“How fast can it go?”
There are many ways to measure automotive excellence, but top speed is the one everybody secretly cares about the most. Aldous Huxley was right about speed being the only truly modern sensation. He left out the part about how much fun it is.
These 10 cars are more than just fun, though, they’re the fastest production cars in the world. The emphasis here is on “production;” racers and one-off custom jobs need not apply. We also tried to limit the selections to cars whose claimed top speeds have been generally recognized as legitimate by the automotive media and sanctioning groups.
Updated 3-2-2016 by Will Nicol: Replaced Ferrari Enzo with the Bugatti Chiron
There are also some cars on the horizon that appear ready to knock some names off this list. SSC still hopes to reclaim the title of world’s fastest car with its 1,350-horsepower Tuatara, and Koenigsegg claims a top speed of over 270 mph for its One:1.
For now, though, these are the fastest cars that can legally sport a license plate.
Hennessey Venom GT (270 mph)
This combination of a Lotus Elise chassis and 1,244-hp 7.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, and you have the fastest production car in the world. Depending on your definition of “fastest” and “production car,” that is.
Hennessey recorded a 270.4-mph run at the Kennedy Space Center last year, but only in one direction. To be considered legitimate, record attempts usually require one run in each direction. An average is then taken to account for wind conditions.
Because of its hand-built nature, there’s also some debate about whether the Venom GT qualifies as a production car. While it can claim the highest recorded speed, Hennessey’s monster isn’t recognized as the world’s fastest car by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Bugatti Chiron (261+ mph)
The Bugatti Veyron was a monumental feat of engineering, a supercar whose performance was so marvelous, Top Gear presenter James May compared it to the automobile equivalent of the Concorde. After ten years of production, the Volkswagen Group has unveiled the Veyron’s successor, the Bugatti Chiron.
Named for a famous centaur in Greek mythology, the Chiron is intended to improve upon the Veyron in every way. Hitting 261 mph using street legal settings, the 1500 hp Chiron is like a beast in chains. On the racetrack, Bugatti aims to break those chains as well as the current speed record (271 mph) held by the Hennessey Venom GT. For now, its top speed remains a mystery to the public. Although the Chiron is built like a racecar, one needn’t be a professional to operate it; the car is engineered to automatically adjust its machinery as the speed increases or decreases, ensuring optimal performance.
The Chiron will not be a mere speedster, but a comprehensive luxury vehicle as well. Beyond a beautiful leather interior, the car also sports a decadent sound system, with a diamond diaphragm inside each speaker. The dashboard features high-resolution digital displays that will adjust as the car’s speed changes, showing only crucial information at higher speeds. The Chiron looks to be a king among supercars, which is fitting, as kings will be among the few to obtain one; only 500 will be released for the first generation, and they cost a staggering $2.6 million.
Bugatti Veyron Super Sport (268 mph)
When Volkswagen purchased the Bugatti brand, it had one goal: build the fastest production car in the world. The original Veyron achieved that goal, and with a price tag of $1.7 million and a quad-turbocharged W16 engine producing 1,000 hp, it also boasted the most superlatives of any production car.
Yet the Veyron was soon dethroned by the SSC Ultimate Aero, so Bugatti came back with the Veyron Super Sport. This Veyron-plus has 1,200 hp, and numerous aerodynamic changes meant to help gain a few extra miles per hour.
With a top speed of 268 mph recorded at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessein test track, the Veyron Super Sport is still recognized as the world’s fastest production car by Guinness. The related Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse is also the world’s fastest open-topped car, with a top speed of 254 mph.
SSC Ultimate Aero (256 mph)
Briefly, the might of the Volkswagen Group and the prestige of the Bugatti name were bested by a car company no one had ever heard of.
Shelby SuperCars (SSC) has nothing to do with Carroll Shelby of Cobra fame, but for a moment its Ultimate Aero was the fastest production car in the world. It hit 256 mph in 2007, beating the non-Super Sport version of the Veyron.
Helping it achieve that velocity is a 6.3-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with 1,287 hp. There are no electronic driver aids to help control that power either, creating a purer driving experience for those with talent, and a scenario for certain death for those without it.
Koenigsegg CCR (242 mph)
Swedish supercar builder Koenigsegg briefly held the “world’s fastest” title before being bested by the original Bugatti Veyron. Its CCR reached 242 mph at Italy’s Nardo Ring in 2005.
The CCR was essentially an earlier generation of the cars Koenigsegg is building today. It featured a 4.7-liter V8 of the company’s own design, a carbon-fiber body, and not much in the way of electronic aids.
Despite its impressive stats, the CCR’s moment in the spotlight was as brief as its claim on the world. It was soon supplanted by the CCX, and then by the current Agera. Koenigsegg says the Agera-based One:1 will top out at over 270 mph, but no one has tried it yet.
McLaren F1 (241 mph)
The F1 is more than just a former world’s-fastest car. With its carbon-fiber body, gold-lined engine bay, 6.1-liter BMW M V12, and center driver’s seat, it just might be the coolest car ever made.
Years before it attempted to take on Ferrari and Porsche with the MP4-12C, McLaren was known only as a successful race team in Formula 1 and the defunct Can-Am series. Yet its first road car wasn’t exactly an amateur effort.
McLaren intended to make the F1 the ultimate road-going supercar, but its design was informed by the company’s racing experience. The F1 even went on to a fairly successful racing career in its own right, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995.
Aston Martin One-77 (220 mph)
The One-77 is the most extreme road-going Aston ever, and the fastest. It may share a front-engined layout with “regular” Astons, but the One-77 is a completely different animal.
Only 77 examples were made, and each sports a 7.30-liter V12 producing 750 hp. Like the chassis, it’s based on an engine used in lesser Aston production models, but it’s both lighter and more ferocious.
Aside from its performance and jaw-dropping good looks, the most remarkable thing about the One-77 may be that Aston was able to create a hypercar without making many compromises.
While it matches race-inspired mid-engined designs for performance, the One-77 still has the look and feel of something much more luxurious and well-rounded. It is, after all, the only front-engined car on this list.
The One-77 proves that incredibly fast cars don’t have to focus solely on performance. Its character is almost as special as its 220 mph top speed and limited production run.
Jaguar XJ220 (217 mph)
The XJ220 lost six cylinders and two driven wheels on the way to production, but it still managed to claim the title of fastest production car in 1992.
The original concept version featured a V12 engine and all-wheel drive, but the production model had to make due with a twin-turbocharged V6, and rear-wheel drive. Still, that was enough to get the XJ220 to 217 mph at Nardo, once engineers removed the rev limiter.
However, it wasn’t enough to solidify in the car’s place in history. Buyers weren’t as impressed by the production version as they were with the concept, and a weak early ‘90s economy tanked sales. Sometimes being the fastest just isn’t enough.
McLaren P1 (217 mph)
McLaren’s successor to the F1 isn’t as fast, but it’s much more high tech. Its 903-hp hybrid powertrain seamlessly blends electric and turbocharged V8 power, making the P1 one of the most capable performance cars ever made.
During the car’s press junket, McLaren said it emphasized the driving experience over outright top speed. Maybe the company didn’t think it could compete with Bugatti, or maybe it just thought organ-shredding lateral grip was a better way to torture customers than stratospheric speeds.
With a claimed lap time of around six minutes, the P1 also excels at a performance metric that’s almost become more important than top speed: the Nürburgring.
Ferrari LaFerrari (217 mph)
Along withe P1 and the Porsche 918 Spyder, the Ferrari LaFerrari is part of a trio of hybrid supercars that showed the world that performance cars don’t have to be (too) inefficient.
The Ferrari matches the McLaren for top speed and cleverness. Its 6.3-liter V12 is joined to a hybrid system modeled on the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) used in Ferrari’s Formula One cars. Not only does the LaFerrari give its driver 950 hp to play with, it also provides the instantaneous response of electric motors to get things going.