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15 Titans of Tire Trauma

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/27/2015 Frank Markus

It's an infantile obsession, but who doesn't love dropping the hammer and seeing the rearview mirror fill with tire smoke? Well, I suppose the honest answer is most of the world that never clicks on our website. But here you are, so let's take a look at 15 vehicles capable of routing an almost surreal amount of force to their hapless contact patches.


This exercise started with a simple sorting of our test database by manufacturer-rated peak torque. The top of the list was culled to leave one representative of each vehicle line still in production, plus one out-of-production honoree: the mighty Bugatti Veyron 16.4. Then, after feeding tire sizes, axle ratios, and transmission gear ratios into our UNIVAC computer, out popped the following list of vehicles capable of sending between a half ton and almost 3.5 tons of force to the contact patch of each driven wheel.

Understand that the more driven wheels there are, the lower the individual force at each tire contact patch there is. In the interest of simplicity, vehicles with all wheels driven assume a 50/50 front/rear torque split with each tire getting an equal share of the abuse. One final exception to this rule: The twin contact patches at the rear of a dualie pickup count as one contact patch. All numbers presented represent an estimate of the force generated at the torque peak in first gear.

This yields a straightforward calculation of torque through the gear ratios in vehicles with manual transmissions, twin-clutch automatics, and multi-plate clutch launch devices instead of a torque converter (like the Mercedes AMGs). Torque converters introduce an additional multiplier from stall (standing still with both feet on the gas and brake) and until the converter locks at some speed above zero. Typical stall torque multiplication ratios can range up to 2.5:1. Higher numbers can give weaker engines a bit more off-the-line oomph, but this greatly reduces the efficiency of the transmission. Determining exactly what this multiplier should be is nigh impossible, so we made a few assumptions:

  • The Hellcat's peak torque arrives at a heady 4,000 rpm, and the Corvette Z06/Z07 eight-speed automatic peaks at 3,600 rpm. At these revs we can probably assume these cars are already rolling and close to if not already locked up, so they get no multiplier.
  • All the big diesel pickups and the luxo-cruisers from Bentley, Maybach, and Rolls-Royce make their peak torque below 2,000 rpm, so they can be assumed to be stalled at their torque peak; they get a very conservative multiplier of 1.5. If you're in the torque converter biz and want to suggest better factors, hit us up in the comments section.

So from lowest to highest, here are our top tire traumatizers:

15) Tesla Model S P85D

1,311 pounds of force per tire

2015 Tesla Model S P85D Front Three Quarter In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Tesla Model S P85D Front Three Quarter In Motion At 687 lb-ft of torque, Elon's mighty electric ranks seventh in terms of peak torque, so how did it end up on the bottom of this list? Simple. The one-speed transmission gearing provides by far the second-lowest torque multiplication of any driveline in this grouping.

14) Porsche 918 Spyder

1,537 pounds of force per tire

2015 Porsche 918 Spyder© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Our 13th-place finisher in overall torque also ranks seventh in torque multiplication, and of course it's also dividing its total torque four ways, so its position as 14th on this list comes as little surprise. The consolation is its second-best showing in quarter-mile acceleration, at 10.0 seconds at 145.2 mph.

13) 2005 Bugatti Veyron 16.4

1,570 pounds of force per tire

Bugatti Veyron© Provided by MotorTrend Bugatti Veyron What?! How is it that 922 lb-ft of twist can only manage to whip up a pitiful three-quarters of a ton of force for each of its precious and peculiarly dimensioned Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 PAX tires? Bugatti prioritized top speed over stoplight sprinting, and its seven ratios are fairly evenly spaced, so its first gear boasts the highest overall gearing (10.1 mph/1,000 rpm) of any vehicle on this list, including the one-speed Tesla.

12) Dodge Viper GTS

2,255 pounds of force per rear tire

2014 SRT Viper GTS© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 SRT Viper GTS Our first rear-drive entrant on the list produces "just" 600 lb-ft (at a heady 5,000 rpm), and routes it through the second tallest first-gear ratio of the bunch (9.2 mph/1,000 rpm). This compromises its acceleration slightly (fifth-quickest quarter-miler on this list despite second-best weight-to-power ratio) and also blunts its burnout brilliance.

11) Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD LTZ

2,450 pounds of force per corner

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD The "weakest" of our list's heavy-duty pickups makes 765 lb-ft of twist, ranking it fifth overall in terms of torque. And because it's a dualie, you'll struggle mightily to do a burnout in 4WD mode, but drop it into RWD mode and you can send 2,450 pounds of abuse to each of the four tires on the rear axle.

10) Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn

2,525 pounds of force per corner

2014 Ram 3500© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Ram 3500 Ranking third in total torque at 850 lb-ft, this 4WD stump-yanker also boasts the tallest gearing of the pickup trucks. This spares the tires some trauma and gives the Ford Super Duty, which only makes 10 more lb-ft, a huge advantage in first-gear pulling power.

9) Chevrolet Corvette Z06/Z07

3,223 pounds of force per rear tire

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 America's sports car turns its tenth-place torque rating into a ninth-place tire-trauma rating with mid-pack gearing — and rest assured, 1.6 tons of force per tire is more than ample to get two-turnin' and two-burnin'.

8) Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG

3,320 pounds of force per rear tire

2014 Mercedes Benz S63 AMG S Model© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mercedes Benz S63 AMG S Model This one's 664 lb-ft are produced at a frenetic enough pace (577 peak hp) to hurl 4,914 pounds of sybaritic splendor to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds en route to a 12.1-second, 115.5-mph quarter mile.

7) Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

3,358 pounds of force per rear tire

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat The most obvious tire-shredder on the list's memorable 707-horse rating ranks it fourth in power, but at 650 lb-ft it's No. 11 on our list in terms of torque. With the sixth-shortest gearing (6.7 mph/1,000 rpm), it lands right in the middle of this auspicious pack in terms of contact-patch force.

6) McLaren P1

3,825 pounds of force per rear tire

Our list's second hybrid leverages its lofty 904-hp/664-lb-ft of oomph with the second shortest gearing to top our torque titans in terms of quarter-mile acceleration (9.8 seconds at 148.9 mph). Its lofty torque peak of 4,000 rpm suggests it might not be quite as adept at burning out as the low-rev torquers, but that's probably not the point.

5) Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black

3,845 pounds of force per rear tire

2010 Mercedes Benz SL65 AMG Black Series© Provided by MotorTrend 2010 Mercedes Benz SL65 AMG Black Series This mighty member of the "700 club" generates 738 lb-ft of twist at 2,300 rpm. This curt and positively svelte (for a bi-turbo, 36-valve V-12 AMG car) two-seater weighs only 4,221 pounds with just 2,026 of them over the burnout wheels, making it among the best AMG models in which to perform a big smoky.

4) Ford F-450 Platinum Super Duty

4,129 pounds of force to each corner

2015 Ford F 450 Super Duty Platinum© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ford F 450 Super Duty Platinum Our highest placing truck gets here by routing the second-highest peak torque (860 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm) through the shortest gearing of this group (5.4 mph/1,000 rpm in first). Naturally it's a dualie, so there's a lot of rubber to get spinning here, even when the 9,083-pound truck's bed is empty. Still, if you're looking to leave four stripes, this is the rig — especially if you switch off the nannies, leave it in rear-drive mode, brake-torque the engine, and send 4.3 tons of force to each rear corner.

3) Mercedes-Maybach S600

4,321 pounds of force to each rear tire

2016 Mercedes Maybach S600© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Maybach S600 Not shockingly, wretchedly excessive limos for the one-percenters top our list here, with the (comparatively) least ostentatious of the three fittingly slotted into third place. Its whisper-quiet twin-turbo V-12 produces 523 hp and 612 lb-ft. (Note that the horses outnumber the lb-ft in most in-your-face performers, and the strong and silent types such as this one usually reverse that.)

2) Rolls-Royce Wraith

4,860 pounds of force to each rear tire

2014 rolls royce wraith© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 rolls royce wraith This most sporting of Rolls-Royces indicates its performance bona fides by producing 624 horses and a mere 590 lb-ft of torque (lowest on this list). With only two drive wheels to spread those lb-ft between and the fourth-best gearing in terms of torque multiplication, the Rolls thrusts its retractable Flying Lady hood ornament ahead into second place in the tire-force race. (It finishes tenth in a drag race.)

1) Bentley Mulsanne Speed

6,841 pounds of force to each rear tire

2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed Passenger Profile In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed Passenger Profile In Motion Note the 41 percent increase in force at the contact patch between the second-place Wraith and this new Mulsanne Speed. The Bentley Boys (and girls) ain't playin'. They came to this challenge to win, wringing heavy-duty pickup truck levels of torque (811 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm) from an ancient pushrod "six-and-three-quarta' leeta'" V-8. Of course the lazyish way it makes that thrust (power peaks at just 530 horses) means this three-ton Tessie will finish in twelfth place in our unofficial World's Most Expensive Drag Race, with a time slip reading 13.6 seconds at 103.3 mph. When the 99 percent pick up their pitchforks and torches, hop in one of these and leave them in a cloud of tire smoke.

15 Titans of Tire Trauma© Provided by MotorTrend 15 Titans of Tire Trauma

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