Horsepower still reigns supreme as the primary figure to compare cars against one another and for outright bragging rights, but the metric has lost its allure recently. Family wagons now make 603 horsepower and three-row SUVs can be fitted with 710-horsepower engines. Year after year, automakers continue to raise the bar with even more powerful vehicles. A few automakers, though, continue to chase another, more rarified figure — top speed.
Top speed runs are making a comeback, as automakers have made massive strides in powertrains and aerodynamics. Like lap records, top speed runs are purely for bragging rights. There’s no incentive to having one of the fastest cars in the world beyond giving automakers the ability to say that they have one of the fastest cars in the world. It really does come down to that.
Unlike other figures that are used to differentiate vehicles from one another, like zero-to-60 mph times, cornering G-force, or quarter-mile times, setting a new top speed record is insanely difficult. Beyond ensuring that a car has the right amount of power and efficiently flows through the air, finding a long enough stretch of road to wind a car out is nearly impossible. That’s why top speed records rarely get broken.
These vehicles are the fastest cars in the world. The majority of vehicles have proven top speed records, while a few are claimed top speed figures. Also included in this list are a few models that would set records if they were to go into production.
- SSC Tuatara: 316 mph
- Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+: 304 mph
- Hennessey Venom F5: 301 mph*
- Koenigsegg Agera RS: 278 mph
- Hennessey Venom GT: 270 mph
- Bugatti Veyron Super Sport: 268 mph
Last we heard from SSC, its monstrous Tuatara carried a top speed of 300 mph, up from the original figure of 265 mph when the vehicle was officially unveiled. With a 5.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine capable of putting down 1,750 horsepower when running on E85 fuel, there was no reason to believe that 300 mph wasn’t possible. Apparently, SSC was downplaying the Tuatara’s capability, as the supercar hit a claimed top speed of 331.15 mph on the way to average 316.11 mph across two runs, easily breaking records set by Koenigsegg and Bugatti earlier this October. Unfortunately, that’s when the controversy started.
SSC put out two videos of the Tuatara’s top speed run, both of which inaccurately displayed the supercar’s speed. The automaker came out with a video claiming that its figures were real, but that both of its videos had been incorrectly edited. And then, the internet went bonkers. Infamous YouTubers started digging into SSC’s video by measuring distances between landmarks, analyzing the car’s gearbox ratios and engine, and examining a helicopter that managed to keep up with the car during its top speed run. Furthermore, Dewtron, the GPS speed tracking manufacturer that SSC used, claims that it hasn’t approved or validated the top speed run.
So, SSC is in some hot water. The company put out a thorough explanation on what went wrong and data backing up its top speed claim. Jerod Shelby, SSC’s CEO, stated that the company would attempt another top speed run with the Tuatara soon. If the numbers hold up and SSC can substantiate or replicate its top speed run, it will be the fastest, road-legal production car on the planet.
In August 2019, Bugatti topped the formerly reigning Hennessey Venom F5. Not only that, but the Chiron Super Sport 300+ also became the first car to break 300 miles per hour on the track. The final record was 304.773 mph with racing driver Andy Wallace at the wheel on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany. If 300+ mph seems hard to comprehend, you don’t lack an imagination. Covering 450 feet in a single second is mind-bending stuff.
Bugatti holds the crown for now, but the manufacturer may bow out of the race. “We have shown several times that we build the fastest cars in the world. In [the] future we will focus on other areas,” the manufacturer said in a statement. Only 30 of these quad-turbo, 8-liter, 16-cylinder engines will be produced at a cool $3.9M apiece.
Hennessey Performance Engineering previously owned the top spot of this list with its Venom F5. The successor to the record-setting Venom GT, the F5 has a theoretical and claimed top speed of 301 mph, besting the next fastest car by a solid margin. Too bad Bugatti had to muddle in the top speed wars again.
The Venom F5 utilizes a carbon fiber chassis and is powered by a 7.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 good for 1,600 horsepower. While Hennessey has yet to legitimize its claims, the F5 will reportedly dash from 0 to 249 mph and back to 0 in less than 30 seconds. That’s about how long it takes a mild sports car just to get from 0 to 100 mph.
If you’re only interested in proven claims, then the world’s fastest cars list skips Hennessey and SSC and picks back up with the Koenigsegg Agera RS. Until Bugatti’s Chiron Super Sport 300+ had blown through the 300 mph barrier, Koenigsegg and its Agera RS wore the proven VMAX crown with an average top speed of 278 mph. How did the Swedish automaker earn its stripes?
On November 4, 2017, the Nevada Department of Transportation closed an 11-mile stretch of road just outside Las Vegas. Koenigsegg turned up with a customer-owned Agera RS and Koenigsegg factory driver Niklas Lilja put down two high-speed runs (in opposing directions). The average pace (including one run at 285 mph) was recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records.
When Koenigsegg set a new official top speed record, Hennessey forfeited the title. The Hennessey Venom GT came out of nowhere to topple the mighty Bugatti Veyron. In 2014, Hennessey revealed a Lotus-based Frankenstein supercar with a 7.0-liter twin-turbo V8 and 1,244 horsepower. Until that moment, the Texas-based tuner had merely modified performance cars, but this was the company’s first standalone build.
With approval from the Kennedy Space Center, Hennessey recorded a top speed of 270.4 mph. Though the Guinness Book of World Records approved the run, it has received a fair bit of criticism. For one, most top speed records are taken from an average of two runs in opposite directions (like Koenigsegg did with the Agera RS). Also, the Venom GT is a hand-built, low-production vehicle. Some have questioned whether it deserves to be counted among series production cars.
Before Hennessey and Koenigsegg jumped into the top speed fray, Bugatti dominated the world’s fastest category. Unlike its upstart rivals, Bugatti benefitted from the massive cash reserves of its parent company, Volkswagen. A tremendous investment of time and resources yielded the Bugatti Veyron in 2005. The $1.7-million Veyron utilized a quad-turbocharged, W16 engine to deliver 1,001 horsepower to all four wheels.
Impressive as it was, the 250-mph Veyron was soon trumped by the 256-mph SSC Ultimate Aero. Bugatti went back to the drawing board and returned with the Veyron Super Sport. An impressive 1,200 horsepower and a slew of aerodynamic improvements helped the Super Sport to a top speed of 268 mph, clocked at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessein test track. Bugatti also developed a convertible version, dubbed the Grand Sport Vitesse, which still holds the record for the fastest open-top production car at 254 mph.
Koenigsegg Jesko: 300+ (Claimed)
Though the Koenigsegg Agera RS takes the top spot in terms of the fastest car on Earth, the carmaker isn’t resting on its laurels. Teased well-ahead of its 2019 Geneva Motor Show debut, Koenigsegg finally let slip what it has been working on: The Koenigsegg Jesko, the Agera RS replacement. The V8 engine and nine-speed transmission (dubbed the Koenigsegg Light Speed Transmission) promise up to 1,600 horsepower (with biofuel — otherwise we’re looking at 1,280 horsepower) and a top speed over 300 miles per hour.
Dagger GT: 315 mph (Claimed)
Back in 2012, American automotive startup TranStar Racing released plans for a production supercar that would make up to 2,000 horsepower, do 0-60 mph in less than 2.0 seconds, and top out at 315 mph. TranStar has been awfully quiet the last couple of years, suggesting the Dagger GT may never reach production, but someone keeps paying hosting fees for a dedicated website, so who knows?
Devel Sixteen: 320 mph (Claimed)
Of all the ridiculous cars on this list, nothing comes even remotely close to the Devel Sixteen. Introduced at the 2013 Dubai Motor Show, the supercar uses a quad-turbo V16 to produce 5,007 horsepower. Five thousand horsepower, people! Top speed claims have ranged from 320 to 350 mph, but any way you slice it, a production version of this car would shatter all records. Like TranStar, we haven’t heard much from Devel in a few years, so it could all be vaporware, and (more) time will tell. But rumor has it that a production version has found its way into the hands of Drake.
Rimac C_Two: 256 mph (Claimed)
The Rimac C_Two is unlike any other vehicle on this list because it’s all-electric. While automakers like Tesla and General Motors are worrying about range, Rimac is focusing on all-out performance. That explains why the C_Two has some of the most insane figures of any car on the market.
Each wheel gets its own individual electric motor for a combined total of 1,914 horsepower and 1,696 pound-feet of torque. No, those aren’t typos; it’s one of the advantages of electric powertrains. Thanks to loads of carbon fiber, active aerodynamics, and an impressively low drag coefficient of 0.28, the electric hypercar has a claimed top speed of 258 mph. Additionally, the C_Two will be able to get from zero to 62 mph in just 1.9 seconds. Not too bad for an electric car.
Article originally published by Miles Branman on April 12, 2018. Last updated July 2021.
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