What is the Fastest Car in the World?

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

Everyone loves a good superlative. Whether something’s the biggest, tallest, longest or strongest, words ending in “-est” connote superiority and inspire awe. Of course in the world of automobiles it seems like everyone wants to be the “fastest.”

Whether it was the first drag race with horseless carriages, a classic rivalry between models like the Camaro and Mustang or even a modern-day battle at Le Mans, vehicle manufacturers and drivers always want to be first. This is especially true in the world of ultra-high-end supercars, street machines that can top 200 miles an hour before the average driver hits 60.

Legends like the McLaren F1 continue to inspire new generations of automobile enthusiasts. Despite being two-and-a-half-decades old this car is still certifiably insane with a terminal velocity in excess of 240 miles an hour. It was also the first production car to use a full carbon-fiber monocoque.

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Today, vehicles from boutique brands like Koenigsegg, SSC or Noble push the technological envelope to deliver even crazier top speeds. Texas-based Hennessey Performance is one such firm.

This cadre of automotive sorcerers can conjure up enormous horsepower from everyday automobiles. Their engineering handicraft can be applied to a wide array of vehicles ranging from Bentleys and Benzes to more workaday products like the Ford F-150 and GMC Yukon. If you want speed, Hennessey can probably provide it in abundance.

Venom GT

But this company also builds some of its own vehicles. Their fearsome sounding Venom GT is a boutique speed machine with almost-unbelievable performance. And according to their calculations it’s the fastest production car in the world.

The Venom GT, which packs a 1,244-hp punch and wears a $1.2 million price tag, has a verified top speed of 270.49 miles an hour. Its estimated terminal velocity is 278. John Hennessey, president and founder of Hennessey Performance said, “I think if we had more room to run we’d certainly go five to eight miles an hour faster.”

Hennessey said they evaluated the car on the “longest runway that [they] could find in the U.S.,” a 3.2-mile stretch of tarmac owned by NASA. During the top-speed blitz he said they allocated 2.4 miles for acceleration with the remaining .8 for slowing down.

To confirm the Venom GT’s speed, Hennessey said they hired an independent company called Racelogic. “They’re the ones that came out and certified our 270.49,” he noted. They manufacture a data recorder called the VBox, which Hennessey said is used throughout the automotive industry.

For extra piece of mind they ran THREE VBoxes in the car during their top-speed run. “[That way] we had redundancy in case one lost satellite connectivity or power,” said Hennessey.

But there’s more than one way to confirm a number. “Some people have Guinness come out,” he said, while others have used TÜV to certify figures; they’re sort of Germany’s equivalent to our DOT.

It Goes Both Ways

Additional redundancy is always a good thing when making claims like these. Hennessey said, “Ideally it’d be nice to run a few directions,” a move that would compensate for any sort of tail wind that may or may not be present. During the Venom GT’s top-speed test they had planned on going both ways but could not because NASA was testing a space craft on one end of the runway.

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Still Hennessey stands behind the 270.49-MPH figure his supercar delivered. “The way we view it is the number is the number,” he said.

To further satiate his speed ambitions they’re working on an even more capable successor to the Venom GT, called the Venom F5. Hennessey said it should have an even higher top speed thanks to a lower coefficient of drag and more power.

Bugatti Blues

Of course Hennessey’s Venom GT is not the only supercar with world-beating ambition. One of the most famous is Bugatti’s sultry Veyron. This 1,001-hp machine features a quad-turbocharged, 8.0-liter W16 engine and more exotic materials than the USS Enterprise.

The Super Sport variant of this lust-worthy machine is even more potent with roughly 200 additional horses in the corral. Surprisingly this car is electronically limited to a “mere” 415 km/h, roughly 258 miles an hour, a cap that’s supposedly there to protect the tires.

Naturally the $2.5 million Bugatti is capable of more. In fact with the limiter removed it set a record speed just shy of 268 (267.8 if you’re curious) miles an hour, a 2010 performance that was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records, though it was later disqualified since the limiter had been deactivated.

Oh so Swede

Koenigsegg is another player in the supercar market. This Swedish company has offered a variety of ultra-high-performance vehicles over the years and their Agera R is one of the fastest.

This machine has an estimated, though not verified top speed of 273 miles an hour. But don’t think that just because it’s never been pushed to the limit it’s some sort of automotive poseur. It does in fact have a Guinness-certified world record to its name for the fastest zero-to-300 km/h-to-zero time at just 21.19 seconds. This is an extreme test of acceleration and braking performance; the Agera R earned this title back in 2011.

Koenigsegg’s latest effort is called the One:1 for its one megawatt of power (around 1,341 hp). This car promises to be a touch quicker than the Agera R, though once again nothing is official at this time.

When asked about his Swedish competition Hennessey said, “The fastest they’ve ever validated a car was 241 [MPH] and that was about four years ago … Saying you can run 280 and running 280 are two different things.”

There are numerous ways to certify a vehicle’s top speed. Arguably the best method is to call in a trustworthy third party to verify performance figures. But ultimately does it really matter if one car tops out at 240 MPH and another hits 260? Where are you ever going to drive that fast?

GALLERY: Hennessey Venom GT

GALLERY: Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

GALLERY: Koenigsegg Agera R

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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  • Ani Gmez Ani Gmez on Oct 16, 2014

    Veyron is still the one to beat... All others look like race cars but the veryon has leather interior a/c & doesn't look stupid driving down the street. I can never afford one but that's my 2 pesos

  • Teckler Teckler on Oct 17, 2014

    The answer is Miata, always Miata