Whether you’re behind the wheel of an outrageous sports car this holiday season or, like most of us, find yourself sprinting to find the shortest check-out aisle, chances are good you’ll come to appreciate the importance of having the quickest top speed. Like little kids drawn to a toy store’s display window, car enthusiasts of all ages are always drawn to the sparkling sheet metal and snarling engines of the world’s fastest cars.
For this first round of flat-out speed demons, we’ve drawn up a list of the six fastest cars sold in North America. The rules are few, which seems only right when discussing cars built to breach 200 mph. All have to be street-legal, sold in the U.S., and available from a mainstream manufacturer. This meant excluding some pretty amazing vehicles, like the Hennessey Venom GT and Callaway SC606, along with exciting upstarts like the German-built Gumpert Apollo supercar. We’ll get to these, and more, in a future story.
Choosing a winner was easy, since nothing short of a jet fighter delivers the performance of the top-speed champion in this list. Yet, more amazing is the fact that almost all the cars listed could be driven on a daily basis ñ even if doing so would probably make you the most generous contributor to your local Police Athletic League.
You can do a lot of things with $10,075. But if you want to own the $2.7 million Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, currently the fastest car in the world, that’s about the price you’ll pay for every mile-per-hour the car is capable of. The Veyron’s astounding price tag is matched only by its outrageous top speed, a fully-documented and verified 268 mph. The 1,200-hp French-built Bugatti set the new standard in supercar bragging rights last summer, at the sprawling Ehra-Lessien test facility owned by the firm’s parent company, Volkswagen. The Veyron Super Sport features larger turbochargers and intercoolers fitted to the quad-turbo W-16 engine. Additional bracing, extra cooling ducts and special aerodynamics are fitted to the Super Sport, so that safety and stability are not sacrificed for top speed.
Any Ferrari is special, but not all can exceed 208 mph – and even fewer wear the brand’s fabled GTO badge. The name was made famous by the original and stunningly beautiful 250 GTO, built from 1962-1964. When one comes up for auction, an original GTO is guaranteed to sell for millions of dollars. So consider the $450,000 you’ll pay for the new 2011 Ferrari 599GTO a veritable bargain – at least compared to its classic predecessor. The new model’s 661-hp 6-liter V-12 makes the 599 GTO the most powerful road-going Ferrari ever. Give it enough open road and the 599 GTO should exceed 208 mph, according to Ferrari. Being an Italian supercar, it looks quick even when standing still. Based on the 599 GTB, the GTO is 220 pounds lighter, thanks to the use of lightweight materials, including thinner glass than the standard car.
There is a reason Porsche has kept itself busy for nearly five decades refining the 911 sports car. Each new model is packed with more performance, and the latest pinnacle is this, the 911 GT2 RS. This is the most powerful road-going Porsche ever built. The 620-hp 3.6-liter twin-turbo flat-6 engine has variable turbine geometry (VTG) and sends all of its power to the rear wheels. Forget the four-wheel-drive safety net of the 911 Turbo, the GT2 RS is as close as you can get to a racing Porsche that can be also used for a dash to the local mall. According to Porsche’s statistics, which are routinely on the conservative side, the GT2 RS can sprint from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 205 mph. You better move fast, since only 135 copies of the GT2 RS, priced at $245,000, are headed to the U.S.
The $110,750 Corvette ZR1 is the cheapest way to break into the 200-mph club. In the case of this snarling Chevy coupe, that would be an official top speed of 205 mph. Don’t be fooled by an exterior that appears similar to the standard 430-hp Corvette. Under the ZR1’s skin beats the heart of a 638-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. The wild motor is visible to passersby, thanks to a clear hood scoop that announces exactly how potent this ‘Vette truly is. The cabin is also a quantum leap forward from the plasticky Corvette interiors of a generation or two ago. It might lack some of the hand-craftsmanship of the other vehicles here, but the ZR1 has a sticker price that is less than half that of the competition; a fact that more than makes up for any lack of mahogany paneling or titanium switch knobs. The ZR1’s trunk will even hold a week’s worth of luggage.
The Bentley Continental Supersports is four-wheeled proof that refinement and luxury can go hand-in-hand with crushing performance. Despite weighing more than 5,000 pounds, and having a cabin that looks like it belongs in a Gulfstream business jet, the Continental Supersports can reach 204 mph. Credit the 621-hp turbocharged W-12 engine, which shares some of its mechanical lineage to the monster motor found in the Bugatti Veyron (both Bentley and Bugatti are owned by Volkswagen). The Bentley Continental Supersports is, you guessed it, the most powerful Bentley ever produced. Driven sedately, the Continental wafts along in unsurpassed quiet and comfort. Push the gas pedal, and the acceleration knocks you back and deep into the car’s hand-stitched leather seats. Permanent four-wheel-drive helps keep all this power under control, as does agile steering and a suspension that can be tuned to favor either comfort or sporty driving.
Lexus doesn’t exactly spring to mind when thinking about incredible performance and jaw-dropping looks. We all know the Japanese brand can build high quality luxury vehicles of all shapes and sizes. But can Lexus actually take the fight to exotic cars? The Lexus LFA is the answer; and the result is a 202-mph supercar that looks like it jumped directly out of a video game. There is nothing subtle about the LFA, and not many soft edges to be found anywhere on the hyper-aggressive 2-door body. To keep weight down, the car is made out of three different types of lightweight carbon fiber. Not that the 560-bhp 4.8-liter V-10 engine mounted up front needs any extra help hurling the LFA down the road. Priced at $375,000, you could buy 11 Lexus IS sedans for the price of one LFA – and still have some cash left. Yet with only 500 scheduled to be built, the rarity and performance of the LFA ensure it legendary status amongst the sports car elite. And for those who really don’t like to wait…
The status that comes with owning one of the world’s fastest cars isn’t limited to only brand-new models. Just because you’re lucky enough to afford one of the world’s fastest exotic cars doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll manage to put one in your garage. Most of the cars on this list were sold out as soon as they were announced, usually in hushed tones, to well-heeled buyers. However, recently discontinued supercars, like the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and Lamborghini LP670 SV, might no longer be brand new, but still look phenomenal and easily exceed the 200-mph mark. The SLR McLaren can hit 207 mph, while the Lamborghini touches 209 mph.
Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren & Ferrari Enzo
Opting for a gently-used Ferrari Enzo, which is capable of 218 mph, versus the 599 GTO also doesn’t strike us as much of a sacrifice. Produced from 2002 to 2004, the Enzo was Ferrari’s flagship supercar. The same holds true for the Porsche Carrera GT, a carbon-fiber masterpiece produced from 2004 to 2006. This super-Porsche could hit 205 mph. Yet for many purists, nothing can top the McLaren F1. With seating for three (the driver sits in the middle of the car) the McLaren F1 is capable of 231 mph – with the rev limiter in place, of course. For many, the F1 remains the supercar to beat even if the Bugatti has since captured the title for world’s fastest car.