Extreme performance: 8 production car records that fell in 2019
The extreme performance car business is a brutal one. Whatever ludicrous benchmark you manage to set simply becomes a target for the lunatic engineers working for your competitors. When the Bugatti Veyron, the world's first true hypercar, debuted in 2005, its 1,000-horsepower motor and 431-km/h (268 mph) top speed were unthinkable extravagances in a road car, figures so extreme and extraordinary that they looked unassailable.
Well, boy have they been assailed over the last 15 years. And in 2019, some confluence of trends and forces has conspired to produce a glut of new top-shelf exotica in the hypercar market the likes of which we've never seen before. Just take a look at our October list of the world's most powerful cars, which is already out of date thanks to the Aspark Owl.
Perhaps it's a warning; maybe the sky-high performance figures of the many new hypercars we've seen in 2019 have some correlation to Andrew Lawrence's famous Skyscraper Effect, which predicts that any time a super-giant skyscraper is built, the economic conditions that make that kind of extravagance possible are about to result in a huge economic crash. There's clearly been a severe siphoning upwards of wealth in recent times, and dozens upon dozens of these multi-million dollar machines seem to have had no trouble selling out their limited allocations, so things are clearly out of balance.
Either way, the engineers have been having a field day making cars with previously undreamed-of performance specifications, so let's take a look at a few of the records that tumbled this year.
The World's Most Powerful Production Car
An obvious enough place to start. Where the Veyron and its successors had to resort to all manner of ingenuity to squeeze more than a thousand horsepower out of a production engine small and light enough to fit in a performance car, a new generation of hooligans has discovered that electric powertrains scale up with consummate ease, easily offering so much power and torque that no tire on the market can reasonably be expected to take their full fury and hold onto a piece of road – at any speed.
As 2019 draws to a close, British sportscar maker Lotus, which traditionally made its name on the back of sharp handling and lightweight chassis building rather than getting involved in speed and power contests, has decided to drop a serious hammer in the form of the Evija, an electric hypercar making 2,000 hp and 1,700 Nm (1,254 lb-ft) of torque. And with the help of the team at Williams Advanced Engineering, it's capable of going flat out for as much as seven minutes before thermal throttling kicks in. Utterly bonkers, and yet somehow we're sure it'll be halfway down our list by mid-2020.
The World's Fastest Production Car
You can call it an unofficial record all you want, and it certainly doesn't meet Guinness standards, but automotive legends can easily be built on shaky ground. When Bugatti announced its Chiron Super Sport 300+ had broken 300 mph on Volkswagen's test track in Ehra-Lessien, the world gasped in awe rather than complaining that the measurement wasn't done in both directions or sanctioned by a beer company.
The Chiron's top speed of 304.773 mph (490.484 km/h) represents more than half the cruising speed of an airliner, and it's an extraordinary achievement. After announcing the feat, Bugatti dropped the mic by announcing it wouldn't be going for any more speed records, which was a nice way of leaving Koeniggsegg and Hennessey the opportunity to fight over the next logical milestone: the 500-km/h (310.7 mph) mark.
The World's Fastest Production Electric Car
Is that a Corvette ZR1? Well, yes, it used to be, but now it's a Genovation GXE electric supercar, making 800-odd hp, and such a machine, which is due to begin deliveries in early 2020, has been measured at 338.3 km/h (210.2 mph), making it the fastest production electric on record.
That's clearly a long way down on the combustion club's best efforts; electrics are known for their instant torque and wild acceleration, but tend to fall off as the revs build up, where combustion motors start to peak. The GXE works around this by retaining a transmission, either an 8-speed dual-clutch auto or a 7-speed manual, making it a rarity in the electric car world.
It should be noted, none of the upcoming 2,000-hp electric monsters have had a chance to point themselves down an airstrip yet, so this record probably won't last very long, but as of right now, the Genovation holds the electric top speed bragging rights.
The World's Fastest Accelerating Car
If you ever find yourself next to an Aspark Owl at the lights – you won't, but we can dream – rev the rings out of whatever piece of junk you're driving, because if provoked, the driver next to you might just agree to unleash one of the most spectacular sights in the automotive world. This US$3.2-million, 1,985-hp electric widowmaker promises to take its stunned occupants from 0-96.5 km/h (0-60 mph) in a hideous 1.69 seconds. On street legal tires.
Count it out: one Mississippi, two MissiBOOM, that guy's doing freeway speed. Berserk. It'll be interesting to see if the Tesla Roadster will be able to beat that kind of acceleration time once Elon Musk starts fitting SpaceX rocket thrusters to it, thus bypassing the tire-to-road interface as the limiting factor for electric vehicle acceleration. What times we live in.
The World's Fastest Car From 0-400-0 km/h (0-249-0 mph)
Top speeds and jaunty 0-60-mph sprints are one thing, but sustained acceleration and braking force are another, and while Bugatti was the first company to measure a 0-400-0 km/h time back in 2017 (41.96 seconds, by the Chiron), Christian Koenigsegg has stamped his name all over it ever since.
This September, driver Sonny Persson hopped in a single-speed Koenigsegg Regera hybrid, and stomped one pedal, then the other, for just 31.49 seconds, hitting four times freeway speed and then screeching to a halt within just 2,048 m (1.273 mi). The Regera took 22.87 seconds to hit the target speed, and then just 8.62 seconds to wipe it all off on the brakes. Astounding stuff.
The World's Most Expensive New Car
It's a flat-out crass record to hold, but Bugatti's La Voiture Noire is now the most expensive new car ever sold. Somebody who probably still looks himself in the eye in a mirror paid around $18.9 million dollars for this jazzed-up, long-wheelbase, one-off Chiron custom.
If that seems like a colossal, wretched waste of resources, well, you're not going to want to know what happens when the real fun starts as they start to get auctioned off. But if you're into this sort of thing, and want to get an intimate sense of what sort of people play in this pond, take a look at our insanely deep dive into the sale of a $48 million Ferrari 250 GTO in 2018. It's a real eye-opener.
The World's Highest-Revving Production Car Engine
We thought Cosworth had this one wrapped up for years to come in December last year, when Aston Martin unveiled the naturally aspirated, 6.5-liter, 1,000-hp V12 it's fitting into the hybrid powertrain of the upcoming Valkyrie hypercar. This monstrous machine revs to 11,100 rpm.
But the Valkyrie motor has been gazzumped by Cosworth itself, with the announcement of the 4-liter, 650-hp, 65-degree V12 it's building to power Gordon Murray's fascinating T.50 supercar. The T.50 will rev that motor to a sky-high 12,100 rpm, making it the biggest screamer the market has ever seen on four wheels. And bizarrely, the engine will be one of the less amazing things about that car.
The World's Most Powerful Combustion Car Engine
Electrics might dominate the top of the all-out power lists with outputs up over 1,900 hp, but Texan tuner Hennessey Performance has gone all-out with its upcoming Venom F5 Fury Engine. This 6.6-liter twin turbo V8 is built to the most extreme specifications Hennessey could manage for a street-legal production machine, running 23 psi of turbo boost at 8,000 rpm to produce a staggering 1,817 hp.
This is the machine Hennessey hopes will smash both Bugatti's top speed record, and Koenigsegg's 0-400-0 record, when it takes to the tarmac to show the world who's boss. We're looking forward to the throwdown.
Anything else you'd like to see on this list? Let us know in the comments below.