1,350 horsepower. 275 miles per hour. Is the battle for the fastest car in the world a pointless testosterone trophy? Probably, but it's still a hell of a lot of fun
There's always a bigger fish. While most of us drool over supercars, plebian Porsches and Ferraris, the real ballers and/or shot-callers cruise around in hypercars, million-horsepower chariots of fire that aren't so much luxury items as shrines to materialist excess. And it's not every day a new state-of-the-art, nuclear-powered hypercar gets announced, even if it seems that way. Lamborghini could be credited with beginning the tradition, but these days, the manic small-batch producers of the world have taken the game far beyond the modern Bull's comparatively Audi-like offerings. The Zenvo ST1. The Hennessey Venom GT. The Koenigsegg Agera R. All brand-spanking-new road rockets, and those are just the ones with over 1,000 horsepower. So in this increasingly crowded space, why call particular attention to the SSC Tuatara? Because, even in the rarefied air of hypercars, this is something else.
Prounounced Twu-tar-ah (not to be confused with the Hwaii-rah), Shelby SuperCar's new effort represents the latest volley in the battle for the speed record for a production car. SSC's last car, the Ultimate Aero TT, gave the automotive world a shock when it knocked off the Bugatti Veyron, the product of tens of millions of Volkswagen R&D dollars, for the record, with a top speed of 256 miles per hour. Bugatti then came back with the upgraded Veyron Super Sport, at 267 mph, and the race was on. In that vein, SSC has really brought the guns to bear for its encore: With a 6.8-liter turbocharged V8 producing 1,350 horsepower, the Tuatara is projected to hit 60 in 2.6 seconds, up to a top speed of 275 mph. What's even more incredible: Prototype testing has found it can cover the 0-200 mph sprint in just 15.4 seconds. However, with the Hennessey claiming similar benchmarks, and potential antes from any number of manufacturers, it's far too early to call a winner in this international...speed-measuring contest.
But what we love in particular about the Tuatara, more than its technological gee-wizardry, is the styling. Most hypercars, even with their gaudy numbers and gaudier looks, still try to rein it in a bit, so that the car has an air of dignity about it...that is, if Yeezy taught you how to stay classy. With the Tuatara, however, it's apparent that they haven't bothered with moderation at all, instead marketing it right at the 10-year-old boy in all of us. Between the diagonal fins, the bubble canopy, and the tricked-out interior, replete with pico projectors for instrument gauges and passenger-side displays for what they call a "co-pilot experience," this car is like an X-wing on wheels.
Besides, as high-profile as the "world's fastest production car" sounds, it's really a title full of disclaimers. The need to be street-legal, with airbags and headlamps and all that practical stuff, makes it slower than race-tuned cars, let alone rocket-powered land speed record holders. In that sense, then, the fastest production car feels like a limited accomplishment, like the world's fastest unicycle, or the world's strongest toddler. Perhaps this is different for the handful of Richie Riches who get to drive the damned things, but the rest of us can only enjoy them from a distance, admire them as engineering marvels—and from that perspective, even the glorious sound of that massive engine isn't enough to drown out the fine print.
Or is it? Just as we don't dismiss Usain Bolt for being slower than a housecat, maybe cars like the Tuatara are lords of such a familiar and relevant domain that we don't compare them to more esoteric technology. And, after all, there's something to be said for a car that can do 275 mph and then go over a speed bump, and take you to the mall.