A CAR’S top speed is not often something we pay a huge amount of attention to here at Carbuyer; there are very few places in the world, let alone in the UK, where you can legally reach a car’s quoted top speed. However, we still can’t help but be interested in how quick the fastest production cars can go, given a long enough stretch of road, so we’ve compiled a list of the fastest cars in the world as it stands in 2020.
Often, a car’s top speed is nothing more than an arbitrary way of saying that one car is better than another, much in the same way as comparing 0-60 times. While these measurements may seem irrelevant to a car’s overall quality and appeal, the pursuit of higher and higher speed drives development across the car industry; cars become quicker, easier to control at speed and more economical — even if hitting such high speeds isn’t a regular occurrence for the majority of drivers.
When cars replaced the horse and carriage at the turn of the 1900s, their top speeds were barely any faster than walking pace. But the introduction of more models brought competition, and people inevitably raced them to see which was fastest. This led to motorsport, which bred further development for road legal cars. In the past, manufacturers with racing teams lived by the motto ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’, as buyers would be tempted by the models they saw competing in races.
Another milestone was reached by the McLaren F1, the company’s first (and perhaps best-known) road car. In 1998, this three-seater V12 sports car scooped a Guinness World Record for the fastest car in the world, having hit 240.1mph. Fast-forward to 2020 and some cars can go even faster than that. The race to 300mph has really heated up over the past few years, and in 2019 one car cracked it. Read on to find out what it is.
There’s a car that’s gone even faster than that mentioned below but it’s powered by a jet engine; we’ll focus on production cars with conventional engines for our main list. We’ll also briefly explain how the fastest production car in the world reached its scarcely believable top speed.
What is the fastest car in the world?
The holder of the land speed record is currently the Thrust SSC, a British jet car that weighs nearly 10 tonnes. It has the equivalent of 102,000bhp and, in 1997, hit 763mph in a Nevada desert. Thrust SSC is the first car to officially break the sound barrier. There’s a car called Bloodhound SSC in development, which theoretically could reach 1,000mph, but its future is uncertain.
What’s the fastest road legal production car in the world?
To be officially recognised as one of the fastest cars in the world, a car needs to do a two-way run that yields an average speed. At least 20 examples of the car also need to have been produced. Here are the five fastest as it stands in 2020:
■ Bugatti Chiron Super Sport — 304.77mph
■ Koenigsegg Agera RS — 277.87mph
■ Hennessey Venom GT — 270.49mph
■ Bugatti Veyron Super Sport — 267.86mph
■ SSC Ultimate Aero — 256.18mph
How is the Bugatti Chiron
Powering the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport is a modified version of the Chiron’s 8.0-litre W16 engine, which itself was used in the Bugatti Veyron from 2005 onwards. It might be easier to think of the engine as two 4.0-litre V8s joined together, which then has four turbochargers stapled on. Total power stands at an astonishing 1,578bhp — 99bhp more than the ‘regular’ Chiron. Amazingly, the four-wheel-drive system and gearbox were unchanged.
The Chiron Super Sport is 25cm longer than the standard car, and has a range of aerodynamic changes to reduce drag. That’s vital at such high speeds, as the air resistance at over 250mph means accelerating becomes very difficult. Bugatti also removed the rear wing and airbrake, redesigning the back end so both are incorporated into the tailfin.
Some more mind-boggling stats: driver Andy Wallace used full-throttle for a whole 70 seconds, and at top speed the Chiron Super Sport covers 136 metres every second. That’s the equivalent of just over five miles a minute.