Contrary to what you might learn from racing games, race coverage, lap time records, and manufacturer testing, the Nürburgring Nordschleife, which we most recently visited after the launch of the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon, is technically a public toll road. That means during public access days (Touristenfahrten), every type of car, truck, minivan, motorcycle, moped, and motorhome shows up. We were at the track early, so attendees were mostly enthusiasts, giving us a clear cross-section of ‘Ring culture. We only enjoyed two full laps during our stint at the ‘Ring, but we enjoyed seeing the staging area full of visitors. Here are our seven favorites we found.
A Pack of Volvo Polestars
I didn’t get a chance to talk to the drivers of these speedy Swedes, but their presence on that foggy morning might have been buoyed by Volvo’s recent announcement that its S60 Polestar spent some time holding the lap record for four-door sedans before being bested by the Porsche Panamera and Alfa Romeo Giulia.
In a paddock full of black, gray, silver, and white, the blue Volvos were eye-candy. They were likely as fun on the circuit as they were to look at – both the V60 and S60 pack at least 346 hp, sent to all four wheels.
This was my first time around the ‘Ring and I was relieved to be behind the wheel of a “safe,” low-impact car like the 2018 Volkswagen GTI. I couldn’t imagine trying to wrestle something as tricky as the Porsche 930, making this brave soul either crazy or quite the wheelman.
Blasting around a track in the 300-hp 930 isn’t for greenhorns, considering how the car is known for particularly violent snap-oversteer, earning it the “widowmaker” nickname.
We like to think that the ‘Ring is populated mostly by Porsches, Ferraris, and BMWs, but most vehicles we saw were track-prepped examples of regular cars, like this Skoda Fabia.
The Fabia is one of the many small hatches that dot the German road network, but this one was ready for some serious driving with Recaro race seats and aggressive tires. It probably wasn’t the fastest car out there, but it was likely a whole heap of fun.
Volkswagen Golf GTD
It quickly became apparent that gas in Europe is much, much more expensive than it is in the States. A near-empty fillup of our GTI was often a €65 ($73) affair, helping explain why a large number of Europeans opts to purchase cars with small, fuel-efficient diesel engines.
So, what happens when a money-minded enthusiast wants something fun and thrifty? He or she picks up a Volkswagen Golf GTD. It offers similar go-fast setup as the GTI, but with a fuel-sipping diesel powerplant. It’s not slow, either, thanks to its 181 hp and 280 lb-ft output.
Modified Ford Focus RS
The ink is hardly dry on the car titles and owners have already slammed, overboosted, and stripped-out their Focus RS’. The hot hatch was already formidable on-track, so we’d imagine this modified RS is a proper weapon.
BMW E34 M5
It’s sometimes easy to forget the E34 M5 was sold on our shores – you rarely see them out and about. The same can’t be said for Germany, where I saw a good number of them blasting down the Autobahn.
I found this light blue example looking mean in one of the paddock areas. It returned shortly after one my laps and its inline-six sounded fantastic. Good to see an oldtimer doing what it was built to do.
I’m sure any European reading this list is shaking their head at the inclusion of this mundane Opel roadster, but for us, seeing an Opel badge on a familiar face is a novelty. While the classic Opel GT from the ‘60s and ‘70s was a bonafide German, the 2007-2010 version was a rebadge of the Saturn Sky for the European market.