WARNING: Unless you are well-connected to someone in the National Highway Authority, do NOT attempt to run your own high speed test like the one shown in this video.
Despite my poverty on four wheels, I was a happy man in 2003 when I first drove my old 1300cc Japanese car at 140 Km/h on the M2 motorway.
The ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, is credited with doing three things: testing an atomic bomb up in the remote hills of Baluchistan, having a six lane motorway built between Lahore and Islamabad and finally going for a hair transplant.
The M2 being a joint venture project between Pakistan and Korea, Nawaz Sharif laid its foundation stone on 11 January 1992 and inaugurated it on 26 November 1997. He did the undoable by ‘wasting huge sums of money on one of Asia’s most expensive highways’.
The Fast Lane
The new M2 is a faster alternative to the old GT Road. Although the 367 Km long M2 increases the distance between Lahore and Rawalpindi, it cuts down the travel time considerably. As in the old days, when the GT Road was dotted with caravanserais and trees on both sides, the M2 has plenty of resting points, whose names are associated with nearby towns. Keeping in view the public’s penchant for consuming refreshments, there are plenty of free public toilets all along the route—a major achievement considering that in many parts of the industrialized world, one pays to answer the call of nature.
One must pay a one-way toll fee of Rs 235 on the M2 which is a small price for laying one’s tired eyes on scenic beauty and totally bypassing all the dirt and noise produced by heavy vehicular traffic on GT Road where carefree humans and animals suddenly cross one’s path.
Indeed Nawaz Sharif upped the ante on Sher Shah Suri who merely renovated the famous Sarak-e-Azam (Great Road) that linked the capital at Agra (India) with his home in Sasaram. Suri extended the road westwards to Multan (now in Pakistan) and eastwards to Sonargaon (now in Bangladesh) in the 16th century AD. The same highway was later re-named by the British as Grand Trunk Road—now popularly known as GT Road.
The most interesting points of this scenic drive on the M2 are the world’s largest rock salt deposits and Asia’s highest pillared bridge built at Khewra Salt Range near Kallar Kahaar, home to ICI’s chemical processing industrial plants. Not many who drive by a town called Bhera realise it dates back to the time when Alexander of Macedon, invaded us in the name of democracy in 326 BCE. He was followed By Mahmud of Ghazni, Genghis Khan, Shahab-ud-din Ghauri, Zaheer-ud-din Babur and Sher Shah Suri.
Greed For Speed
Life on the M2 begins when you exceed 120 Km/h, the legal speed limit on the motorway. If one has a powerful car, there is much to gain from occasional speeding such as: shrieking children, a scared wife reciting aloud holy verses, one’s own pounding heart (which invariably pounds less after a few years of having uttered ‘I DO’ thrice), an engine revving away on automobile-Viagra and best of all, adrenalized highway policemen lying in wait for the next speed demon.
What you see in the video here is a Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse (W211) E200 Kompressor not chased by the police on the M2. While the automobile is capable of reaching a top speed of 236 Km/h (146.7 mph), we could only touch 222 Km/h (139 mph) or 96.5% of the maximum.
While the E200 Kompressor can accelerate from 0 to 100 Km/h (0-62 mph) in a 9.1 seconds, it took us full fifty-eight seconds to accelerate from 128 Km/h (80 mph) to 222 Km/h (139 mph). This slightly slower acceleration resulted because the car was loaded (approximately 380 Kg) with five adults, their luggage, and forty Litres of petrol in the tank—conditions hardly conducive to an ideal speed test.
Elevation: 366m (1,200 feet) above mean sea level
Temperature: 35 Celsius
Relative humidity: 63%
Speed Vs RPM data
80 mph (128 Km/h) @ RPM 3,500
90 mph (144 Km/h) @ RPM 4,000
100 mph (160 Km/h) @ RPM 4,200
110 mph (176 Km/h) @ RPM 4,700
120 mph (192 Km/h) @ RPM 5,100
130 mph (208 Km/h) @ RPM 5,500 (drop to 4,700)
139 mph (222 Km/h) @ RPM rise to 5,000
The acceleration rate was 1.55 Km/h every one second. The distance being covered was from 2.13 Km/minute (at an initial speed of 128 Km/h) to 3.7 Km/minute (at a final speed of 222 Km/h).
Finding a five kilometres long traffic-free stretch in the right lane on the M2 was not an easy task considering that the Motorway Patrol watches motorists at such sweet spots for over-speeding. After all, they too have wives and young children to feed at home.
At places, the concrete divider that separated the lanes on each side of the M2 had gaps through which stray cats or dogs could suddenly cross one’s path. At such speeds, even a bird hitting the car’s body might act like a bullet, hence the possibility of a high speed crash was more on the mind than a ticket for over-speeding.
Money On four Wheels
Depending upon the options, the current price of an E200 (2011 model) in Pakistan is anywhere from 8.2 to 8.6 million Rupees. Add to that an annual comprehensive insurance premium of at least Rs 250,000, one time registration fee of at least Rs 100,000 and the cost of using high octane (RON 95 rating) fuel at Rs 103/Litre. With this much white money out of a banker’s clutches and moving gracefully on four wheels, one would be a complete fool not to conquer temptation by giving in to it on the M2.
Buying a Mercedes-Benz means one pays for the superb ride quality, lower noise level inside, the ability to touch hitherto unknown speeds and see jealousy writ large on the faces of lesser mortals on the road. Speeding away like a bullet at 222 Km/h brought home the realization this July that life is for living.
In Pakistan, millions spend their entire lives saving enough to buy either an 800 cc Suzuki or a 1,300 cc Toyota, always worrying about children’s higher education. The feel of driving a pedigree automobile—such as a Porsche 911 Carrera which I once drove in England at 240 Km/h (150 mph)—is something quite beyond words.
Men express happiness when women get themselves waxed but almost all women show signs of jealousy when a man pays more attention to his first love: his car. Now, if you ladies will excuse me, I need to go wax my E200 Kompressor.
©2011 Tahir Gul Hasan