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Only the fastest, most expensive and ludicrous-looking cars need apply to make our top ten hypercars list. Find out which we rate the highest
Autocar
News
12 mins read
6 August 2021

The very peak of automotive performance and the very fastest, most expensive and most powerful four-wheel achievements in the world are represented in our hypercars top ten.

If it has set a production-car speed record lately or taken us into uncharted territory on ask-and-you-can’t-afford showroom price or peak power output, chances are you’ll find it here.

Some of this class’s entrants have state-of-the-art hybrid-electric powertrains, others just savagely fierce combustion motors ready to hurl them into the middle distance. But all are monuments to both the science and the thrill of out-and-out speed.

1. Ferrari LaFerrari

Ferrari’s latest top-of-the-tree hypercar is nothing less than the greatest and most sensational peak that the performance car has ever reached. Powered by an incredible, spine-tingling, naturally aspirated, 789bhp 6.3-litre V12 assisted by 161bhp of electric power channelled direct to the rear wheels, the LaFerrari’s powertrain makes an incredible 950bhp all told. Although we never got the chance to strap our timing gear to one, Ferrari claims the car hurls itself to 62mph in just 2.4sec and to 186mph in just 15sec.

And yet, in spite of its enormous performance and mind-boggling mechanical complication, the LaFerrari has absurdly benign and exploitable limit handling manners that make it so much more approachable and exciting to drive on a circuit than you’d ever believe it could be.

Ferrari charged more than £1million for each car. It made 500 in all, producing the last of them in 2015, and has so far succeeded it only with the FXXK track special and the LaFerrari Aperta convertible. The LaFerrari is a monument to everything Ferrari does singularly well and still our reigning hypercar standard-bearer.

2. McLaren P1

McLaren Automotive’s first ‘Ultimate Series’ car had to follow in the footsteps of the firm’s legendary and celebrated F1, which built the company a worldwide reputation all by itself. McLaren resisted the temptation to make the P1 a modern facsimile of the F1, however, instead having a 903bhp hybrid-electric powertrain, a two-seat interior, state-of-the-art suspension technology, lightweight construction and competition-grade aerodynamics to deliver the fastest, most focused and most exciting performance car it could imagine, fit for equally unprecedented thrills on both road and track.

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The particular thrills the P1 conjures make it incredibly fast and purposeful at pace and capable of challenging and rewarding its driver to a level that only racing drivers normally experience. On the road, it’s surprisingly docile and drivable, although less mind-bogglingly exciting than McLaren made it out to be. But you won’t find a more technologically advanced, remorselessly effective or exquisitely purposeful performance car anywhere in the world than this.

3. McLaren Senna

When McLaren adopted the name of its most revered and tragically fated F1 racing driver to use as the model identity of its latest 'ultimate series' hypercar, a sharp intake of breath was taken throughout the motorsport world and the car industry alike. Could invoking the memory of such a legendary, much-missed figure as Ayrton Senna, and then using it to do something as corporate as selling a new car - any car - ever be made to look like a good idea? Was Ayrton's name really McLaren's to use?

Chances are you might already have a strong opinion on that; and, for various reasons, on whether you like the idea, or the unflinching function-over-form aesthetic, of this car. Just don't rule out the possibility that a drive in the incredible Senna hypercar - the fastest, most advanced, most exciting and most purposeful road-legal track car that its maker could create - might change your mind.

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The Senna is a car of truly astonishing track abilities. Even though its not the most powerful car to have lapped our dry handling circuit, it has such phenomenal reserves of grip that it smashed our dry handling track lap record by fully a second-and-a-half when we road-tested it in 2018. Developing some 800kg of downforce at its peak, and with a growling V8 of just under 800-horsepower, it's a car you expect to be a nerve-testing challenge on track, and almost impossible to drive on the road. The simple fact is, neither is true.

The Senna looks after you, and keeps looking after you with its feedback, stability and drivability, as you hit the kinds of speeds only usually known to prototype racing machines. It's a physical test to drive, but a supreme, unforgettable mental treat. And although it's less broad-batted and usable than most hypercars of its price, its dedication of the business of going quickly, round in two-and-a-half-mile circles, is utterly spellbinding.

4Lotus Evija

Electric hypercars will always be contentious when they’re competing with the very high-revving, noisiest, fastest and most dramatic combustion-engined performance cars in the world, but they are undoubtedly in the process of taking this niche by the force of instant, walloping, vectored-per-corner torque. And the only example we’ve yet to do any more than ride in is the awesome Lotus Evija, which our man Mike Duff drove in prototype form around Lotus’s own test track at Hethel.

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Electric or not, this car’s key vital statistics leave nothing to chance. Its 70kWh drive battery and quartet of drive motors make it weigh some 1700kg; but it also develops some two-thousand metric horsepower at peak, runs on Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tyres, and it’s claimed to be capable of 0-186mph in just nine seconds (more than four seconds quicker than Bugatti’s sensational Chiron can do it).

Mike’s prototype drive revealed a car that struggles to feel dramatic when launching from low speeds, but that piles on speed beyond three-figures with an unrelenting potency, and whose handling feels as balanced and poised as you’d expect of a Lotus despite its all-wheel drive layout. Promising signs.

5. Bugatti Chiron

The Volkswagen Group’s trophy brand, Bugatti, made history when it gave us the fastest production car in the world in 2005. The W16-engined, 987bhp, four-wheel-drive Veyron broke through the 250mph barrier. But it couldn’t and wouldn’t be regarded as the ultimate performance car forever.

Enter, in 2016, the Chiron. Where the Veyron used aluminium spaceframe construction, the Chiron has a lighter carbonfibre monocoque. Where the Veyron stopped short of 1200bhp in its final forms, the Chiron ups that to nearly 1500. And where the Veyron left Bugatti’s top speed yardstick at 268mph, the Chiron has, in 1578bhp ‘Super Sport’ form, taken what has become an increasingly highly contested world production car speed record up beyond the three-hundred miles-per-hour marker, where it currently rests at 304.7mph.

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And if you want a hypercar to make record speeds so easy to achieve, this is the one for you. Bugatti’s more fiercely blown sixteen-cylinder engine certainly has a bit of turbo lag to haul through and isn’t the sweetest-sounding of leviathan lumps – more departing hovercraft or express train than car. But when it starts to surge, it knows absolutely no moderation. The car’s ride is firm and its handling perhaps just a tiny bit underwhelming. But making such incredible speed as attainable as the Chiron makes it remains a towering achievement – it’s utterly remarkable for being so unremarkable.

6. Porsche 918 Spyder

Carrying heavier and more powerful electric motors and more battery capacity than either of its hypercar competitors from Ferrari or McLaren, the Porsche 918 Spyder made greater play of its 21st-century zero-emissions technology than its rivals and had a breadth of appeal as a driver’s car that neither could quite level with.

This car can be driven for around fifteen miles on electric power alone and then charged up at home to do it all again. In time-honoured Porsche supercar type, it’s little harder to drive than the 718 Boxster – and it’s convertible. But it also has a motorsport-derived normally aspirated V8 engine that revs to almost 9000rpm and makes the car both raw and exciting in full-bore mode. There's four-wheel drive, too, and more than 900lb ft of torque, making the 918 Spyder accelerate from rest with true savagery.

And while it’s heavy, boy is it ever fast around the right kind of track. It's the former holder of our dry handling track lap record, no less, and wrecker of the McLaren P1’s status as such.

It can't quite take your breath away like the LaFerrari and it doesn't have the capacity to make you feel like a Le Mans qualifier like the P1 but, in its own way, the 918’s achievement was just as special.

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7. Koenigsegg One:1

Numbers speak volumes when it comes to describing the quickest thing yet to come out of Ängelholm, Sweden that doesn’t have jet engines and air-to-air missiles. The Koenigsegg One:1 costs £2 million. Its turbocharged, ethanol-fuelled V8 develops more than 1300bhp. In the right conditions, claims its maker, it’s capable of cracking 250mph from rest in less than 20sec. And yet it’s easier to drive at sane speeds than our tester could believe, making plenty of torque off boost – although the action of the automated twin-clutch gearbox takes some getting used to.

The One:1 is a real white-knuckle ride, by contrast, when you squeeze its accelerator pedal floorwards and listen as those turbochargers spool up, sending greater and greater force towards a pair of rear wheels that can run short of traction even in the higher gears. But when the One:1's aerodynamics start to work and it finally hits its stride above 125mph, it's nothing short of otherworldly.

8. Aston Martin Vulcan

When hypercars get excessive, they do it with some style – and the Aston Martin Vulcan is certainly excessive. This 820bhp, track-only, carbon-tubbed hypercar, built from a chassis and engine adapted from that of the Aston Martin One-77, produces 118dB of exhaust noise: enough, by a long way, to earn it an immediate black flag on almost any track day in the UK. Baffled, that same exhaust pipes down to 103db – which would just about squeak under some noise limits – but only while the car’s mufflers will withstand the force of the exhaust gases (which they won’t for very long).

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While you’re deafening the locals, however, the Vulcan is an utterly sublime car to drive on a circuit: it's lurid, vivid, challenging and physically demanding, and that feels like a racing car in every inch of its dynamic make-up. Immersive and wonderful like few other cars ever built, the Vulcan’s handling is unexpectedly approachable and completely faithful.

9. Pagani Huayra

Pagani is a maker of cars so rare and exotic that it once offered leather driving accessories that had been blessed by the Bishop of Rome himself – or so the story goes.

The Modenese firm’s latest offering is the Huayra, introduced in 2012, back when 720bhp and 738lb ft seemed like a faintly ludicrous amounts of power and torque to try to put through one driven axle in a road car.

Driven by a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 from Mercedes-AMG, the Huayra did indeed prove itself to be a physically challenging driver’s car from the old-school, with handling demanding respect and every shred of your concentration if you dared disable the stability aids. But it’s beautifully communicative and honest, too, and so rich, immersive and special to drive at almost any speed as to be totally intoxicating.

Horacio Pagani’s late stripped-out, lightweight, added-power BC version is one we’ve yet to sample, though, so keep your eyes peeled for an improvement in the Huayra’s rating here if and when we do.

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10. Lamborghini Centenario

Take one Aventador supercar. Turn the wick up on its 6.5-litre V12 engine to unprecedented heights, give it show-stopping naked carbonfibre bodywork good for greater aerodynamic efficiency than any series-production Lamborghini, christen it in honour of the 100th anniversary of company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini’s birth, and bingo, you have the Centenario.

Lamborghini unveiled the car at the 2016 Geneva motor show, announcing that it would make just 40 in all and charge £1.6 million a piece. So far, we’ve only ridden in it, for a short but savage squirt up the legendary Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb. But what a ride it was.

Superbly noisy, extravagant and attention-grabbing, the Centenario does a lot of what Lamborghinis are built for very well indeed. While it’s short of the pace and technical marvel factor of some modern hypercars, it’s pretty plainly a very fast and very special drive to boot. Here’s hoping we get to know it better one day.

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COMING SOON

Rimac Nevera

Anyone taking bets on which maker of all-electric exotics is most likely to top this chart in five- or ten years time really ought to make Croatian-firm Rimac an odds-on prospect. Having made itself one of the world’s experts on the performance application of electric car technology, it had advanced far enough and done well enough by the spring of 2021 to take a controlling stake in Bugatti. This is one of the world’s leading disruptor tech brands, and it has already built some staggering fast cars.

The Nevera is just the latest: the production version of the C_Two concept. It has nearly 2000-horsepower, four-wheel drive, and can crack 60mph from rest, it’s claimed, in less than 1.9sec. We’ve yet to experience how that feels first hand, but won’t need asking twice when the phone does ring.

Aston Martin Valkyrie

The story of the design and development of this Formula One racer for the road is one of the most fascinating that the car industry has seen over the last twenty years. Designed by Red Bull’s design mastermind Adrian Newey, it was made real at the end of Aston’s last management era, before it launched its own factory F1 team and become one of Red Bull’s grid competitors.

The Valkyrie looks like no other car on the road, and is powered by Cosworth V12 engine that produces 1160bhp and that revs to the far side of 10,000rpm. It’s a love story to aerodynamic design, to circuit pace, and to raw combustion-engined thrill. A short ride is all we’ve had in one so far - but we won’t let the story end there.

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Mercedes-AMG One

This car’s journey from the drawing board to the road has been long and protracted, beset by the kind of technical challenges and delays that you might expect of a car that exists in order to make a modern hybrid F1 powertrain available in a road car. But, according to our latest reports, it’s now undergoing final development on the road ahead of deliveries later in 2021. Mercedes will make fewer than 300 cars costing over £2mil each, and all are reportedly sold already.

Koenigsegg Jesko

Koenigsegg’s ultimate hypercar the Jesko, launched in 2020 as the successor to the Agera, is named after the father of company founder Christian. Like the firm’s previous offerings it’s powered by a twin-turbocharged V8 engine that can produce as much as 1578bhp when running on ‘E85’-grade ethanol fuel; but, running on an all-new platform, it’s also claimed to develop as much as a metric tonne of downforce - and it can weigh as little as 1400kg itself in running order. In tuned, ‘Absolut’-branded form, it’s expected to be Koenigsegg’s first 300mph production car.

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Gordon Murray Automotive T50

Designer of the celebrated McLaren F1 Gordon Murray is bringing the world his own take on a modern successor for his 1992 masterpiece, and it’s a hypercar the car-loving world may be preoccupied by for several reasons. Firstly, the T50 shuns electric motors and uses instead a naturally aspirated V12 engine than revs beyond 12,000rpm and is set to produce 650bhp. Secondly, it follows the principals that made the F1 so special: of rigorous lightweight design and engineering and compactness. Thirdly, like the F1, it will have a central driving position and three-seater cabin. And lastly, because it’ll use ‘fan car’ active aerodynamics like no other production machine there has ever been.

Expect road-going versions to be ready by early 2022 - by which time, we sincerely hope, our full road test verdict on the car will be ready for consumption also.

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