Kleemann ML55K World-Record Attempt
by Richard Truesdell
There's a healthy rivalry among Europe's top-tier tuners, each taking the best vehicles from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, and Mercedes and building something extraordinary. The title of fastest four-door sedan constantly rotates between Alpina, AMG, Brabus, Kleemann, and a host of others. While SUVs don't command the kind of attention in Europe that they do here in the U.S., they do provide fertile ground, and a battlefield, for Europe's best tuners.
In the case of the SUV record, previously set at 266 kph (165 mph) in an '03 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the Kleemann team enlisted the aid of 2002 Danish touring-car champion Jason Watt and ventured to southern Italy to the 7.8-mile Speed Bowl at the Nardo Proving Grounds, where, on February 9, 2003, they shattered the old record and posted the new mark of 282 kph. In addition to its ultimate top speed, the Kleemann upgrades enable the ML55K to sprint to 60 mph in less than five seconds and cover the quarter-mile benchmark in 12.9 seconds at a trap speed of 129 mph (the same time as a stock 3270-pound '02 Corvette Z06). These numbers are all the more remarkable given the 5291-pound curb weight of the ML55K, a vehicle not known for its state-of-the-art aerodynamics--it's like a giant silver brick and requires massive amounts of thrust to post these numbers.