of twelve cylinders gone wild. My palms are shaky from too much (or too little) opposite lock. And my ears are a bit numb from Maybach death-metal music.