The World's 10 Most Dangerous Roads and the Perfect Cars To Conquer Them
And you thought rolling down the I-95 in your hoopty was dangerous?
Image via Complex Original
If you thought driving to Manhattan was problematic, you need to get out more. Truth be told, as bad as the I-95 is, it’s got nothing on some of the most dangerous roads around the world. Like most roads, the ones we’re referring to were designed to help connect some of the most isolated regions on earth to civilization. However, with danger lurking around every hairpin turn, they often prove to be more treacherous than helpful. The good news is, as impassable as these routes may seem, with a little help for the right set of wheels, you can get to where you want to go. And just as more important, make it back.
From the Pan-American Highway here in our backyard, to the Zojila Pass high up in the Himalayas, these are the world’s most dangerous road, along with the perfect whip to conquer each. Drive safely.
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10. Dalton Highway
Fear factor: The longest stretch of serviceless road in North America; 240-mile (386-km) stretch of road with no gas stations, restaurants, hotels, or any other basic services
Choice ride: Land Rover LR4 Discovery
You won't have to stray far from home to find one of the world's most dangerous roads. And no, we're not referring to the I-95 (which, on a side note, is pretty shitty in itself). Rather, the Dalton Highway holds down that distinct title for the United States.
Roughly 414 miles long, the Dalton runs from the Arctic Ocean down midway through the state to Fairbanks. About 240 miles of that road features absolutely no gas stations, restaurants, hotels, or any other services, making it the longest stretch of service-less road in North America. If that isn't enough to get your attention, the frigid temperatures and challenging terrain you'll come across sure will. Accidents are not uncommon on the Dalton, and the fact that that the nearest medical facility could he hundreds of miles away makes it even more dangerous.
To take on the last frontier, we call upon the Land Rover LR4 Discovery to get the job done. Anyone who's an off-road auto enthusiast knows the LR4 is a proven workhorse when it comes to taking on unreliable terrain. Simply put, the SUV is built for adventure. Its top-tier steering, suspension and traction combine to help drivers stay connected to the road without skimping on performance. Advanced features like Gradient Acceleration Control will help make the steep descents you'll face on the Dalton less treacherous. Not to mention, you'll be so caught up by the luxurious interior of the vehicle that you may not even notice all the dangers your LR4 just helped you avoid. Just make sure you bring a couple extra tanks of gas.
9. Pan-American Highway
Fear factor: 30,000 miles of unpredictable terrain
Choice ride: Local Motors Rally Fighter
According to Guinness World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world's longest "motorable" road. It is also one of the world's most dangerous.
Running from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the southern tip of Chile, the Pan-American Highway is made up of a network of roads that stretch nearly 30,000 miles across two continents. Although much of the highway (particularly the portion that runs through the U.S.) sits fairly low on the danger scale, a small portion of it, which runs through Costa Rica, features some of the world's most dangerous drivable miles. Appropriate named the "Hill of Death," the San Isidro de El General-to-Cartago section of the highway boasts an onslaught of narrow turns, steep cliffs and eroded terrain caused by the country's rainforests.
The good news is, even the most precarious parts of this route will be of no match to you if you have the right set of wheels. In this case, the Local Motors Rally Fighter. After all, with so many miles ahead of you, you'll need a car that is fast, powerful and gives good gas mileage. Loaded with a 6.3-liter V-8 engine and a set of oversized wheels that can get you up and over virtually anything, the Rally Fighter is the choice ride to accompany you on your Pan-American journey. It won't do much for you in terms of the interior, but you'll certainly appreciate its rally car roots as you journey from the tip of the world to the end.
8. Stelvio Pass
Fear factor: Highest highest paved road in the East Alps. Consists of 48 hairpin turns in a 15-mile stretch.
Choice ride: Ferrari 458 Speciale
A paved road is no less dangerous than an unpaved one. Ok, so maybe that's not entirely true. But just because Stelvio Pass in Italy is more structured than many of the other dangerous roads around the world, doesn't mean it isn't as challenging as advertised.
At its peak, Stelvio Pass is 9,088 feet high, making it the highest paved road in the East Alps. The elevation, though, isn't the only problem you'll encounter on this treacherous route. The 15-mile stretch of road is riddled with 48 hairpin turns-some of which feature hair-raising 180-degree corners. One wrong move and you could find yourself going over the low concrete barrier and down the side of the Alps. Fortunately for you, you showed up in a Ferrari 458 Speciale.
Dangerous or not, this road deserves to be enjoyed. And the best way to enjoy it is in a 458 Speciale. Ok, so you could potentially make the drive in a variety of cars, but you're in Italy. So why not roll up in one of the best cars the Italians have to offer? A faster (and louder) take on the 458 Italia, the Speciale has the low center of gravity and handling that will make one of the most dangerous roads feel like a cake walk. Sure, you'll have to hit the breaks when you come to a turn, but there are stretches where you'll be able to hear the roar of the nearly 600-horsepower engine. These guys took a 458 to Stelvio Pass, and the results speak for themselves. Just remember, because of its potential danger during bad weather, the road is only open from June to September-the perfect months to pull the Ferrari out of the garage.
7. Sichuan Tibet Highway
Fear factor: High elevation, landslides and rock avalanches are just part of the problem
Choice ride: Mercedes-Benz G-Class
When you head out on a nearly 1,500-mile stretch of highway that spans across treacherous mountain ranges prone to mudslides and rock avalanches, you better come prepared. And by come prepared, we mean roll up in a Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
If you thought this German thoroughbred was merely a city dweller-nothing more than sweet eye candy-you better think twice. The G-Wagon has adventure embedded in its DNA. Permanent all-wheel drive comes standard with the G. Its 4-wheel Electronic Traction System distributes the correct amount of torque to each particular wheel for proper grip on wet and snow-covered roads. When you inevitably come across off-road terrain on your journey across the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, the three sequentially lockable differentials will give you more positioning power than you ever imagined. With the click of a button, the driver can shift the balance of torque and traction to the center, rear or the front accordingly depending on the conditions. In other words, mud and loose gravel will do little to slow down this bad body.
Just remember, if you have the option, opt for the heftier 536-hp G63 AMG model. With 154 more ponies under the hood, and a 7-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS transmission, it's a no-brainer.
6. Skippers Canyon Road
Nickname: "Hell's Gate"
Location: New Zealand
Fear factor: One of two roads in New Zealand where rental car insurance is not honored due the dangerous terrain
Choice ride: Porsche Cayenne
They say you shouldn't take your car to Skippers Canyon Road do to the extreme danger. To us, it sounds like they haven't driven a Porsche Cayenne.
A road that is mostly one-way, narrow and has imminent death lurking around every bend calls for a vehicle that can be relied upon to get you through "Hell's Gate" and back. The Cayenne is just that-an SUV that falls under the luxury category, but has the grit of a blue collar worker. While the Cayenne's monster 500-horsepower twin turbo V-8 seems a bit much for a road that should be traveled at cautious speeds, the car's impeccable handling and all-wheel traction are just what the doctor ordered to slay Skipper's Canyon.
Nickname: "Highway to Hell" or "Highway of Death"
Fear factor: 254 Killed in 2012
Choice ride: Toyota FJ Cruiser 4x4
According to UNICEF, the BR-116 is the most active highway in the world in terms of sexual exploitation of minors. Unfortunately for Brazil's second longest road, that's hardly the lone thing that makes it one of the most dangerous in the world. The BR-116, which runs 2,700 miles close to Brazil's coastline, is jam-packed with nerve-racking obstacles. For starters, with 60% of its traffic consisting of truckers, BR-116 has the highest concentration of big rigs on it at any given moment. Pair an endless stream of overworked, tired truckers with the inconsistent terrain of the highway and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster. The Sao Paulo-Curitiba section of the highway is perhaps the most dangerous. The road-some of it paved, some not-runs along the edges of steep cliffs just waiting for drivers to slip up.
To tackle Brazil's most notorious road, we enlist the help of Toyota's FJ Cruiser 4x4. Loaded with tough 4-wheel-drive underpinnings, as well as an impressive list of TRD optional accessories, it's almost as if the FJ Cruiser were built specifically for the BR-116. Granted it isn't the best-performing SUV on the tarmac, however what it lacks in on-road handling, it more than makes up for with its off-road capability-not to mention its impressive power (both of which will come in handy as you try to dodge all those truckers and potholes on the BR-116.
4. Guoliang Tunnel Road
Nickname: "The road that does not tolerate mistakes"
Fear factor: The single-lane tunnel is 15 feet high and 12 feet wide, with just a few feet to spare on either end of a regular-sized vehicle
Choice ride: Cadillac ATS
Now, before you go apeshit and start trolling the comment section over our choice to take the Cadillac ATS to one of the most dangerous roads in the world, hear us out. Compared to the other roads on this list, Guoliang Tunnel Road is only a fraction of the size, and features more consistent terrain. With that said, however, the three-quarter mile tunnel-which was literally cut through a mountain to allow locals to access the outside world-is no less dangerous. The tunnel, which sits 15 feet high and 12 feet wide, is only realistically enough for one-way traffic. Even with a smaller sedan like the ATS, the road spares only a few feet on either side as you pass through the tunnel. The Guoliang is lined with 30 "window," which provide views of the treacherous terrain that lies beneath.
So why the ATS? Well because it's already proven that it can handle the tunnel with ease. During its 2012 "Cadillac ATS vs. The World" ad campaign, Caddy took the car around the globe in search of dangerous roads to conquer. One of the locations where the ATS proved itself worthy was the Guoliang Tunnel. Watch this video and you'll become a believer too. (Spoiler alert: the ATS was able to maneuver through the tunnel and back in less than three minutes).
3. Karakoram Highway
Nickname: "Friendship Highway"
Fear factor: At over 16,000 feet, it's the highest paved road on the planet
Choice ride: Land Rover Defender
The highest paved international road on the planet doesn't come without its dangers. A route that connects Pakistan to China, the Karakoram Highway winds its way through the mountains at an altitude of 16,000+ feet. While the incredible views of K2 you see along the way make it a popular tourist route, the 800-mile highway is a nightmare for people who are prone to altitude sickness. With absolutely no barrier on one side, and shear rock wall on the other, the margin of driver error is fairly slim. To make matters worse, the area is prone to floods and landslides.
Don't let the unassuming nickname of Karakoram Highway fool you. The road is extremely treacherous and requires a vehicle that can hold its own against some of the most unforgiving terrain in the world. One such vehicle is the Land Rover Defender.
Developed for heavy-duty use, the Defender Utility Wagon features everything you'll need to get from Pakistan to China, including permanent four-wheel drive and a front and rear beam axle with coil spring suspension-both of which will allow maximum wheel contact over the uneven terrain that you will inevitably face on Karakoram. This ultimate off-road machine is powered by a 2.2L diesel engine that produces 266 lb-ft of torque (enough to get you up, over and around some of the highest mountain peaks around).
2. Road To The Himalayas
Fear factor: Highest road in the world
Choice ride: Toyota 4Runner
Anytime you're headed to the top of the world, you can expect to find danger lurking. The roads that lead up to the Himalayan mountain range are some of the most treacherous in the world. Among the dangerous sections of road in the region is the notorious Zojila Pass. The 11,578-foot high road, which lies on the lower depression of the Himalayan range, is nothing more than a one-lane crumbling dirt trail that hugs some of the tallest mountains in the world, with imminent death waiting for those who show up unprepared. Needless to say, conquering this beast requires relentless driver attention, along with a reliable set of wheels. Enter, the Toyota 4Runner. One of the most reliable SUV's ever made, the 4Runner is a serious off-road machine with a proven track record.
So why trust your life to the 4Runner instead of, say, the Toyota Land Cruiser, when headed up the Himalayas? Well for one, the 4Runner is significantly smaller than the oversized Land Cruiser-something that will certainly come into play when you're attempting to get across some of the narrowest roads around. In addition, the 4Runner is more versatile, yet carries essentially the same amount of cargo. Also, the 4Runner is lower, so it won't have to worry about scraping the top of the mountain in situations like this one. Because the 4Runner is smaller and lighter (but with the same engine), it will allow you to maneuver around those intimidating hairpin turns with better handling and traction.
1. Yungas Road
Nickname: "Road of Death"
Fear factor: The route is bordered by 3,000-foot cliffs; 100-200 fatalities each year
Choice ride: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Sitting 15,000 feet high in Bolivia's Andes mountain range, Yungas Road has a notorious reputation of being considered the most dangerous road on the planet. Built by Paraguayan POW's in the 1930's, the road-appropriately nicknamed "Road of Death" by locals-winds its way up and around 40 miles in the northeastern part of the country. Over the years, countless vehicles (particularly busses) have gone tumbling down the 3,000-foot cliffs that line the road due to minor miscalculations that would otherwise be harmless on normal roads.
So what's the best way to conquer the most dangerous road in the world? We suggest you get behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Known as the classic off-road vehicle, the Jeep Wrangler is versatile enough to go from the tarmac to the beaten path-something you'll heavily rely on while driving down the Yungas-with ease. It's 4x4 capability will help you get up to the required elevation despite the harsh terrain, while the modest size will come in handy when you're faced with extremely narrow stretches of road. In other words, climb in a Wrangler Unlimited and you won't end up like one of these unfortunate drivers. Want further proof that this road is absolutely terrifying? Just watch the boys at Top Gear take it on in this heart-pounding segment. As they point out, there are really no rules up there. Sometimes you go to the left side of the road, sometimes you go right, sometimes you have to blindly creep through zero-visibility dust-ups, and every time you don't know whether to pass or stop other vehicles. Maybe you'd be better off completely steering clear of this road altogether ...