The Evolution of Supercars
You’ve heard of Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. Their names are symbols of luxury, speed, and wealth. Some of their models, like the Enzo Ferrari or the Lamborghini Gallardo, represent the very pinnacle of production car performance.
Or do they? Though still ridiculously fast—more fast than you’d ever need to be on any public road—Ferrari and the other performance automakers have a handful of competitors they could never hope to match in terms of speed.
We’re talking about the evolution of supercars. To start off, let’s take a look at the Bugatti Veyron, possibly one the greatest engineering achievements in the auto-making industry of the last decade. It broke the world record for fastest street-legal production car at just over 254 mph, the first car to break the record since the McLaren F1 began holding the title in 1993. The Veyron SuperSport broke it again at almost 268 mph and still holds the record to this day, which is so fast that the car has to be electronically limited to “only” 258 mph to keep the tires from disintegrating.
But the Veyron is big and heavy and doesn’t excite the eyes (or the senses) in the same way that other supercars do. It’s not a wild animal, and though it may be the fastest car in a straight line, the same can’t be said about its performance around a racetrack.
This is where we enter the realm of “hypercars.” If supercars weren’t enough, then maybe the Pagani Huayra or the Koenigsegg Agera R will satisfy. These cars were built with one thing and one thing only in mind: speed. They’re ultra-light (three thousand pounds to the Veyron’s four thousand) and will tear around corners. The Huayra is the fastest car to ever go around Top Gear’s test track, and in 2011 the Agera R smashed six world records for acceleration and breaking time, including being able to accelerate to 200 mph in only 17.68 seconds and then go from that same speed to a hard stop in only 7.28 seconds. Koenigsegg also claims the Agera can reach a theoretical top speed of 273 mph (that’s 5 more than the SuperSport), though they’ve yet to show it going that fast.
But the evolution of supercars doesn’t end there. In 2010, Hennessey Performance Engineering released the Venom GT, a modified version of a Lotus Exige with an absolutely ridiculous power-to-weight ratio, weighing only 2,700 lbs but delivering over 1,200 horsepower. In 2013, it became the fastest accelerating car in the world, beating the Agera by racing from 0 to 200 mph in a mere 14.51 seconds. The Venom GT also came within 2 mph from beating the Veyron SuperSport’s top speed, but it can reach it in less than half the distance. Could you imagine pressing the pedal to the floor in that monster?
We live in a truly exciting time when it comes to high-performance road cars. For a very long period, the McLaren F1—still the fastest naturally-aspirated car in the world, by the way—reigned as the champion car for all of those seeking an aggressive and animal driving experience. Ferrari and Lamborghini did release cars that offered similar performance and thrill, yet none could quite reach the pure exhilaration of the F1.
Following the release of the Bugatti Veyron, we witnessed a veritable explosion of performance machines, which constantly redefine the term “supercar” by pushing boundaries we barely believed could be broken. Every new supercar release makes it appear as though it has reached a peak in engineering perfection and makes us think, “How in the world is the next one going to beat that?,” only for it to outmatched a year or two later. I can’t wait to see what Hennessey, Koenigsegg, and the other performance automakers have in store for us next.
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.