Yes, it’s incredibly dangerous, yes, it’s highly illegal, and no, you shouldn’t even think about trying it yourself, but Alex Roy was driving an E39 M5 when he broke the coast-to-coast “Cannonball” record back in 2006. And now a new documentary on NBC Sports will be covering the preparation for and execution of the journey, while also educating viewers on the previous record-breaking run which occurred as part of the U.S. Express back in 1983.
Although American speed limits have risen considerably since the 1970s, when Brock Yates set out to cross the country in record time in a form of protest against the national 55-mph maximum speed law, cruising at 80 where it’s legal still leaves some drivers salivating for taste of an unrestricted section of the Autobahn. Modern automobiles are also much better equipped to cruise at triple-digit speeds, and this is what perhaps leads to many enthusiasts fantasizing about the ideal long-range, high-speed vehicle.
The BMW M5, in nearly any generation, has long been an ideal candidate for this role. The latest M5 generation is always a safe default choice, but what about a 7 Series? If you’re looking to cover continental distances in a matter of hours—legally, of course—it’s tough to beat the luxury and driver-assistance amenities available in BMW’s flagship sedan.
There are plenty of other options as well. Our own David Rose has piloted a BMW 6 Series convertible as part of the One Lap of America rally, which reminds us that BMW’s big coupes also make great grand-tourers. The current option, of course, is the 8 Series, or M8, which can also be had in slightly more practical Gran Coupé form if you’re looking to have some extra people join your cross-country jaunt. Another BimmerLife writer, Scott Blazey, addressed this same inquiry earlier this year in his column, ultimately settling on the E24 6 Series.
Of course, if you actually want to break a record, like Alex Roy, the vehicle is just one element in the grand scheme of preparation and planning. Roy’s journey has been documented on film before, most notably in the 2012 film 32 Hours 7 Minutes. It is that documentary which was used as the basis for Apex: The Secret Race Across America, and watching it will allow you to learn just how daunting of a project Roy’s record-breaking run across the U.S. was to orchestrate. It also allows for a great look at all of the (now obsolete) equipment, tech, and countermeasures he had fitted in and on his 2000 E39 M5. The car has lived a bit of a rough life over the years, but was treated to long overdue professional, in-depth detailing earlier this year, a process that also lets usget a good impression of what’s onboard.
What’s your ideal long-range grand touring BMW? (Shut up, Satch: We know, we know.)—Alex Tock
Apex: The Secret Race Across America is set to premier on NBC Sports at 7 PM EST on Sunday, October 20, and is also slated for subsequent release on iTunes.
[Photos and video via Apex, Wikipedia user Terabass.]