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WORLD’S FASTEST CARS

Nothing can beat the thrill of driving the world’s fastest car with Bugatti and Koenigsegg vying for pole position …

WORDS: David Williams

Speed has always been at the heart of the world’s love affair with the car, and automobilists were trying to seeing how fast they could go just as soon as the internal combustion engine was invented in the 1880s. The first race was from Paris to Bordeaux and back in 1895, won by a Panhard et Levassor, which clocked up an average 15mph.

If its driver, Emile Levassor, could have peered into the future he would have been shocked at the speed cars are routinely capable of today, with family hatchbacks easily exceeding the magic ‘ton’. But which are the fastest cars you can buy in the UK today? It’s not as straightforward as you might think.

Last year extreme car-maker Koenigsegg attempted to settle the debate once and for all (coining a new category, ‘megacar’, in the process; ‘hypercar’ no longer seemed exclusive enough) when it unleashed what was claimed to be the world’s fastest-ever production car, the One:1.

With a five-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing an enormous 1,322 horsepower it rocketed from 0 – 250mph in 20 seconds and on to a mind-blowing top speed of almost 277mph. Outperforming even the famous Bugatti Veyron, only six were made and they sold for a cool £1.67 million each.

Recently, at the Geneva Motor Show, Koenigsegg went one step further when they unveiled the dashing new Regera hybrid model. Even more luxurious than the One:1 it combines power from three electric motors and that five-litre V8 to produce a staggering 1,500 HP. The fastest accelerating rear-wheel-drive production car in the world, it scorches from 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and on to a top speed of around 275mph. Yours for £1.2 million – not including taxes.

The truth is that speed is just as hotly contested today as it was in 1895, with rival manufacturers frequently claiming the ‘fastest’ title. According to Guinness World Records (which requires two runs in opposite directions to ascertain an average speed, so that tailwinds are accounted for) the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport officially became the world’s fastest production model when it hit 267.8 mph in 2010.

But many purists argue that it’s acceleration – not top speed – that really matters. Where, after all, can you drive at 277mph, when the legal UK motorway limit is 70mph?

‘Speed matters but it’s not everything in Britain, which is a very strong market for supercars,’ says Paul Burrows, Director of Super Vettera Sunningdale, the official UK Koenigsegg dealer.

‘Our buyers often have the £10-£15 million house and want the car to match. For customers at this level it’s the engineering excellence that counts more than outright speed. When we take customers to the factory in Sweden and they see how exquisitely the cars are made and the penny drops; they invariably place an order.’

So if outright top speed isn’t the only factor (and in any case, the last remaining, new, Bugatti Veyron was sold in February) there are a number of contenders: and some of the answers are very surprising indeed.

Until the arrival of the dashing Tesla, electric-powered cars were the very antithesis of speed; nobody ever boasted about the performance of their G-Wiz. Today however one of the most exciting supercars on offer is the Detroit Electric SP:01 which – despite its name – is built in very un-American Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

It’s limited to 155mph – but it’s the way it gets there that counts, racing from 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds thanks to its 281bhp electric motor. It will certainly be enough to justify the maker’s claim that it’s the ‘world’s fastest pure electric two-seater sports car’, when it goes on sale this summer, at around £85,000.

If you’re a petrol-head you might want to consider the US and UK-built Hennessy Venom GT, which set a speed of 270.49mph at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida (although not officially timed by Guinness World Records). The Venom GT also holds speed records for the world’s fastest car from 0-300kmh (13.63 seconds) and 0-200kmh (14.51). It costs £750,000.

No super – or even hyper – car list is complete without mentioning the Italian-built Pagani Huayra. Named after a south American wind, the £1 million ‘why-rah’ is the successor to the famous Zonda and powered by a six-litre twin-turbo V12, capable of 231mph and of hitting 60 from a standstill in just 3.2 seconds.

One thing’s for sure; it’s becoming increasingly difficult for challengers to set a new world speed record. According to a spokesman for Guinness World Records, even the Bugatti’s listing is no longer ‘current’. They have introduced a different testing protocol for ‘product endorsement records’, requiring a ‘higher level of independent analysis and testing’. And that means forming a comparison of direct competitors of the products in question.

Which would demand rival hypercar makers actually sitting down and talking to each other – before agreeing to a showdown. Surely that’s not going to happen anytime soon; there’s just too much at stake.

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