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Click above to view high-res gallery of C&D's 2008 Lightning Lap

Every year Car & Driver does something we can only dream about doing: take the whole gamut of today's hottest cars and run them around the 4.2-mile track at Virginia International Speedway. It's called the Lightning Lap, and it's basic purpose is to discover which cars give you the most bang for your buck. The invite list reads like a who's who of sportscars, and this year ranges from the 2008 Chevy Cobalt SS to the 2008 Mosler MT900S. Twenty-two cars in all were tested, and other notable participants include the '09 Cadillac CTS-V, '09 Nissan GT-R, '08 Dodge Viper ACR and '08 Ferrari F430 Scuderia (sorry, apparently the Corvette ZR1 wasn't available, which would have made this the most epic event ever).

Think of the Lightning Lap as the biggest comparison test you've ever seen, and a great way to figure out how much performance you're getting for your dollar since the cars are judged strictly on lap times only. The cars are divided up into five classes according to price with vehicles like the Cobalt SS and Dodge Cailber SRT4 taking up residence way down in the LL1 class and the Ferrari and Mosler holding court in the most expensive LL5 class. This year there was no LL4 class, but LL3 contains the bulk of participants. We've got a gallery of shots from the event below provided courtesy of Car and Driver and a list of all the entrants after the jump, but you'll want to click through and read the whole thing for yourself. We're already angling with our friends over there to see if we can sit trackside and watch next year when the next Lightning Lap goes down.

[Source: Car and Driver, Photos by Rich Chenet]

2008 Lightning Lap - Car and Driver

LL1: 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS
LL1: 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4
LL1: 2008 Volvo C30 T5 Version 2.0
LL2: 2008 Chevrolet Corvette Z51
LL2: 2009 Cadillac CTS-V
LL2: 2008 BMW M3
LL2: 2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
LL2: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
LL2: 2008 BMW 135i
LL2: 2008 Lexus IS F
LL2: 2008 Audi S5
LL2: 2008 Honda S2000 CR
LL2: 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8
LL2: 2008 Lotus Elise SC
LL2: 2008 Infiniti G37 Sport
LL2: 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
LL2: 2008 Volkswagen R32
LL2: 2008 Honda Civic Mugen Si
LL3: 2009 Nissan GT-R
LL3: 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR
LL5: 2008 Ferrari 430 Scuderia
LL5: 2008 Mosler MT900S

LL1 (under $30,000)
LL2 ($30,000–$60,000)
LL3 ($60,000–$120,000)
LL4 ($120,000–$240,000)
LL5 (above $240,000)

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      It hurts to say it, but I want a Chevy Cobalt SS sedan in blue.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think that the GT-R being 1 sec behind the 430 is most impressive.
      • 6 Years Ago
      No Porsche and the Vette isn't even a Z06. wtf?
        • 6 Years Ago
        there are no new porsches to test, they already have times from previous year. they dont waste their time testing the same car twice.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's becoming more and more apparent that the Cobalt Turbo is the performance buy of the decade.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Mosler *drool*
        • 6 Years Ago
        That's what I said FYEAHHHHH

        Mosler will F everyone up !!!! :)
      • 6 Years Ago
      And no Mazdaspeed3 in the LL1 bracket to go against the Calibre/Cobalt crowd.

      That would have been a great addition, and I can't understand why C&D left out that great car. :(
        • 6 Years Ago
        Is that R&T article supposed to be conclusive proof that the Cobalt SS is the better car? It surely is a performer, but there are two truths about owning a Cobalt SS:

        1) You have to look at it from the outside.
        2) You have to drive it from the inside.

        Even R&T hammered the Cobalt SS scores for exterior and interior styling -- it came in last for both categories while the MazdaSpeed3 came in first.

        Fast or not, I couldn't buy a car that I don't want to look, sit in or be seen in. The Lightning Lap would be better if the MazdaSpeed3 were there to compete.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Trevor @ Sep 25th 2008 12:28PM:
        "Take a look at that if you think the MS3 is a better car than the Cobalt SS..."

        Impressive. Even more so because the SS got a 20 in the "driving excitement" section, the most important one, IMHO. What that R&T article truly shows is that both the Ralliart and WRX are way overpriced, I mean, $28,660.00 for a WRX? $29,915.00 for a Ralliart? Jeez! That's what the 2006 EVO RS used to cost, and that was the real deal, not some crippled EVO wannabe... :|
        • 6 Years Ago
        ? It says right there in the description of the Cobalt's track run that it dropped a full 3 seconds off the MazdaSpeed 3's record for this class. So what's changed in the MS3 from last year when this time was set???
        • 6 Years Ago
        agreed, the evo/sti used to be performance bargains. now they are over priced and over weight.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Uhhh Naggs:

        0-60 in under 5 seconds is hardly "embarrassingly slow". If that's embarrassingly slow, what would you call the Mugen SI: immobile?

        Not to embarrass you and your infinite knowledge of all things cars, but what kind of car do you drive?
        • 6 Years Ago

        Take a look at that if you think the MS3 is a better car than the Cobalt SS...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow .. CTS-V finished 6th right behind the Z51. It truly is a Cadillac Corvette. Many of it's numbers are sooo close to the Vette.

      Can't wait to see how it does in COTY.

      Also, the Cobalt did very well. That car is one of the most underrated cars out there. It really is a great performance car, for a very, very reasonable price.

      • 6 Years Ago
      "This year there was no LL4 class, but LL3 contains the bulk of participants."

      Ummm... It might just be me, but isn't 15 (LL2) higher than 2 (LL3)?
      • 6 Years Ago
      while i do love that car, the reasoning is probably becauuse that car is EOL
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow. Very cool, although it would have been even cooler with teh ZR1 and about a dozen others...


      Big Winner- Cobalt (Chevy in general)

      Big Losers-
      Chrysler ( hurry up and sell Viper, so you can have absolutely NOTHING good!)

      Audi, Subaru, and AWD
        • 6 Years Ago
        According to the downloadable PDF sheet that lists lap times, the Cobalt beat some ridiculous cars, including the 135i, Lancer Evo MR, Lexus IS F, Honda S2000, Lotus Elise SC, Impreza STI, Audi S5...what da #*@! Am I reading that right?
        • 6 Years Ago
        holy crap- I want a Cobalt.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Something tells me the BMW M3 will win this whole event (just like it beat out the (911 Turbo and GTR because it had more space)...this is Car and Driver remember?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Good stuff. Can't wait till they release all the videos and lap times. That Cobalt is a little screamer btw.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Lap times have been released.. you have to get them at C&D's web site.
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