Life often moves too quickly—except in our cars. When mind-numbing daily commutes are measured by time in traffic, the sensation of intense acceleration is a drug both intoxicating and addictive. But, as with most medication, tolerance is built over time, requiring a more potent dose and efficient delivery system.
In 1894, for example, a 3 hp Benz Velo was considered the fastest production vehicle at 12 mph. A little more than five decades later, that marker moved to 124.6 mph with the 160 hp Jaguar XK120. The 200 mph line was crossed in 1987 with the 515 hp RUF CTR and, currently, the benchmark belongs to the 1,160 hp Koenigsegg Agera RS at 277.87 mph.
Today, the combination of smaller but muscular turbocharged gas engines, hybrid and electric power trains and ultralight materials makes possible so-called “megacars,” which pack more than a megawatt (1,341 hp) of punch and are ready to hit the 300 mph milestone. Can Koe- nigsegg’s latest creation establish yet another record? Will SSC North America reclaim its title of fastest production car? Or will Hennessey Special Vehicles slide past both of them?
“Speed is relative,” Hall-of-Fame racer Mario Andretti once said. “You have to live it. You can’t just jump into it. You have to live it all the time.” No doubt the following machines were built on that mantra.