What is the fastest production car in the world?
We take a blast through the past, rediscovering the amazing cars that have held the title of world’s fastest production car...
The SSC Tuatara is currently the world’s fastest production car, with an officially recognised top speed of 316.11mph. The record run broke the previous mark of 277.9mph set by the Koenigsegg Agera RS in 2017. Bugatti managed to break the 300mph barrier with a modified Chiron in 2019 with a run of 304.774mph, but that version of the car is not yet production ready. There's also new competition for top spot in the form of the Koenigsegg Jesko.
Engineers and racing drivers have targeted automotive speed records for many years and there are none bigger than the one that bestows the title of ‘fastest car in the world’. In the past, manufacturers which claimed to have the fastest production car in the world would also lay claim to the outright Land Speed Record. However, by the mid-20th Century, the two lists of record holders diverged as land speed record cars started to look like road-going rockets while production cars had to accommodate the need for passengers, luggage and a realistic price tag.
As technology advanced and vehicle ranges broadened, the pursuit of the world’s fastest production car title intensified. Early contenders include Mercedes and Jaguar, while Porsche and Ferrari have had an intra-brand rivalry lasting more than 50 years, interspersed with offerings from the usurper, Lamborghini.
In recent years, we’ve seen McLaren and Bugatti both stake a claim, while a number of niche hypercar manufacturers also continue to hunt for the production car record. Small scale competitors often make bold claims of record attempts to squeeze deposits out of wouldbe buyers but for every Devel Sixteen and 2,500bhp Dagger GT, there’s an SSC Tuatara or a Hennessy Venom GT - cars that have put their money where their mouth is.
It took seven years for the Agera RS to claim the Veyron Super Sport’s title, but the SSC Tuatara broke the Swedish car's record relatively soon after that. It may not hold onto it for long as the 1,578bhp Koenigsegg Jesko and all-new 1,600bhp Hennessey Venom F5 will be gunning for the record. The 1,500bhp Bugatti Chiron also broke the 300mph barrier with a 304.774mph run at the Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany in 2019, but the car will go into production in 2021 with a price-tag of around £3.1 million so it sadly didn't count.
The 1,750bhp SSC Tuatara took the crown for the world's fastest car in October 2020 with a 316.11mph run in Nevada, America. The American hypercar actually reached a speed of 331.5mph in one direction and a 304.77mph run in the opposite direction.
Tyres have long been the major limiting factor for production car top speed attempts, with Bugatti being forced to electronically limit the top speed of the Chiron to “just” 261mph for fear of a high-speed blow-out. However, technology has improved over the last five years, and now we have rubber which can cope with 300mph-plus speeds.
World’s fastest cars: a history
The world’s first recognised car, the Benz Patent Motorwagen built in 1898, opens our list with a top speed of 12mph. Little more than half a century later, in 1949, Jaguar had raised these stakes by a factor of ten, with the Jaguar XK120.
The fifties were a hard-fought battle between Mercedes 300SL Gullwing and the Aston Martin DB4 GT, both of which were capable of speeds in excess of 150mph. The sixties followed, and with them a flurry of title changes between a range of Italian marques. The Iso Grifo set the tone in 1963, with a 161mph top speed.
A newcomer, the Anglo-American-built AC Cobra briefly stole the crown in 1965, only to be subsequently beaten by the Lamborghini Miura, the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 and the Miura P400S between 1967 and 1969.
Thirteen years passed before Lamborghini managed to top its own record with the Countach, marking the first production car to pass the 180mph barrier. In 1983, German Porsche tuner RUF offered the 190mph BTR, while Porsche’s own supercar, the 959, hit 198mph in 1986.
Ferrari built the world’s first production car to pass the 200mph barrier in 1987, with the 472bhp F40. Once the nineties rolled around, the McLaren F1 upped the stakes again with a top speed of 221mph, although F1s without rev-limiters have clocked 240mph runs. To this day, the McLaren F1 remains the fastest naturally aspirated car ever built.
The Koenigsegg CCR’s short-lived time as the fastest production car in the world began in February 2005, where it reached 241mph at Italy’s Nardo Ring. Just two months later the Bugatti Veyron broke through the 250mph barrier and took the crown with a speed of 253.8mph.
Over the last few years, Bugatti and Koenigsegg have fought for single-digit victories with a range of lesser-known challengers such as the American supercar manufacturers, SSC and Hennessey.
Check out our world’s fastest car timeline below...
|Year||Make and model||Top speed (mph)|
|1955||Mercedes 300SL Gullwing||150.7|
|1959||Aston Martin DB4 GT||152|
|1963||Iso Grifo GL 365||161|
|1967||AC Cobra MkIII||165|
|1968||Lamborghini Miura P400||171|
|1968||Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona||174|
|1969||Lamborghini Miura P400S||179|
|1982, 84||Lamborghini Countach||182.0, 188.0|
|1984||Ferrari 288 GTO||188|
|2005||Bugatti Veyron 16.4||253.8|
|2007||SSC Ultimate Aero TT||256.1|
|2010||Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport||267.9|
|2017||Koenigsegg Agera RS||277.9|