Is the production car top speed record a joke?

Is the production car top speed record a joke?

Did you know that roughly one year ago Bugatti announced that it would no longer be chasing speed records with their cars? Ironically enough, this was freshly after achieving a 304 Mph run. Now even though it was not with a production car you could buy at a local dealership, it was a prototype based on the road going Chiron. They listed all sorts of reasons why they had this sudden change of heart; most of which can be boiled down to one single sentiment – they think outright top speed is unnecessary. How ironic, since that was their whole mantra with the Veyron to begin with.

I’d like to posit another theory (and what I believe to be the more likely) theory. I believe that through the grapevine, they had become aware that an ‘American’ with big biceps and a can-do attitude was working on a hypercar with a top speed target far beyond what their fleet could achieve. So, they picked up their baguettes and bratwurst and hobbled back into their leather lined dens. Backing out long before the comparison was even going to take place. Fast forward a year, and that aforementioned ‘American’ proved to be a force to reckon with. As of October 2020 the SSC Tuatara positively DESTROYED every single record out there for production ‘road’ cars. This car hit 331Mph or 530Km/h. Incredible.

Now most of us are aware that the truth of realizing such speed all comes down to two engineering feats. Co-efficient of drag and power. Yes, there are additional factors such as suspension travel, tires being able to maintain their structural integrity, and the list goes on. However, these aside, it really does come down to these 2 aforementioned factors. And as with most other challenges, throw enough money at any problem and you will come up with a solution. The Tuatara is no exception to the rule.

Power, you ask? The Tuatara has a twin-turbo V8 capable of delivering an asphalt scorching 1,750hp. The coefficient of drag is surprisingly disappointing, however. With a 0.279 coefficient of drag, it is bested by the likes of the Subaru BRZ, Hyundai Elantra and even the 1998 model year S-Class from Mercedes (for crying out loud)! The list of cars with better coefficient of drag figures runs longs, and features entry level consumer cars all the way to concept prototypes. But I guess with anything, throw enough horsepower into the mix, and it can literally overpower other less-desired areas. But don’t feel too bad for the Tuatara, it did beat the Ferrari F50 (Cd of 37.2), Koenigsegg CCX (Cd of 32.0) and the McLaren F1 (Cd of 0.32), among others.

That said, watching the Tuatara’s record-breaking run, the car looked incredibly stable. Not as dramatic as I would have expected. Might as well thank the computational fluid dynamics of modern CAD software, right?

Here’s the thing. As impressive as these runs are, beyond production numbers where do you draw the line for these road car records? Could 11Tenths not theoretically weld together a 5 foot long pointy nose cone for a BMW M2, then boost the motor until the head bolts stretch out of the bonnet? Boom top speed. The impressiveness is the complete package of these hypercars. Koenigsegg is a great example of a top speed car that can go around a corner but also be functional enough to act as a grand tourer. We need to learn more about the Tuatara, but I’m sure the goal is similar – a car that is not just about top speed but incredible handling as well.

So, is top speed a joke and just a battle of math and engineering? Of course not.

I’ll tell you what it is: Marketing.


Written by: @Milk4Coffee

Image Source: SSC North America

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