Currently reading: The 10 quickest-accelerating cars ever tested by Autocar
Forget manufacturer claims - we've verified all these high speed runs with our own timing gear
Autocar
News
12 mins read
28 July 2021

These are the quickest ten cars yet to have been the subject of a full Autocar road test, as verified by our own timing gear. And guess what: the legendary McLaren F1 is no longer anywhere among them. 

Acceleration claims for new performance cars are easy to make, but often tricky or even misleading to compare. When it comes to standing-start acceleration, judging cars on like-for-like terms isn’t always easy, with slightly different benchmarking standards often skewing your comparisons.  

European manufacturers most commonly claim standing-start acceleration for their cars in 0-62mph because it’s equivalent to 0-100kmh; but some UK-based firms still claim 0-60mph instead. Meanwhile some American-based car-makers who claim 0-60mph performance do it on the basis of a ‘one-foot rollout’ drag-strip-style performance measure which disregards the first foot of the car’s acceleration run, and therefore isn’t a fair basis for comparison with any ‘from rest’ figure. Because this is now such conventional practice in North America, it’s usually not even acknowledged, making it very problematic to compare standing start acceleration claims made by, say, Chevrolet or Tesla with those of Porsche, Ferrari or Mercedes-AMG.

Even if everyone dealt in like-for-like terms where acceleration claims are concerned, though, isn’t there a better and more representative measurement of real-world performance potential than a 0-60mph claim? The answer’s yes; and it’s one that also balances out the advantages often given to brand-new performance cars by super-sticky ‘cup’ tyres, electronic launch control systems, active four-wheel drive systems, and torque-rich electric motors that can, between them, provide performance that’s much more instant than it is long-lasting.

Below is a list of the fastest-accelerating performance cars ever to have been subject to a full set of Autocar’s independent performance tests as part of our standard road test procedure. They are ranked not on 0-60mph pace but instead primarily in order of their roll-on, through-the-gears acceleration from 30- to 70mph; with standing quarter-mile acceleration used to break any ties arising between cars of the same pace.

So we’re not dealing in manufacturer’s claims here. These are verified acceleration statistics repeated and averaged out over two directions and on a level surface; in cars fully fuelled and with two occupants onboard; not fluked on one occasion and in one direction with a following wind, or conducted on some gluey dragstrip surface that’s worth a few bonus tenths off the line. This is our definitive, empirically backed list of the fastest road cars to which we’ve ever fixed timing gear. And you’ll be amazed what misses the cut.

1. Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

30-70mph: 1.7sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.1sec at 147.9mph | Test date - 2.3.11

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It’s been more than a decade now since our 5000th road test, on the mighty Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, was published. Even after that long it retains a little bit of breathing space as the fastest road car we’ve ever figured from 30- to 70mph. Bugatti’s yet to make a Chiron available to us for a road test, we should add; but since our Veyron test happened towards the end of that car’s life as a production car, there’s reason for hope that they might still do so. 

In the new age of the ‘gigawatt’ electric hypercar, we can expect the Veyron’s position on this list to be assailed sooner or later, whether by its direct replacement or an electrified rival; but it’ll only be achieved by a fiercely fast car. Moreover, until those electric exotics come with gearboxes, they may never accelerate beyond three figures quite like the 1183bhp Bugatti could.

“If a Veyron Super Sport set off from a standing start ten seconds after a McLaren F1,” recorded our test, “allowing the McLaren to hit 130mph before even turning a wheel - the Bugatti could still reach 200mph at exactly the same time.”

“It sounds a bit like two TVR Griffiths on full reheat, plus an industrial-strength air hose running all at once. But it has mind-bending, heart-stopping acceleration the like of which has never been felt in a road car before.”

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2. Porsche 918 Spyder

30-70mph: 1.9sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.2sec at 144.9mph | Test date - 22.10.14

The awesome Porsche 918 Spyder was one of the infamous ‘holy trinity’ of hybrid hypercars that emerged in the early part of the 2010s. We only got to fully test two-out-of-three; but the 918 was narrowly the quicker of the two, the car’s team of electric drive motors and race-derived V8 piston engine catapulting it from 30- to 70mph in less than two seconds.

“The 918’s in-gear performance is unrivalled,” we recorded. “What’s so astonishing is not just the pace but also the flexibility afforded by its rampant electric motors’ instant torque. To accelerate from both 20mph to 40mph and 30mph to 50mph in second gear, a 918 Spyder needs 1.0sec. A McLaren P1 wants 1.3sec and 1.1sec over the same marks.”

3. McLaren Senna

30-70mph: 1.9sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.4sec at 148.2mph | Test date - 10.10.18

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No road-legal production car we’ve tested has gone more quickly around MIRA’s dry handling circuit than the deliciously purposeful McLaren Senna; and only a couple, it turns out, have offered more real-world acceleration.

The Senna was an ‘ultimate’ model in more than just name. Its 800 metric horsepower and 800kg of maximum track downforce remain as compelling in prospect now as ever they were, and the car’s driving experience was spine-tinglingly exciting and accessible in its intended environment.

“The Senna’s acceleration feels nothing less than savage from the driver’s seat,” our test records. “For gearshift response time, all-round flexibility, high-revving freedom and linearity of throttle calibration, the Senna’s V8 wants for absolutely nothing.”

4. Ariel Atom V8

30-70mph: 1.9sec | Standing ¼-mile: 11.2sec at 134.2mph | Test date - 10.08.11

For the moment at least it’s pleasing to report that it doesn’t take a four-figure horsepower output, a super-expensive carbonfibre chassis or a posh all-corner driveline to get up towards the sharp end of this list. Ten years ago, little Ariel of Crewkerne, Somerset, managed to make a V8-engined Atom that had the minerals: a car of 650kg of weight as tested, and 475bhp at screaming 10,500rpm.

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“After hitting 60mph in 3.02sec precisely,” we wrote of it, “the car takes 5.7sec to reach 100mph, after which the aerodynamics start to take control. Nonetheless, the Ariel is a scintillatingly fast car, but not in the same way as a hypercar. You’re acutely aware of its lack of inertia, and there’s no build-up of thrust: you just think yourself down the road.”

5. McLaren P1

30-70mph: 2.0sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.2sec at 147.5mph | Test date - 07.05.14

It felt like a huge occasion when McLaren Automotive handed over the keys to its first top-level hypercar of its current era, the hybrid-electric P1, to us for a road test. Great things were expected; but the hulking presence of the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, tested three years earlier, wasn’t quite to be overhauled that day.

Nevertheless, the brilliant P1 won our awe and affection in so many ways. “The P1 feels like a car with a much larger capacity than 3.8 litres, and it generates peak torque at just 4000rpm. In fifth gear, it’s as quick from 50-70mph as it is from 120-140mph (2.7sec, since you’re asking).”

“In the dry, all of this performance is accessible. In the lower gears, it gives the deftly judged traction control a hard time, but dry traction is always impressive. Such is the severity of the initial acceleration allowed by the launch control system that rolling on to MIRA’s mile straight at, say, approaching 70mph (no more is possible) buys only 5mph at the far end compared with a standing start.”

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6. McLaren 720S

30-70mph: 2.0sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.4sec at 143.5mph | Test date - 24.05.17

The McLaren 720S reset performance benchmarks across the board for a mid-engined supercar of its kind. The disregard that it showed for what might be considered the barriers and norms of the performance-car hierarchy were clear to see in our 2017 road test: the 720S matched a McLaren P1 to the tenth-of-a-second over 30- to 70mph; it was only two-tenths slower than the hypercar over a standing quarter mile (and five-tenths quicker than its opposite number from Maranello of the time, the Ferrari 488 GTB); and it needed only a second longer than its bigger sibling to get all the way to 190mph from rest. 

“In accelerating from rest to 60mph in less than 3.0sec and to 190mph from rest within a measured mile,” we wrote, “in stopping from 70mph in less than 40 metres and in coming within a fraction of a second of smashing our all-time dry handling circuit lap record, the 720S has shown itself to be a car of incredible, almost unprecedented speed and purpose. It’s the sort of car we’d have been delighted to call a ‘supercar’ in the original, decades-old sense – if that word hadn’t come to mean something slightly different today.”

7. Ferrari 488 Pista

30-70mph: 2.0sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.5sec at 141.0mph | Test date - 07.08.19

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The stunning, trackday-ready 488 Pista was the last Ferrari we road tested, back in the summer of 2019. It left a lasting impression, commanding rabid turbocharged performance - and with Maranello switching to hybrid power for its series-production sports cars from here on out, who knows if it’ll be the last of its particular kind.

“This is an engine whose thrashing pistons are managed and motivated more cleverly than a Pep Guardiola cup final squad. That it effectively saves torque back for the higher gears while  also revving so freely makes the car’s outright performance level seem to have almost no limit. That, in turn, also makes the process of pinning the car’s accelerator, and then being brave enough to keep it pinned and hold on shift by shift , a thrill ride that’s very difficult to find an equal for anywhere in motordom.

8. Lamborghini Huracan Performante

30-70mph: 2.0sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.6sec at 136.7mph | Test date - 11.10.17

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It won’t go unnoticed in a certain part of northern Italy that Ferrari should end up with only one entry in this Autocar Top Ten chart, and little old Lamborghini has two. For now though, and perhaps only until Ferrari brings an SF90 to the UK for an appointment with the Autocar road test timing gear, that’s how things stand. And in another interesting reversal of expected hierarchy, it’s the Lamborghini Huracan Performante that’s the quicker of Sant’Agata’s test subjects, whose meteoric atmo V10 engine makes 630bhp at 8000rpm but revs all the way to 8500-.

“Lamborghini hasn’t quite turned the Performante into the quickest supercar on the block here,” we recorded, “not in a straight line, at least. You might not have imagined it would be, of course, compared with a 720S that’s 170kg lighter still and considerably more potent with it.”

“But taking the bombastic theatricality of the Huracán’s V10, the car’s unmistakably enormous outright pace and that engine’s micron-perfect throttle response and pedal proportionality in combination, it’s hard to believe that anyone could find the style or scope of this car’s performance in any way wanting.”

9. McLaren 600LT Spider

30-70mph: 2.1sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.9sec at 133.0mph | Test date - 22.05.19

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Very few examples of McLaren’s extra-special breed of ‘longtail’ hardcore model derivatives have ever taken a full Autocar road test. The memorably savage 675LT of 2015 got away, and thus far the awesome 765LT has too (although we hope to remedy that soon enough). The one that we did manage to time was the sport-series 600LT, however - and, even though that car wasn’t as powerful as a longtail can be, it didn’t disappoint.

“Launching under McLaren’s electronic governance, with that strangely smooth and unexpectedly non-violent, wheelspin-free, immaculately managed fervour these cars all show in those circumstances, the 600LT only narrowly missed the 6.0sec threshold to 100mph, at which point it ’s was three-tenths ahead of a 570S and still pulling clear. The car has first-order, no-prisoners-taken acceleration on tap, then. Enough to narrowly beat a Ferrari 488 GTB off the line, and then to only very gradually surrender the initiative to the Italian over the next few hundred yards.”

“Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS was the other main performance benchmark, we’re told – and McLaren can consider that another box ticked. The German – a hundred horsepower up on the Longtail, remember – would need to run all the way to 120mph before starting to get its nose out in front, according to our figures.”

10. Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

30-70mph: 2.2sec | Standing ¼-mile: 10.7sec at 135.9mph | Test date - 19.06.19

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If we’d have been ranking cars on engine noise, rest assured this one wouldn’t have done better than 10th. The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is nothing short of epic and magnificent for the bombastic audible theatricality of its atmospheric V12. That modern turbocharged engines develop more mid-range torque, and also make for quicker supercars, can’t be argued if you look above on this list. Even so, you still wouldn’t change what the maddest Aventador offers for a second.

“With the engine’s lightweight flywheel comes a lack of inertia and scalpel-sharp throttle response for which you wouldn’t trade seconds of outright performance, let alone tenths. Not that those adequately committed will ever need to. Hold your nerve to wind this fabulously linear motor out to its 8500rpm sweet spot and the SVJ accelerates madly – 60-80mph in second gear is dispatched in a mere 1. 3sec – with a soprano howl evocative of F1’s glory days. Out on the road, this sonic assault, along with the car’s girth, contrives to somehow make it feel even quicker still. Fortunately, the SVJ is not under-endowed in the braking department. Carbon-ceramic discs of 400mm (front) and 380mm (rear) stopped our car from 70mph in 40.8m, and they are easy to modulate at road speeds.”

The nearly-cars outside our fastest-accelerating road test Top Ten:

McLaren F1: 2.2sec (30-70mph), 10.8sec at 142.3mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Porsche ‘991’ GT2 RS: 2.2sec (30-70mph), 10.8sec at 136.3mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Ferrari 812 Superfast: 2.2sec (30-70mph), 10.9sec at 137.9mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Porsche Taycan Turbo S: 2.2sec (30-70mph), 10.9sec at 128.8mph (Standing ¼-mile)

McLaren 650S Spider: 2.2sec (30-70mph), 11.0sec at 135.2mph (Standing ¼-mile)

McLaren 620R: 2.2sec (30-70mph), 11.1sec at 138.5mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: 2.3sec (30-70mph), 11.0sec at 133.6mph (Standing ¼-mile)

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McLaren MP14-12C: 2.3sec (30-70mph), 11.1sec at 131.5mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Ferrari 458 Speciale: 2.3sec (30-70mph), 11.1sec at 130.1mph (Standing ¼-mile)

BMW M5 CS: 2.4sec (30-70mph), 11.1sec at 128.8mph (Standing ¼-mile)        

Ariel Atom 4: 2.4sec (30-70mph), 11.2sec at 123.4mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Ferrari 458 Italia: 2.4sec (30-70mph), 11.3sec at 128.7mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Noble M600: 2.5sec (30-70mph), 11.0sec at 131.1mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Audi R8 V10+ (2015): 2.6sec (30-70mph), 11.1sec at 129.9mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Porsche ‘997’ Turbo S (2013): 2.6sec (30-70mph), 11.4sec at 126.3mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Honda NSX (2016): 2.6sec (30-70mph), 11.4sec at 125.7mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera: 2.6sec (30-70mph), 11.6sec at 130.8mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano: 2.6sec (30-70mph), 11.7sec at 129.8mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Mercedes-AMG GT-R: 2.7sec (30-70mph), 11.5sec at 128.6mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Ferrari 430 Scuderia: 2.7sec (30-70mph), 11.5sec at 127.0mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Nissan GTR Recaro (2017): 2.7sec (30-70mph), 11.7sec at 122.1mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Porsche ‘991’ GT3 RS (2015): 2.8sec (30-70mph), 11.6sec at 123.3mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4: 2.8sec (30-70mph), 11.7sec at 125.7mph (Standing ¼-mile)

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Lamborghini Murcielago LP640: 2.8sec (30-70mph), 11.8sec at 125.0mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Mercedes SLS AMG: 2.9sec (30-70mph), 11.9sec at 124.8mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Tesla Model S P90D (2016): 3.0sec (30-70mph), 12.1sec at 112.9mph (Standing ¼-mile)

Lexus LFA: 3.0sec (30-70mph), 12.2sec at 124.5mph (Standing ¼-mile)

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Mainlysideways 28 July 2021
"that you deliberated omitted to mention the 2025 Model S Ludacris Plaid w/Cheetah stance that will do 30-70 in under 1 second and the standing quarter in under 5 seconds (all without any form of steering, but with 2 front trucks, seating for 9, and 1 million miles between battery charges), shows what a dinosaur media outlet you are!!"

The clue is in the title, it says "tested by Autocar", clearly they haven't tested it yet, which is reasonable for a car launched in the US only 7 weeks ago, there probably isn't even one in the UK yet.

Folsom 28 July 2021
that you deliberated omitted to mention the 2025 Model S Ludacris Plaid w/Cheetah stance that will do 30-70 in under 1 second and the standing quarter in under 5 seconds (all without any form of steering, but with 2 front trucks, seating for 9, and 1 million miles between battery charges), shows what a dinosaur media outlet you are!!