The ratio of people lusting after supercars to those that will ever own one is depressingly low, but that’s no reason not to dream. Here we present a definitive list of 30 of the best machines ever to drive on four wheels. Start dreaming now…
You might think that selecting 30 supercars, all costing hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars, is quite difficult. It’s not. A list like this could easily be twice or three times as long, and with the number of millionaires in the world higher than at any point in history, the market for this kind of ostentatious automobile has never been stronger. The difficult part is creating a list of worthy, groundbreaking supercars that actually deserve recognition – and, ultimately their price-tag.
So what makes a supercar? Dictionary definitions include the words “exotic, rare, fast and expensive,” but this doesn’t always tell the full story. Some cars don’t fulfill all of these categories, and in the case of the Honda NSX, not really any of them at all. Nevertheless, all the cars here did something that pushed on the game just that little bit more – and a couple were just straightforward bonkers. All of them are worthy of recognition.
If you’ve never heard of the W8 – there’s good reason. Just 19 were built between 1990 and 1993. But aside from using carbon fiber and kevlar body panels, the car deserves recognition for two reasons. Firstly, it had an estimated top speed of 220mph (although its predecessor, the W2, had hit 242mph on Bonneville Salt Flats). These stats made it faster, in a straight line at least, than cars like the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40.
The V8 had twin turbos, and the boost was adjustable up to 14 lbs – with this dialed in, the engine was putting out around 1200hp. The second and more important reason is it was said the car used the same electroluminescent display as an F-117 Stealth fighter. Which is pretty damn cool.
What happens when a bunch of Lamborghini employees get bored? Legend has it the Cizeta-Moroder was partly born because Diablo designer Marcello Gandini didn’t like Lamborghini’s new owner Chrysler softening the lines of his new car, so this is what he did with the original design.
The company was created by automotive engineer Claudio Zampolli with music composer Giorgio Moroder, and brought to life in 1988 with a group of ex-Lambo employees. While the styling was the road-going equivalent of a chest wig and poodle perm, the star was the engine: a V16 made from two flat-plane V8s. It is thought just 22 cars were built.
Ruf CTR Yellowbird
Before the days of YouTube there was a grainy video that would be shared and discussed showing a hot lap in a very fast Porsche with a mystery driver at the wheel. It was rumored to be rally legend Walter Röhrl who was hustling the Ruf Yellowbird around the Nurburgring. The grainy footage of twirling opposite lock will give you goosebumps even now. So, what was this seemingly stock-looking Porsche 930? Created by Alios Ruf, it was a heavily-tuned 911 that could outgun almost anything on the road, including a 959 and F40, hitting a top speed of 211mph.
Anyone who thinks the M400 is not a legitimate supercar has not had the fortune of driving one. Remember that moment you get bored in Need For Speed and spend every last penny tuning your car to within an inch of its life? That’s what a M400 feels like.
Fizzing, whooshing, and thrashing the T28 turbos on its Mondeo-derived Duratec V6, one magazine found it was good for 60mph in less than three seconds. Forget the Halfords dashboard – the chassis is supple and forgiving, making this an astonishingly capable car at going far too fast.
The greatest car of the 1990s and maybe all time – supercar manufacturers are still trying to rival its supremacy. Conceived by F1 designer Gordon Murray, McLaren supremo Ron Dennis backed the project and Peter Stevens tackled the exterior and interior of the car. A 6,064cc 60-degree BMW V12 engine called the BMW S70/2 encased in a gold heat shield propelled the car to an unfathomable 240mph, ushering in a new hypercar era. The central seating arrangement meant it was both driver-focused and you could be in for a cheeky menage-a-trois when you finally arrived in Monte Carlo.
There is no other way to look at it – when VW conceived the Veyron they weren’t messing about. When the German car manufacturer bought up the company it didn’t want to build a supercar, it didn’t want a contender, it wanted something that would stop the world in its tracks. A blank check mentality runs through everything in the car – a single-minded pursuit to relaunch the marque with a car that destroyed everything in its path.
The quad-turbocharged, 8-liter, W16 engine has 1,000hp, propelling the original car to 254.04mph. Rumor has it at this speed the tires will only last 15 minutes, but you didn’t need to worry, it would run out of fuel three minutes earlier than that.
Hennessey Venom GT
Houston is used to making rockets, but when the city’s best known tuner Hennessey decided to build a faster car than the Veyron, they definitely had a problem. The first, it would seem, would be its decision to base their new car on a Lotus Exige – a car whose raison d’etre is its light weight, low power and plastic body. Still, by adding a carbon fiber body, stretched aluminum chassis and shoehorning in a 1244hp 7.0-liter twin-turbo aluminum-block V8, they actually did it. On a perfect day on NASA’s Space Shuttle Landing Strip the €1,113,819 car hit 270.49mph.
When the road-going Jaguar XJ220 was finally revealed, it was met with disappointment. The concept had promised four-wheel-drive and a V12, and here was a car that was powered by a V6 designed for the MG Metro 6R4. But any doubts about performance were best quashed by one memorable occasion: when Jeremy Clarkson was testing it.
Such was the savage acceleration that every time the notorious now-ex-Top Gear presenter mashed the throttle, the stereo was ripped out of the dashboard and flung through the cockpit. Sadly, even savage performance couldn’t help the car. The change of spec and an economic downturn when it was released in 1992 meant just 275 were produced.
In the late ’90s there were rumblings at Ford HQ. Through rallying and racing the company had a sporting heritage, but, in Europe at least, it was slipping behind with humdrum models that were selling through familiarity rather than desirability. With the arrival of the Focus, and then the Puma, however, things started to change, ushering in a new period of sharp handling and good-looking cars.
Borrowing heavily from yesteryear, first the new Mustang turned up the heat and, finally, in 2005 the Ford GT arrived. Looking every bit the modern reincarnation of the original GT40, it was an instant hit, with a thumping 5.4l V8 bullying the car up the road. In the end, 4,038 were produced.
It may have had less power than the latest Civic Type-R (274hp compared to 310hp), but the NSX was every inch a supercar. Thankfully, Honda was better at sports cars than acronyms – the name stood for “New,” “Sportscar” and “eXperimental” – and in many ways the NSX became the blueprint for most supercars to come when it was launched in 1990. Why? Well, despite the rakish looks, this was a car you could drive every day, actually see out of, and sit in in comfort. Doesn’t sound very supercar, perhaps, but the likes of Audi’s R8 and the McLaren MP4-12C all later followed this mold.
Before the McLaren P1 and its ilk (see Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder), hybrids were better associated with Hollywood film stars righteously wandering around their smug gated communities. The McLaren P1, however, is a hybrid powered by a 737hp 3.8 liter twin-turbo V8 petrol mill and a 178hp electric motor, with a combined output of 916hp – or equivalent of almost seven Toyota Prius. Everything is wrapped in an exquisite carbon composite body that looks the business, be it on a race track or outside a Dubai shopping mall. If you want one, forget it – all 375 sold out almost instantly after it went on sale.
Well, technically it’s just “LaFerrari.” Why? The Italian manufacturer says it is the “maximum expression” of what the company is about, so it is the Ferrari. Strange names aside, the hybrid powertrain is also a new direction for Maranello. A 6,262cc naturally aspirated V12 engine that generates 801hp combines with a 60kg lithium ion battery pack, providing a further 162hp, for a combined output of 963hp. That means 62mph comes up in less than three seconds. All you’ll need is over $1 million to snag one, which is exactly what Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay did when he bought his Kermit green version.
While Ferrari was talking about how close to an F1 car the F50 was in the ’90s, it didn’t come close to what Yamaha had been up to a few years earlier with the OX99. The Japanese 1+1 – the passenger sat behind the driver – was pretty much an F1 car with a hand-beaten aluminium skin. It shared the same 10,000rpm red line V12 engine and carbon fiber chassis as the F1 car, specifically designed to showcase Yamaha’s involvement in the sport. Delays, fallouts and a financial crisis in Japan meant just three prototypes were built and the project was shelved in 1994.
Dauer 962 Le Mans
While it’s not unusual for racing versions of road cars to be developed for Le Mans, not many people have attempted to do this the other way around. German company Dauer did in 1993, taking the formidable Porsche 962 race cars and converting them for road use. This was not a case of dramatic detuning, or using a few components; Dauer simply stuck in a seat, hydraulic suspension to meet ride height regulations and, bizarrely, a DVD playback in later models. The air restrictor on the 2994 cc Flat-6 was even removed, giving around 740hp and 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds. Arguably the wildest-looking car ever to wear number plates.
Callaway SledgeHammer Corvette
Sniffy Europeans would dismiss the Corvette as not a legit supercar, but then along came the SledgeHammer – a car that bullied its way to the front of the exotica queue. Small-ish wheels and a familiar body hide its outlandish performance; a twin-turbo V8 produced 910hp and a gut-wrenching 772.2 lb ft of torque. But the big number was the top speed.
When driven by the car’s engine designer, John Ligenfelter, in 1988, the SledgeHammer successfully hit 254.7mph. It may have lacked the delicacy and finesse of European cars – it was called SledgeHammer for a reason, after all! – but it took a while for Italy and Germany to catch up in terms of pure performance.
What else is there left to say about the Countach? Yes it outstayed its welcome (it hung on for 16 years), yes it was uncomfortable, and yes Rod Stewart had a one-off Spider version, and yes its performance would be on par with some hot hatches today. But not only was it the last of the ultimate compromise supercars, it also shaped the Italian company’s USP for all eternity.
Granted, the Muira brought in the mid-engined supercar, but look at the shape of a Countach and Huracan LP 610-4 and you see the link immediately. If you want specs of this car, look it up on Wikipedia. If you want to know what it is like, watch the intro to Cannonball Run. It’s that kind of car.
It’s strange to think that the 959 – still in many ways the ultimate evolutionary step for the 911 brand – was as much an inspiration for later high-performance Stuttgart models as it was for the souped-up shopping mall Mitsubishi Evos of this world.
This was high performance with ultra control: all-wheel drive. Porsche-Steuer Kupplung (PSK) changed the torque distribution of the twin-turbocharged six-cylinder Boxer engine to suit the corners, and a similar approach has been used in supercars and rally refugees ever since. All that, and it hit 195mph, with all the usual Porsche practicality and comfort you would expect.
For many, this is the ultimate modern-day Ferrari. The F40 had a rawness, both in the way its 484hp 2.9-liter twin turbocharged V8 ferociously propelled little more weight than a Golf GTI, and in the way its race car cabin looked. It was, in many ways, the antithesis to its direct competitor, the tech-fest Porsche 959. It was also arguably one of the last really great-looking Ferraris.
Built to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the company, the F40 was the last car Enzo Ferrari personally approved. It’s essentially nothing more than a big engine in a light car, with plenty of sweat soaked into that small, suede-wrapped Momo steering wheel.
The idea of creating a 1.5-liter petrol-electric plug-in, wrapped in a sports body, could’ve quite easily sufficed as an impressive engineering exercise – but this is BMW. The i8 had to be the “ultimate driving machine,” and so it had to drive as well as the company’s best M-badged products.
And so it does. Maybe not in terms of ass-out handling (it is a four-wheel drive, let’s not forget), but the way it can create such a memorable and special experience out of the kind of ingredients most car nuts would easily dismiss makes it one of the most memorable supercars of today. The fact it looks incredible definitely helps, too.
The GT-R is the witchcraft of the supercar world. And, if there’s not a dartboard with a picture of a GT-R in the center at Porsche HQ, I’ll eat my Tyrolean. Why? It’s a relatively cheap, 1,730kg car with an uninspiring sounding 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6, that will thump around the Nordschleife 14 seconds faster than a Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Clever electronics help make the big Nissan the ultimate giant killer.
Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce
Any round up of supercars could almost feature just Lamborghinis – even when they’re not great, they’re always “super.” While, from the latest crop, the limited-to-nine, $4.5 million Veneno Roadster would seem the ultimate money-no-object Lambo, it’s the Aventador SV that is the best. That’s mainly because, with a 750hp V12, a stripped-out interior and a price tag of $493,095, this Lamborghini is an outrageous road rocket that even seems like a bit of a bargain. Relatively speaking.
The Koenigsegg One:1 is the car at the party who is a little bit crass, a little bit drunk, but everyone loves him. In a world where the hypercar aristocracy – Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche – are pursuing 1,000bhp outputs with modern hybrid technology, the Swedish company has kept it old school by achieving a power-to-weight ratio of 1:1 – i.e. it weighs 1340kg and produces 1322bhp. Through its twin-turbocharged V8 the claimed top speed is 273mph, making it the fastest car in the world. Though more impressive than that, perhaps – it will hit 240mph in just 20 seconds. Yikes.
Porsche 918 Spyder
It would be easy to feel a bit sorry for the 918 Spyder. On its own, the Spyder, with a 607hp V8 mated to one electric motor per axle, would write its own headlines. But arriving at the same time as the more showy P1 and LaFerrari, it feels a bit overshadowed. But it’s not. And, in many ways, this suits the Porsche – the Stuttgart cars have always been more subtle. An iron fist in a velvet glove, if you will.
So, when you take into account it will hit 62mph in a shade over 2.5 seconds, all with the purest of naturally aspirated V8 soundtracks, yet also glide around in electric-only mode in total comfort without drawing (quite) the same rabid cameraphone attention from the public, it all makes for a very classy package indeed.
This is the only car on sale that is named after the noise you make when you first mash the throttle. Well, that’s not strictly true – “Huayra” means the “God of Winds” in Quechua, the official language of the Inca Empire. What the Huayra is, however, is the successor to the Pagani Zonda: a supercar newcomer that was apparently partly engineered by the late, great Juan Manuel Fangio.
The engine in the Huayra is a 6.0-liter, twin-turbo V12, purpose-built by AMG for this car. Standalone looks, exquisite detailing (just check out the Jules Verne interior) and limited availability make the Huayra ritzy, glitzy and very, very special.
Ferrari 250 GTO
The 250 GTO could just be supercar perfection. Maybe not for you, but certainly for those who bid in an auction for one last year – pushing the price to roughly €48 million, making it the most expensive car in history. When you couple better curves than a Baywatch-era Pamela Anderson with the Tipo 168/62 Comp. 3.0-liter V12 from the 250 Testa Rossa, you have a car that could hit a heady 158mph in 1962. No wonder it has been consistently voted the best Ferrari of all time.
Mercedes CLK GTR
Mercedes developed the CLK GTR road car in the late ’90s as a 25 run homologation in order to have a crack at the heady FIA GT1 class. Built by AMG at the Affalterbach factory, they differed only slightly from the motorsport version. At $1,547,620, it was the most expensive production car ever built at the time. A total of six roadsters were also created.
Audi R8 LMX
In many ways the R8 is a victim of its own success. At one point, Audi was producing as many R8s as it does all Lamborghini models combined, which means the R8 is a fairly regular sight on the roads. This would lead some to question whether it’s a true supercar at all.
However, under the skin it shares a lot with the Lamborghini Gallardo, in both V8 and V10 forms, and it is extremely drivable day-to-day. That makes it an excellent everyday supercar designed to go head-to-head with the Porsche 911 and create a halo effect for the company. The new LMX uses the familiar 5.2-liter V10 petrol engine, only with 570hp it musters almost 20hp more than the standard V10. If that’s not enough, it’s also fitted with laser headlights as standard.
Aston Martin One-77
As much a work of art as a supercar, the finished car made its bow in late April 2009 at the Concorso d’Eleganza Ville d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, winning the design Award for Concept Cars and Prototypes. The £1 million, 7.3 liter V12 One-77 was revealed as the fastest-ever Aston Martin, with a top speed of 220mph. What’s more, only the privileged few would ever have a chance of getting to drive one – the 77 in the name referred to the ultra limited production run, which ended in 2012.
Bentley 4½ Liter “Blower”
Even these days a car hitting 130mph on the autobahn is respectable, but the Blower came to life in the 1920s – almost 100 years ago. No airbags, no ABS, no fancy safety options to protect you – just skinny tires, 177hp and plenty of “tally-ho” gusto as you plowed into the nearest hedge. The Blower obviously referred to the supercharger hanging out of the front of the engine, which in turn added oversteer to this big red monster. Arguably one of the world’s first proper supercars.
Gumpert Apollo Sport
Call it vain, but I think one of the main criteria of owning a supercar is being able to casually mention its name at a dinner party, without everyone laughing. Try that with the Gumpert Apollo Sport. Luckily, its performance does the talking – a quad-turbo version of the familiar 4.2-liter Audi V8 pushes it on to 223.9mph. But that’s not its only party trick. The Apollo Sport generates so much downforce it could drive on the roof of a tunnel at full speed. No joke.
Still need more cars? Then check out some of the most outrageous production models here.
Written by Ollie Stallwood for Highsnobiety.com