The very peak of automotive performance and the very fastest, most expensive and most powerful four-wheel achievements in the world are represented in our hypercars top ten. If it has set a production-car speed record lately or taken us into uncharted territory on ask-and-you-can’t-afford showroom price or peak power output, chances are you’ll find it here.
Some of this class’s entrants have state-of-the-art hybrid-electric powertrains, others just savagely fierce combustion motors ready to hurl them into the middle distance. But all are monuments to both the science and the thrill of out-and-out speed.
Ferrari’s latest top-of-the-tree hypercar is nothing less than the greatest and most sensational peak that the performance car has ever reached. Powered by an incredible, spine-tingling, naturally aspirated, 789bhp 6.3-litre V12 assisted by 161bhp of electric power channelled direct to the rear wheels, the LaFerrari’s powertrain makes an incredible 950bhp all told. Although we never got the chance to strap our timing gear to one, Ferrari claims the car hurls itself to 62mph in just 2.4sec and to 186mph in just 15sec.
And yet, in spite of its enormous performance and mind-boggling mechanical complication, the LaFerrari has absurdly benign and exploitable limit handling manners that make it so much more approachable and exciting to drive on a circuit than you’d ever believe it could be.
Ferrari charged more than £1million for each car. It made 500 in all, producing the last of them in 2015, and has so far succeeded it only with the FXXK track special and the LaFerrari Aperta convertible. The LaFerrari is a monument to everything Ferrari does singularly well and still our reigning hypercar standard-bearer.
McLaren Automotive’s first ‘Ultimate Series’ car had to follow in the footsteps of the firm’s legendary and celebrated F1, which built the company a worldwide reputation all by itself. McLaren resisted the temptation to make the P1 a modern facsimile of the F1, however, instead having a 903bhp hybrid-electric powertrain, a two-seat interior, state-of-the-art suspension technology, lightweight construction and competition-grade aerodynamics to deliver the fastest, most focused and most exciting performance car it could imagine, fit for equally unprecedented thrills on both road and track.
The particular thrills the P1 conjures make it incredibly fast and purposeful at pace and capable of challenging and rewarding its driver to a level that only racing drivers normally experience. On the road, it’s surprisingly docile and drivable, although less mind-bogglingly exciting than McLaren made it out to be. But you won’t find a more technologically advanced, remorselessly effective or exquisitely purposeful performance car anywhere in the world than this.
Carrying heavier and more powerful electric motors and more battery capacity than either of its hypercar competitors from Ferrari or McLaren, the Porsche 918 Spyder made greater play of its 21st-century zero-emissions technology than its rivals and had a breadth of appeal as a driver’s car that neither could quite level with.
This car can be driven for around fifteen miles on electric power alone and then charged up at home to do it all again. In time-honoured Porsche supercar type, it’s little harder to drive than the 718 Boxster – and it’s convertible. But it also has a motorsport-derived normally aspirated V8 engine that revs to almost 9000rpm and makes the car both raw and exciting in full-bore mode. There's four-wheel drive, too, and more than 900lb ft of torque, making the 918 Spyder accelerate from rest with true savagery.
And while it’s heavy, boy is it ever fast around the right kind of track. It's the former holder of our dry handling track lap record, no less, and wrecker of the P1’s status as such.
It can't quite take your breath away like the LaFerrari and it doesn't have the capacity to make you feel like a Le Mans qualifier like the P1 but, in its own way, the 918’s achievement was just as special.
Numbers speak volumes when it comes to describing the quickest thing yet to come out of Ängelholm, Sweden that doesn’t have jet engines and air-to-air missiles. The Koenigsegg One:1 costs £2 million. Its turbocharged, ethanol-fuelled V8 develops more than 1300bhp. In the right conditions, claims its maker, it’s capable of cracking 250mph from rest in less than 20sec. And yet it’s easier to drive at sane speeds than our tester could believe, making plenty of torque off boost – although the action of the automated twin-clutch gearbox takes some getting used to.
The One:1 is a real white-knuckle ride, by contrast, when you squeeze its accelerator pedal floorwards and listen as those turbochargers spool up, sending greater and greater force towards a pair of rear wheels that can run short of traction even in the higher gears. But when the One:1's aerodynamics start to work and it finally hits its stride above 125mph, it's nothing short of otherworldly.
When hypercars get excessive, they do it with some style – and the Aston Martin Vulcan is certainly excessive. This 820bhp, track-only, carbon-tubbed hypercar, built from a chassis and engine adapted from that of the Aston Martin One-77, produces 118dB of exhaust noise: enough, by a long way, to earn it an immediate black flag on almost any track day in the UK. Baffled, that same exhaust pipes down to 103db – which would just about squeak under some noise limits – but only while the car’s mufflers will withstand the force of the exhaust gases (which they won’t for very long).
While you’re deafening the locals, however, the Vulcan is an utterly sublime car to drive on a circuit: it's lurid, vivid, challenging and physically demanding, and that feels like a racing car in every inch of its dynamic make-up. Immersive and wonderful like few other cars ever built, the Vulcan’s handling is unexpectedly approachable and completely faithful.
The Volkswagen Group’s trophy brand, Bugatti, made history when it gave us the fastest production car in the world in 2005. The W16-engined, 987bhp, four-wheel-drive Veyron broke through the 250mph barrier. But it couldn’t and wouldn’t be regarded as the ultimate performance car forever.
Enter, in 2016, the Chiron. Where the Veyron used aluminium spaceframe construction, the Chiron has a lighter carbonfibre monocoque. Where the Veyron stopped short of 1200bhp in its final forms, the Chiron ups that to nearly 1500. And where the Veyron left Bugatti’s top speed yardstick at 268mph, the Chiron (which had still to prove how fast it can go as these words were written) is expected to get within touching distance of 290.
And if you want a hypercar to make record speeds so easy to achieve, this is the one for you. Bugatti’s more fiercely blown sixteen-cylinder engine certainly has a bit of turbo lag to haul through and isn’t the sweetest-sounding of leviathan lumps – more departing hovercraft or express train than car. But when it starts to surge, it knows absolutely no moderation. The car’s ride is firm and its handling perhaps just a tiny bit underwhelming. But making such incredible speed as attainable as the Chiron makes it remains a towering achievement – it’s utterly remarkable for being so unremarkable.
Pagani is a maker of cars so rare and exotic that it once offered leather driving accessories that had been blessed by the Bishop of Rome himself – or so the story goes.
The Modenese firm’s latest offering is the Huayra, introduced in 2012, back when 720bhp and 738lb ft seemed like a faintly ludicrous amounts of power and torque to try to put through one driven axle in a road car.
Driven by a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 from Mercedes-AMG, the Huayra did indeed prove itself to be a physically challenging driver’s car from the old-school, with handling demanding respect and every shred of your concentration if you dared disable the stability aids. But it’s beautifully communicative and honest, too, and so rich, immersive and special to drive at almost any speed as to be totally intoxicating.
Horacio Pagani’s late stripped-out, lightweight, added-power BC version is one we’ve yet to sample, though, so keep your eyes peeled for an improvement in the Huayra’s rating here if and when we do.
In the age of the all-electric performance poster boy, we could hardly have hypercar class without an EV in it. And what an EV the Rimac Concept One is.
Having only so far ridden in the car, which makes 1224bhp and 1180lb ft of torque from its four electric drive motors, we’re already fully aware that there’s credibility to its Croatian maker’s claim that this is one of the very fastest production cars of any kind. Its instant, neck-bothering thrust is strong enough to be almost unnerving.
Given a chance for a full road test, this 1850kg car could rocket up this chart almost as quickly as it tears almost noiselessly up the road. Independent torque-vectoring motors have the potential to make its handing every bit as mind-bending as its pace. Watch this space to find out if it really is.
Take one Aventador supercar. Turn the wick up on its 6.5-litre V12 engine to unprecedented heights, give it show-stopping naked carbonfibre bodywork good for greater aerodynamic efficiency than any series-production Lamborghini, christen it in honour of the 100th anniversary of company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini’s birth, and bingo, you have the Centenario.
Lamborghini unveiled the car at the 2016 Geneva motor show, announcing that it would make just 40 in all and charge £1.6 million a piece. So far, we’ve only ridden in it, for a short but savage squirt up the legendary Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb. But what a ride it was.
Superbly noisy, extravagant and attention-grabbing, the Centenario does a lot of what Lamborghinis are built for very well indeed. While it’s short of the pace and technical marvel factor of some modern hypercars, it’s pretty plainly a very fast and very special drive to boot. Here’s hoping we get to know it better one day.
Back in 2007, while the world was still only two years out from the impact of the Bugatti Veyron, it took no less than 1183bhp for an unknown start-up company from Washington, US, to make headlines. Rather against the odds, however, the SSC Ultimate Aero TT made those headlines by smashing the Veyron’s production-car top speed record – and demanding the attention of one of our testers.
We found the car less like a Bugatti-killer, however, and more like a cross between a 1980s TVR and some mad, angry, American kit car. Powered by a Chevrolet small-block V8 enlarged by some 600cc and fed by twin-turbochargers, it had enormous speed in reserve but seldom inspired the confidence necessary to fully deploy it. Heroically heavy steering, rock-hard, ineffective brakes, an unyielding chassis and an interior built without much regard for either quality or usability made it a trying car to drive – albeit a hugely fast and memorable one for its wildest moments.