The 10 Fastest Cars of the Past 20 Years

Source: Hennessey

A funny thing happened once automakers started making cars more efficient and technologically advanced; they got faster too. Today, a V6-powered Camry can dust just about anything Ferrari built right up through the Mid-’80s, and the four-cylinder EcoBoost Mustang could embarrass its 1960s-era big block ancestors on the drag strip.

So as the cars of mere mortals got faster, what happened to the supercars? Well, they got faster too – a lot faster. In fact, over the last 20 years alone, supercars have gone from fast to once-thought impossibly fast. Looking at the advances made this past decade alone, the future looks ripe for jaw-dropping performances (can you say sub-two second zero to 60 times?).

We took a look at the fastest cars produced in each year going back the last 20 or so years, to 1994. We excluded one-offs, concepts, and race cars, and the performance of each respective vehicle included is listed at what its specifications were when it left the factory floor. We opted to include cars from Hennessey, which modifies vehicles, since the Texas-based firm has recently played such an integral role in the world’s need for speed.

Read on to see the fastest cars produced in each year for the past 20 years, from 1994 to 2014.

1994-1998: McLaren F1, 231-240 mph

Source: McLaren
Source: McLaren

McLaren took the world by storm in the mid-1990s when it unleashed the F1. Prior to the McLaren, the Jaguar XJ220 ruled the roost, but its 213 mile per hour top speed looked downright puny once the F1 came around with its 231 mile per hour top end. By the time it left production, the F1 could reach a blistering 240 miles per hour. In the 20-plus years since it was released, the F1 feels as fresh as ever, even against today’s fastest supercars. The F1 held the top spot throughout its production run, bowing out gracefully in 1998.

1999: Lamborghini Diablo GT, 215 mph

Souce: Lamborghini
Souce: Lamborghini

In 1999, Lamborghini was a new member of the Volkswagen Auto Group, and financially stable for the first time in decades. It decided to celebrate with the Diablo GT, a 215 mile per hour rocket that picked up where the F1 left off. Although it was a step back from the technological masterpiece that was the 240 mile per hour McLaren, the Diablo GT made life just above the 200 mile per hour mark look easy. Using an aluminum alloy 6.0-liter V12 engine, the Diablo GT also produced 575 horsepower, giving it incredible power to match its devilish aesthetics. It had some jump, too, reaching 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, and 100 miles per hour in just 8 seconds. The Diablo GT didn’t hold onto its title for long, but the model itself carried on until 2001.

2000-2001: Saleen S7, 220 mph

Source: Saleen

In the year 2000, Saleen released the S7, a sports car that could hit 220 miles per hour, making it the fastest on the market and becoming the first American to take the speed crown in years. Using a blend of cutting-edge aerodynamic features and carbon fiber construction, the S7 was powered by a 7.0-liter V8 engine that produced 550 horsepower. The S7 was also incredibly quick, and could jet to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 3.3 seconds. Production on the S7 took place from 2000 until 2004, and it was then released as an updated version, the S7 Twin Turbo for 2005. The Twin Turbo variant also saw production for four years, until 2009, and increased the power and speed of the original model considerably.

2002: Ferrari Enzo, 217 mph

Source: Ferrari

In 2000, Ferrari rang in the new millennium by winning the Formula One Constructors Championship on the strength of drivers Michael Schumacher and Reubens Barrichello. To celebrate, the company released the Enzo, an F1-inspired supercar that picked up right where the ’95-’97 Ferrari F50 left off. It would go on sale to the general public for the 2003 model year, but even before then, the Enzo was rocketing around at speeds of up to 217 miles per hour. The Enzo was equipped with a V12 engine that produced 650 horsepower. Only 399 units were produced until production ended in 2004.

2003: Pagani Zonda C12-S, 220 mph

Source: Pagani
Source: Pagani

By the early 2000s, once radical supercar builders like Ferrari and Lamborghini had become as establishment as their respective parent companies, Fiat and Volkswagen. A new vanguard was rising to give them a run for their money, and when the first Pagani Zonda C12 prototype was shown off at the 1999 Geneva Auto Show, many car buffs knew it was going to be something special. When the C12-S variant was released in 2003, it was, it stole the world’s fastest car title from Ferrari. With a 555 horsepower V12 and a top speed of 220 miles per hour, the Zonda C12-C could take anything on, and win. Using extensive carbon fiber construction, the Zonda C12-C was designed by Horacio Pagani himself after defecting from Lamborghini in the early 1990s.

2004: Koenigsegg CCR, 241 mph

Source: Koenigsegg
Source: Koenigsegg

Supercars really stretch on what it means to be considered a production car, and with a mere 14 units built, the Koenigsegg CCR is pushing the limit. Released in 2004, the CCR brought McLaren levels of speed back to the supercar world, and became the world record holder for fastest car at 241 miles per hour. Equipped with a 4.7-liter turbocharged V8 engine that produces 806 horsepower, the CCR could launch from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds and post a quarter-mile time of 9.7 seconds. The Swedish CCR broke the world record for speed on February 28, 2005 in Italy, just as it was about to be overtaken by a new record-breaker…

2005-2006: Bugatti Veyron 16.4, 254 mph

Source: Bugatti

Love it or hate it, by achieving speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 has thoroughly left its mark in automotive history. Bugatti has since released different variations of the Veyron and pushed speed records further and further each time. In 2005, the 16.4 version was the fastest car in the world. Capable of speeds up to 254 miles per hour, it was given Top Gear‘s “Best Car Driven All Year” award in 2005, and was eventually named the show’s Car of the Decade. Back in ’05, the 16.4 had a 8.0-liter W16 quad-turbocharged engine that made 987 horsepower. Later versions were even more powerful.

2007-2010: SSC Ultimate Aero TT, 256 mph

ssc ultimate aero
Source: SSC

In 2007, Shelby Sports Cars took its Ultimate Aero model to a desolate highway in Washington state and broke the world record for fastest car on Earth. By reaching a top speed of 256 miles per hour, the SSC Aero captured the world’s attention with its rocket-fast feat of engineering. The Ultimate Aero began as a prototype built from a Lamborghini Diablo chassis and eventually hit its stride with the 2007 turbocharged version. Engineers used a supercharged V8 engine to produce 1,183 horsepower, allowing the car to reach such high speeds. Production lasted until 2013, but other companies were aiming to take the world speed record back in the meantime.

2011-2013: Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, 268 mph

Source: Bugatti

Bugatti (and Volkswagen AG) wasn’t pleased with other cars occupying the same rarefied territory of the Veyron, and unveiled the faster Super Sport model in 2011. A Veyron on steroids, the Super Sport is able to reach a top speed of 268 miles per hour, smashing the then-world record. Although it originally took back the record in 2010, Guinness needed to reconfirm the vehicle’s speed for it to count officially. The Super Sport has since been adopted by the Dubai Police Department to combat street racing, as it’s capable of hitting 60 miles per hour in only 2.5 seconds.

2014-2015: Hennessey Venom GT, 270 mph

Source: Hennessey

Not only was the Super Sport’s reign brief, but it was usurped by an American car. Again. The Texas-built Hennessey Venom GT can reach top speeds of 270 miles per hour. It smashed through the speed record in February 2014 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. According to Guinness, the Veyron Super Sport still holds the world record due to the technical nature of the record-keeping process itself. Regardless, the Venom GT’s feat makes it the only car to surpass Bugatti’s baddest, cementing its place in automotive history. The company plans on building 29 units of the vehicle, each of which takes six months to build.

Right now, the Venom GT holds the crown as the world’s speediest car. But 2016 is approaching fast, and SSC, Bugatti, and Koenigsegg all have new cars looming on the horizon. Don’t be surprised if we have a new champion for 2016.

Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.