This Disguised 700-HP Mercedes E63 AMG Shattered the Cross-Country Speed Record
The Benz was outfitted with onboard radar detection, an aircraft tracker, and the Waze app.
The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash hasn't been a thing for decades, since Car and Driver-affiliated ruffians such as editor Brock Yates had something to protest with their flagrantly illegal, cross-country race on public roads. Back in the 1970s, the federal government had just laid down a 55-mph national speed limit, an affront to driving enthusiasts who knew faster speeds were possible and no less safe. These days, several states have speed limits of 80 mph or more, sapping some of the gravity from balls-to-the-wall speed contests on public roads, though that hasn't stopped numerous attempts at the speed record over the years or the team that just broke the current record, according to a report in Road and Track.
Using a previous-generation 2015 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG sedan modified with a larger fuel tank, a 700-plus-hp engine, and a U.S. Navy ship's worth of electronic surveillance and signal-jamming equipment, Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt (and a spotter, Berkeley Chadwick) hurtled from New York to Los Angeles in 27 hours and 25 minutes—including stops—earlier this November. To place that in perspective, the previous record was 28 hours and 50 minutes. That also means the E63 averaged 103 mph over 2825.3 miles—again, stops included—between the Red Ball parking garage in Manhattan and the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.
However you feel about a German sedan pummeling American highways at triple-digit speeds, the car that was used is quite awesome. As a 2015 model, the E63 is pre-Mercedes-AMG (so, it's a Mercedes-Benz AMG), that came stock with a 550-to-577-hp twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 and a 21.1-gallon fuel tank. Both were upgraded for the record attempt, with the former being pumped to such a degree as to deliver 700 horsepower at the wheels, while the latter was augmented by a custom-installed 45-gallon fuel cell that takes up most of the Benz's trunk.
To keep apprised of police movements along the route, the E63 took on a human spotter (Chadwick) along with radar detectors, laser jammers, a police scanner, and an aircraft-detection system typically used by, well, aircraft. The setup is used to prevent planes from crashing into one another midair, but the team installed it in the Benz to hunt down speed-monitoring aircraft—although they never once encountered such a plane during their trip. Ditto the CB radio, which apparently came of no use. The team also relied on a thermal scope mounted to the car's roof to spot heat signatures from police cars lurking in dark speed traps; the widget could be aimed via remote control by the rear-seat passenger from inside the car. More relatable onboard tech included a phone and an iPad running the Waze navigation app, while the entire record-setting run was verified by two GPS trackers mounted to the dash.
Cooler still, the Mercedes was visually modified with stick-on vinyl, color-matched to the car's silver paint, that changed the appearance of the taillights and masked all of the AMG bits. The result? An even more banal appearance for the 2015 E63, itself one of the more banal-looking AMG sedans ever to exist. In fact, as Road & Track points out, the Mercedes almost looks like a two-generations-removed Honda Accord. Or maybe a low-spec Pontiac G8, at least from behind. As further protection from the fuzz, the Mercedes also came modified with kill switches for the taillights and third brake light. It's pretty sweet stuff, although we should set our lawyers at ease with the following disclaimer: Whatever you do, don't try this at home, no matter how snazzy your cross-country road missile might be.