Most people drive cars. Many are competent. A few are exceptionally skilled. And a minuscule fraction can do things behind the wheel that'd make your head spin faster than the driveshaft. These gods among wheelmen are a marvel to behold, with skill, timing, or luck so solid they can start and stop on farthings, drive through your coat closet without scuffing the drywall, pivot in place, or power-slide round entire municipalities. Such beings will often possess Machine Empathy, detecting when something's wrong due to subtle changes in how their vehicle is acting.
The natural habitats of the Badass Driver include tracks, car chases, and anywhere where something with wheels is trying to be faster than something else. Often seen behind the wheel of the Cool Car.
Compare Improbable Piloting Skills for the Badass Drivers of the skies and Badass Biker for Badass Drivers on two wheels. See also Drives Like Crazy, which is often either this or its exact opposite. See also Graceful in Their Element for when they're clumsy outside of a car.
Lupin III is often shown in chase scenes escaping from the police, expertly driving and pulling tricks while he does so. Although he's good, it's rather expected of a series that follows a thief as a Villain Protagonist. Why he's impressive is that he translates this skill into other vehicles as well, and as a Formula One Race Car driver.
This is the entire premise of the (rather stupid) manga D-Live. The company the protagonist works for when not in school gives him vehicles and he bonds deeply with them and does impossible, incredible things. Even if he's never driven one of these before. Then they cite something that they didn't like, like he crashed whatever-it-was or got seen on the job, and screw him out of his pay. He never seems to catch on.
Straight Cougar of S-CRY-ed can not only turn any vehicle into a supercharged, pink race-car, but also drive it like you wouldn't believe. Yes, he Drives Like Crazy. No, he's not going to hit anything unless he MEANS to.
Just about every single racer in Future GPX Cyber Formula, but Bleed Kaga in particular. His field racing background explains it a lot, since he uses offensive skills with his car, but he avoids using them unless in extreme situations.
Osamu in his Knight Schumacher persona isn't a slouch in the racing fields, either. He drives a very fast red and white car, is nicknamed "The Supersonic Knight" and is regarded to be the best driver of the series (up until the SAGA arc).
Togusa in Ghost in the Shell and Stand Alone Complex has this as his skill to lend to the Section 9 police squad. The rest of the team rely on him when they need to initiate a police chase. He's so good at vehicular maneuvering that he's the only one in Section 9 to evade the governmental forces at the end.
Edo-Natsu from Fairy Tail. But only as long as he is in the car, outside he is an extreme wimp. This is in contrast to the other Natsu, who is very badass normally, but suffers from extreme motion sickness.
Yuu Himehagi from Geobreeders. She can be a slacker that only smokes and sleeps, but when she has to drive, she does it extremely good
"A driver's job is to drive!"
Lolo "The Courier" Endive of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, whose second scene involves her effortlessly driving a bulky transport van as a high-speed getaway car, even if it means having to occasionally balance it on two wheels due to taking turns without slowing down.
Karina Sakaguchi, driver for the Rabbit Team, deserves mention. Her skill at driving her team's tank in close quarters is instrumental in their defeating not one, but two much heavier and more powerful tanks. The first by circling around corners so fast they get behind their enemy. The second by driving in reverse to escape the enemy tank while simultaneously staying as close as possible to it to avoid being targeted by its gun and getting it to drive itself into a river drainage ditch.
Diego Zhao (a.k.a. 'Rush') from the Rush City mini-series in The DCU.
Freeway, a member of the criminal organization the Network and sometimes foe of Batman.
Razorback, a little-known Marvel character, has the mutant power to, ahem, operate any vehicle at an expert level, just by getting at the controls.
In Crowns Of The Kingdom, Minnie Mouse is this. She takes control of Tomorrowland's Monorail, an Atommobile, and a Jeep in the Temple of Mara throughout the fic and manages to be completely awesome each time.
Film — Animated
Vanellope Von Schweetz and all the other racers in Wreck-It Ralph are Badass Drivers. Even King Candy/ Turbo himself is one.
Then there's Wyldsyde from The LEGO Movie, who not only drives cool vehicles, she rebuilds them along the way.
Though he doesn't start the film this way, Max from Collateralevolves into this when he stands up to Vincent and starts blowing through red lights, culminating in flipping the car intentionally in order to screw with the guy.
Most characters in the Mad Max series, especially Max himself.
In Halicki's case, this practically qualifies as Real Life, too, because he drove Eleanor himself all through the movie, including every single crash and stunt scene.
Elwood J. Blues in Blues Brothers. It takes a lot of badass to turn a car around at the end of an unfinished bridge like Elwood did. He can even speed through the dark of the night and outrun dozens of police cars with his sunglasses on.
Subverted in Snatch with Tyrone. He's introduced as an experienced getaway driver, but doesn't really live up to his hype.
Sol: He's a natural. Ain't you, Tyrone?
Tyrone: 'Course I am. [backs the car into a parked van]
Vincent: A natural fucking idiot!
Italian race car driver Franco Bertolli is hired for his reputation as one in The Gumball Rally.
If there's anyone better than Harold "Happy" Hogan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they can drive cars through time. His Monaco run must be seen to be believed; slaloming against the direction of the incoming race carsat top speed - much of it one-handed because Pepper is desperately trying to get the Mark V uncuffed from his arm. With the key in his pocket.
The W40K universe has the gunner Jurgen, who is determined to make sure that Commisar Ciaphas Cain IS NEVER LATE! To achieve this, he will defy physics and all known road laws to ensure this. To add to that, he's gotten away with it, though this is most likely related to the fact the vehicle he's driving being a heavily armored war machine, and that his passenger can legally shoot just about anyone they meet.
Shane Schofield from Matthew Reilly's books took an offensive driving course to justify why he can bypass a blockade by sliding along a concrete guard rail.
Just FYI: the teacher of the course was an ex-stunt driver.
Knight Rider: Michael Knight. Although you could say KITT did most of the work in the series, the episodes where Knight is behind the wheel of other automobiles make his own abilities abundantly clear.
Top Gear: Some say it's Jeremy Clarkson, or some of the guests they've featured on the show... all we know is, it's really The Stig.
As a testament to how badass he is, he held the record for fastest time on the Top Gear Test Track in the Suzuki Liana for over five years, racing against a half dozen past and present Formula One drivers. The 'over five years' finally ended 11 July 2010, when Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello (himself an example of this trope) beat it by a single tenth of a second.
Now Sebastian Vettel also broke his time... Or rather old Stig's time! Some say that his lap times are around 57, 58 seconds...
Montoya is shown to not really have what it takes as a small-time criminal... until he's put behind the wheel (in a flashback he was shown to be the getaway driver for the failed heist on Dacta Corp., and subsequently had to navigate a freeway while trying to shake off a relentless assassin climbing over his car trying to kill him).
The Speed Demon in d20 Modern Urban Arcana is a Badass Driver with supernatural enhancements to his ability to drive his or wreck vehicles other than his own.
Vehicle Riggers in Shadowrun can not only be a Badass Driver, they can drive 4, 5, 6 vehicles at once!
Players that mastered the beast named X2010 and it's succesor, X2011 from Gran Turismo Series are this. 1500 HP, design to be exempt of every racing design rule, light as a F1 and turns like an piece of iron running towards a powerful magnet on it's left. Cool car, but only properly driven by Badass Drivers.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has the characters mercilessly mock your driving. At one point, they tell you to go to driver's ed. And then you do. Harsh. Admittedly, it's an advanced driving school, and those classes teach you how to be an even more badass driver (even in-game, as every 100% earned on a test increases your driving skill by an amount that would take about half an hour of nonstop driving).
Franklin in Grand Theft Auto V has the special ability to slow down time and greatly improve his handling as a driver. He also starts out with the highest driving stat of the three protagonists.
Throughout the series, it's shown that Shepard is actually highly skilled at either driving or piloting various forms of ground vehicles and aircraft. Unfortunately this fact is often overlooked since everyone else considers Shepard to be utterly dangerous when they get behind the wheel.
Mention the name 'Greger Huttu' in sim-racing circles and expect an awed silence and people asking why the guy isn't in Formula One yet.
Top Gear Magazine did an article putting him in a Star Mazda open-wheeler. While the skill is certainly there (he was quickly setting some very quick times), the physical fitness required of actual racing wasn't.
Starting in the second game, Jak became one of these, with Daxter showing at least potential. In the racing spinoff, everyone who was playable became one of these by default, even Pecker.
Sgt. Moody from Call of Duty, who runs a little Peugeot through the German lines with his two subordinates to send an information to the American HQ. In United Offensive, he did the same thing with a Jeep through the freezing forests around Bastogne, this time with the help of an M2 heavy machine gun.
Pretty much everyone in F-Zero, especially Captain Falcon.
Or its players, who can master the game's Nintendo Hard difficulty.
The protagonist of Zombie Driver as he drives around a zombie-infected city, running down everything in his path, just to save survivors trying to escape.
Euro Truck Simulator features the player as an ordinary truck driver, who is encouraged to obey the rules of the road... but as they progress through the game's skill system, they unlock longer and more dangerous routes, until they eventually are hauling perishable, fragile and dangerous cargo across the whole of Europe on strict time limits and in foul weather, making them a Mundane Made Awesome instance of the trope.
First-person shooters like Halo require badass driving if you want to survive long in a Warthog or Mongoose in multiplayer mode. Preferably with someone able to shoot at your opponents, but for those moments they can't...
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja's titular Dr. McNinja, with a car, a motorcycle, and a private jet in the most recent arc, but this might be a given considering the general craziness of the series.
The current story, Army Of One, hand waves it nicely.
When Doc needs a Badass Driver to support him, he turns to Judy.
Ash is a pretty good case of this as well. Consider this: When Ash and Kate race the second time, Ash is driving a car that, as Kate points out, "is almost as old as you (Ash) are". Kate herself was driving a freaking Jaguar (and a modified one at that).
Formula One, a Badass Normal superhero from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, who uses a tricked out Cool Car to fight crime. Other heroes suspect he has the mutant power to drive any vehicle as if he was an expert, but the truth is, he's just a very, very skilled driver.
Whateley Universe example: Skids, whose mutant powers involve incredible driving skills, and the ability to psychically improve her vehicle, even while she's driving it.
In the S9 flashbacks, Agents Maine, York, and ultimately Tex give Grif a run for his money. It takes a whole Warthog full of balls to catch someone falling off a building in your car, about as much to ram a truck that your buddies are fighting on with said car, but what Tex can do on that motorcycle probably violates laws of physics.
Wheelman from Metro City Chronicles. He can drive across the country in a matter of hours and drive up the sides of buildings. His powers basically revolve around the ability to do impossible stunts with cars.
The Driver from The Hire, BMW's short film advertisement series. But then he's played by Clive Owen.
Override and Hot Shot from Transformers Cybertron are quite proficient. Being a Badass Driver is a requirement to become the planet Velocitron's leader, for the Transformers of Velocitron decide such things by racing. Override is the leader at the start of the series, and in the final episode when she abdicates to captain one of the ancient starships for the Space Bridge project Hot Shot wins the race to determine her successor.
A special mention should go to the fact that Hot Shot, unlike the many other Velocitronians who were racing for planet-wide supremecy, did not even know that leadership was the prize for winning the race and he won thinking there was nothing to win. He just likes racing.
Coop in Megas XLR, who naturally kicks it up to Car Fu when he gets a hold of hyperadvanced technology.
And from the same people, Motor City's main cast is full of them, but The Hero Mike stands out in particular.
In ThunderCats (2011) Panthro is this in his highly-customized Thundertank. He's even up for a game of chicken with the occasional giant war machine.
Asami Sato from The Legend of Korra qualifies. Demonstrating her amazing driving skills during a tense chase scene where she is blinded by smoke bombs. She not only manages to tail her quarries but manages to shock a couple into submission.
She's not just badass on the roads. She does the same thing on motorboats and in the sky with biplanes.
Lance in Sym-Bionic Titan, particularly in the "Roar of the White Dragon" episode. Notably when street racing Mike Chan (who could also be this trope) and when outrunning a Mutraddi, while still managing to pass his driver's test.
Most (if not all) drivers involved in forms of professional motor racing. Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR, etc. They go absurdly fast around incredibly tricky tracks and small mistakes can lead to dire consequences, although increased safety equipment has reduced the risks. Plus, they have to race and beat a whole field of equally skilled drivers.
Niki Lauda. Yes, he crashed and burned horribly, but they say he got back into the cockpit of a Formula 1 racer when he was still smoking. If that ain't Badass...
Dale Earnhardt. Some say that he could see how the air moved, which is why he was so damned good on super speedways. He was nicknamed "The Intimidator." That just about says it all.
Special points to Graham Hill, the only person in history to win each of the big three of motorsport: Formula One World Championship, Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.
NASCAR drivers Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison after crashing into each other on the last lap of the race and getting into a fight in the 1979 Daytona 500. Even before they got into the fight they were some of the toughest drivers of their time.
Jackie Stewart. To use the biggest example of his badassery, he won the 1968 German Grand Prix at the 187 corner Nurburgring, in the pouring rain, by more than four minutes! With a broken wrist! If that's not badass driving, then nothing is.
Anyone who can drive in the Monaco street circuit at top speed, barely centimeters from the walls qualifies. Take a look at some F1 onboard laps to see just how fast and how close it can get. You'd be damn sharp if you could just register what went past you. As Niki Lauda put it, Monaco is like driving a motorcycle inside your living room. As many people would remind you, Monaco would not have been approved for races had it been built today.
Take a look at the onboard cam at night at the Le Mans 24 hours, and you'll see just how little of the track ahead is barely visible to the drivers. Sometimes you don't know a corner's coming until they actually take it.
Any race car driver's skills are fairly easily transferred to street cars, be them open-wheelers or modified production cars. Therefore, pretty much all competent race car drivers are capable of badass feats behind the wheel. One example of such a driver showing off on YouTube is Ken Block.
Prohibition gave rise to an illegal and dangerous, but quite economically rewarding, activity: dodging the police while hauling contraband moonshine on modified cars. The famous "Bootlegger's Reverse" was named for just one of the maneuvers that such drivers would pull. What happened to all of those skilled drivers after prohibition ended? They formed NASCAR. See also Junior Johnson.
"Precision drivers" like Russ Swift, who's skills include parking cars with a handbrake turn, and on one clip imitating the movie 'The Driver' using the walls of a car park to knock bits of the car off.
Le Prince Noir (The Black Prince), a French motorcyclist, became famous in 1989 for riding one whole "lap" on the Parisian Périphérique expressway. Despite heavy traffic and a layout that's far from perfect for high speeds, he reached an average speed of 190km/h and top speeds beyond 250km/h. Don't forget that this was when stock motorcycles were limited to 98bhp.
Speaking of speeding in Sweden, there's also Getaway in Stockholm. High-performance cars with cameras mounted on them tease the police in Stockholm to chase them, let themselves be chased but not caught for a while, recording the chase with said cameras, and then head for an expressway where they escape at speeds out of reach for Swedish police cars. Like Ghost Rider, the drivers of these cars cannot be convicted thanks to the very special Swedish traffic laws.
The whole mounting-a-camera-on-your-ride-and-flooring-it-on-public-streets thing is Older than You Think, by the way. The French director Claude Lelouch already did it on an early August morning in 1976 in his short movie C'était un rendez-vous. He mounted a camera on the front end of his Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 and raced the comparably heavy and cumbersome luxury sedan through the streets of Paris. Although this was indeed released as a sort of movie, this does qualify for Real Life because absolutely nothing (except dubbing the engine sounds with a Ferrari 275 GTB) was edited, not even sped up, absolutely no special effects were applied, no preparations beyond mounting the cam on the Mercedes were made, and there wasn't even really a script except the route.
This deserves recognition. Extra badass point for the fact that he was driving an IFV.
Sabine Schmitz, the most Bad Ass female driver ever lived. Has done around 20,000 laps of the Nurburgring Nordschleife, and crashed "many times, can't count actually". This being a circuit that's 13 miles around which there continue to be fatalities on a yearly basis. On Top Gear she blew past motorbikes and sports cars...in a VAN. Which halfway around the lap "got no more ABS". And they say Danica Patrick is making headlines...
Jalopnik.com's hoon of the year, Bill Caswell. Enters a WRC Mexico rally race against $400,000+ cars driven by the likes of Ken Block (see "showing off on YouTube", above) with a $500 19-year-old rear-wheel-drive Craigslist car and no crew. Finishes third in class, and ahead of three cars in the aforementioned $400,000+ WRC class.
Have four hours to sleep, most sleep have had in a week. Car is perfect. Fuel pump fixed by the side of the road. Fixed rear sway bar. Changed to fresh tires. Fabricated new hood tie downs with a borrowed welder — had to borrow a larger generator to run it, too — b/c mine cracked off. Trans brace was held on with only one nut left and loose and halfway undone. Got lucky.