Bugatti took the world by storm seven years ago when it launched the fastest-ever car on this planet, the Veyron.
Illustration by Pirada Jaokaew
Armed with a mighty 16-cylinder engine boosted by four turbos, the Volkswagen Group-owned hypercar managed to sprint from 0-100kph in an eye-popping 2.5 seconds before going flat out to a staggering 431kph.
Aimed purely as a statement in automotive engineering, many pundits were quick to point out that the world would probably never see a car beat the Veyron in performance terms whose power started out at 1,001hp before ending up with 1,200hp in SuperSport version. However, that is set to change this year when at least three exotic nameplates launch new hypercars - supercars with stratospheric performance.
Ironically, it comes at a time when practically all carmakers are going green due to new stringent emission standards being deployed in the developed world.
Despite the expected arrival of a plethora of all-electric vehicles this year, it appears super-fast cars aren't dead yet.
Originally, a total of five brands planned to take automotive engineering to the next level. However, Jaguar couldn't see a business case for the ambitious C-X75, which called for a high-output engine based on a tiny 1.6-litre motor.
Lamborghini, as well, restricted its Sesto Elemento - a sub-1,000kg carbonfibre car based on the Gallardo - to just 20 units solely for the track. All of them have reportedly been sold out since last year.
This leaves Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche with all the spoils to take in this race of road-going hypercars. Of course, all three will only be made in limited numbers, but they are suited for real-world driving and carry astronomical prices: over 100 million baht in Thailand including tax.
Tentatively called F150, P1 and 918 Spyder, respectively, the trio share some common technical principles like a body made from carbonfibre, mid-engine platform, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and electric motors to boost performance and save fuel at the same time.
The last aspect is particularly important to fan any possible criticism from environmentalists. In the first place anyhow, thfeir limited numbers on the road - if ever to be seen taken out of a garage and driven - will hardly be doing any harm to the environment.
That said, the F150, P1 and 918 will blend a dose of decent fuel economy into a stellar performance, and all are expected to chase the Veyron for acceleration rather than top speed - the former facet being far more relevant for the real world in the legal sense.
This is why Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche aren't concerned whether their cars can beat the Veyron's manically high top speed.
McLaren, for one, said at the unveiling of the P1's concept in Paris last year: "Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit."
But just to keep potential buyers departing with so much cash happy, the trio should be doing in the region of 320-350kph.
Porsche has already revealed preliminary specs for the 918 - due to go on sale officially in September - including a 2.9sec time for the 0-100kph dash derived from a 4.6-litre electrified V8 producing some 835hp in total.
The 918 also boasts plug-in capability for the electric motors, which allows for CO2-less driving for 25km at no faster than 150kph. Porsche says the average fuel economy theoretically is 33kpl with CO2 emissions of 70g/km.
Don't think for the moment that the 918 will be able to attract low rates under the new Thai tax structure tabled in for use by 2016. That's because Thai legislators believe that engines displacing more than 3,000cc - despite being able to produce less than 100g/km of the black soot - still needs to be punished with the maximum.
The 918 itself will arguably look the least extreme of the three. Porsche's latest official picture of the 918 sees it in Martini Racing colours. Strip them off and the 918 is the actual article for the showroom.
Aesthetically speaking, the P1 will look very much like the concept car. Most recent customer clinics have pointed out that the production-ready McLaren will retain 96% of the concept's wavy-looking package.
No technical details have been announced yet, although it is understood that the P1 will be based on today's MP4-12C whose 630hp 3.8-litre V8 will be hooked-up with an electric system to push total output close to 900hp.
Ferrari has formally announced that its all-new Enzo replacement, dubbed F150, will add two electric HY-KERS motors to the 6.3-litre V12, used in today's FF and F12 supercars. Like McLaren, Ferrari's electric tech has filtered down from F1 racing.
The V12 alone produces 800hp and HY-KERS 120hp to bring the total to 920hp. Ferrari adds that 0-200kph should be done in around 8sec, while the HY-KERS boost efficiency by 40%. That means the F150 could be able to achieve 8-9kpl fuel economy.
To put things into perspective, the Veyron manages just 5.9kpl and 1.3kpl if driven flat out. To be fair, though, Bugatti wasn't concerned about economy when developing the Veyron.
Till now, Ferrari has provided no hints of how the F150 would look like. Ferrari just says the F150 will roughly be the size of the 458 Italia - the chief nemesis of McLaren's MP4-12C. As well, the additional weight of the electric components in the F150 will be countered by the power benefits they yield.
That said, Ferrari and McLaren will be extending their rivalry further down the road with the F150 and P1. Inside information suggests both hypercars will go after the record 2.5sec time set by the Veyron for the distinctive 0-100kph sprint. The fastest-accelerating Ferrari so far is the F12 whose 740hp power takes it there in 3.1sec.
This could ultimately leave the 918 the slowest car here but most frugal on fuel and cleanest in CO2 terms.
Whatever the outcome, what the market is about witness this year is a new chapter in automotive engineering - bigger performance albeit cleaner emissions - with special thanks coming from the motorsport projects that have provided the test beds for these new electrified drivetrain components.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor