Ask any non-car person who makes the world’s best sports car and I bet that nine times out of ten, the answer will be “Ferrari.” The Ferrari marketing department has done a great job of building up the brand to be a household name, even among people who aren’t into cars.
Yes, it’s true that Ferraris have six-figure price tags. It’s true that they look great in Rosso Corsa and their flat-plane crank engines produce an angry, high pitched sound. Ferrari does an excellent job of looking like the world’s best cars.
But you know what? They’re really not THAT fast. A new generation of hyper-expensive cars from Pagani, Koenigsegg, Bugatti, Hennessey and others boast more horsepower and faster acceleration than anything in Maranello’s stables.
The 1990s were an exciting time for automotive design. Engineers were really starting to push the envelope of performance thanks to a better understandings of aerodynamics and computer-aided design. From 1984 to 1994, the title of “World’s Fastest Production Car” changed hands six different times! One of these victories was claimed by one of my favorite supercars from this era: the 1994 Jaguar XJ220.
By a show of hands, how many of you have heard of the British supercar manufacturer Noble Automotive? Not very many. Well then, even less of you have heard of the Noble’s sister car, the Rossion Q1. This is a pretty unusual car that deserves some attention, but before we delve into the Q1, it is necessary to cover a little backstory first.
We all know about the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 – the fastest production car on Earth. Everything about the car is a superlative, from its 1000-horsepower quad-turbocharged W16 engine to its 252 mph top speed. Even the price tag is astronomical: $1.6 million for the two-seater.
The original Veyron 16.4 coupe went on sale in 2008 with a limited production of just 300 vehicles. Bugatti then made the the world’s fastest convertible when they unveiled the Veyron Grand Sport in 2010. The latest and greatest factory offering is the Grand Sport Vitesse.
From the very beginning, Lexus was founded as a company that would break down the traditional ways of doing things in the auto industry. For decades, the market for luxury cars was dominated by the established titans of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Looking to take a piece of their pie, parent company Toyota formed the Lexus brand in the 1980s and began developing a flagship car unlike any the world had ever seen.
Lexus spent seven years and over a billion dollars designing their top-secret new car. Over 450 exterior designs were tested along with 900 engine prototypes. They spent two years on the interior alone. What they built was a luxury sedan that stood unparalleled in automotive history.
How quickly can your car accelerate from 0 to 200 miles per hour? If you drive a McLaren F1, it takes 28.0 seconds. If you drive a Bugatti Veyron, it takes 24.2 seconds. The Koenigsegg Agera R is faster still at 17.6 seconds. In the 2013 Hennessey GT Venom Spyder, it takes just 15.3 seconds to hit 200 mph. But when your car costs $1.1 million dollars, you should expect no less.
As you can see, Hennessey Performance Engineering is all about big numbers.
The world of supercars is dominated by the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, McLaren, and so many others – but these are not the only players in the game. You might be surprised to learn that Chrysler also tested the waters of the supercar market not long ago.
In 2004, Chrysler unveiled the ME Four-Twelve supercar, which was not a concept car but a prototype of a car that was slated to be put into production. The car debuted at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, and I caught up with it at the Arizona International Auto Show that same year. Continue reading →