The stability control light starts flashing at 170 mph through a fast right-hander on the busy autobahn, but after three hours in this crazy C-class, there isn't much left to shock you - not even stability control telling the captain that his ship is now approaching the very limit. A few miles back, at an indicated 195 mph, the car suddenly sounded as if its sunroof would peel off. It didn't, of course, but we found evidence of the brute force that high speed can exert. Encouraged by massive aerodynamic lift, the four small lids that cover the roof-rail mounting points flipped open and changed shape just a bit.
Although the engineers from Brabus have simulated velocities of up to 230 mph on the computer, none of the tuner company's test drivers has yet actually cracked the 200-mph mark in this C-class, which is aptly named the Bullit. After a couple of high-speed runs, it becomes clear why 200 mph is plenty. The exhausted tires smell like a Formula 1 grid seconds after the red lights have gone out.
"It's not so much the actual experience that counts, but the imagination of what it might be like to do 200, 210, or 220 mph," says a grinning Ulrich Gauffrés, the head honcho of Brabus's R&D department. "With the long axle ratio, the Bullit could theoretically exceed 230 mph. But because of the extreme mix of power, torque, and load, we pull the plug at 350 kph [217 mph]. Incidentally, all our customers so far have opted for the more explosive but ultimately less dramatic shorter final-drive ratio."
The four cars built to date, including the example we drove, will reach a maximum speed of 196 mph. That's fast, but it isn't excessively fast for Brabus, which has a long tradition of building modified Mercs, including the CLS Rocket that was clocked at 227 mph on the Nardo oval.
Give it stick, and the Bullit will instantly ricochet, fishtail, squeal, and be a general nuisance on the road. Whipped hard, the rear axle attempts to overtake the front, reigned in only by the electronics restraining the truly monstrous maximum torque of 974 lb-ft, which needs to be chip-restricted to 811 lb-ft to protect the drivetrain from premature disintegration.