Can a Lexus really hit 140 MPH on the open road? And... should it?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am having debates with my friends. One friend claims that her dad's Infiniti (I think that's the car) was going 140 mph for a minute or so on I-35. For some reason, I don't believe her. I also don't believe my friends when they say they drive that fast on the highways. My question: Can a car like an Infiniti -- or any car, for that matter -- really go that fast? I would imagine the car losing control, overheating or the engine just crapping out. I'm very skeptical when people say they go even 120 mph on a highway. Am I underestimating cars, or am I right to say, "You're lying!"? Thanks! -- Mary

TOM: Well, some cars CAN go that fast, Mary. An Infiniti with a V-8 engine is one of them. In fact, there are a bunch of high-powered (usually expensive) cars that are capable of going well over 100 mph, and are limited only by an electronic speed governor set by the manufacturer.

RAY: But it sounds like your friends need a goverNESS -- to ride along with them and smack them in the back of the head once in a while. Even if a car is mechanically capable of going that fast for a period of time, that doesn't mean it's safe to do so.

TOM: No. When you're going 30 miles an hour and someone unexpectedly drifts into your lane, you swerve or hit the brakes and, if you're lucky, you end up with nothing more than an elevated heart rate.

RAY: At 140 mph, you'll be charred in a ball of flames before you know what hit you. And before you say, "No one else was on the road when I drove that fast," you'd be in just as much trouble if one of your tires blew out, if there was unexpected debris in the road, if you hit an oil patch, if you dropped a wheel off onto the shoulder or if some animal crossed the highway in front of you.

TOM: At that kind of speed, where everything has to go perfectly, it's very easy to lose control of a car. The slightest overcorrection of the steering wheel is enough to roll the car over, and at that speed, no airbag's going to save you.

RAY: So it's an extremely moronic idea to drive that fast on any public road. Ever.

TOM: Yeah. That's why they have racetracks -- closed courses, where they make sure no animals or cars cross the road when you're going 140 mph. And they make you sign a liability waiver so they have no responsibility to your heirs should you screw up.

RAY: So tell your friend: "Yes, I believe you now. And now I also believe you're a moron, so I'm not riding with you anymore."

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