The fastest car in the world is the Hennessey Venom GT — which reached 270.49 mph (435.31 km/h) on the Space Shuttle runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 14, 2014.
In doing so it broke the previous record of 269.86mph (434.30 km/h) held by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport since July 2010.
However, the Veyron actually still holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s fastest car, because NASA did not allow the Venom GT team to run in both directions down the runway, as required by Guinness rules to compensate for any wind advantage.
However industry experts generally accept that the Venom GT is the faster of the two, as the Veyron has never gone quicker.
In November 2015, Hennessey revealed an even more powerful Spyder version of the Venom GT for 2016, meaning we can most likely expect to see the record broken again in the near future.
The new Venom GT has an extra 207 horsepower, more than most cars have to begin with, contributing to an incredible total power output of 1,451hp.
Watch a video of the Hennessey Venom GT becoming the fastest car in the world
The extra power on the new Venom GT comes from allowing its 7.0liter turbocharged V8 to run on E85 Flexfuel. Hennessey say the car will now be able to top 280mph, putting it way ahead of the Veyron.
Hennessey are also putting the final touches to their new car the Venom F5, which they hope will take the speed record up to over 290mph.
The firm’s founder and president John Hennessey said:
Being the fastest matters. We are intent on keeping the Venom as the fastest, best performing and most exciting hypercar on the road.
However, there are rumors that Bugatti is also set to release a new car, called the Chiron, to replace the Veyron in 2016, with a claimed 1500 horsepower. Whether that will be a contender in the fastest car stakes remains to be seen.
The Venom and the Veyron have been battling it out to be recognised as the fastest car in the world for several years.
In February 2013 the Venom tried to break the record at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California but just managed to nudge 265.7mph before running out of space on the Tarmac.
Rundown of the world’s fastest cars
1 Hennessey Venom GT: 270.49mph (435.3km/h)
As well as being the fastest car on the planet, the Hennessey Venom GT holds the official Guinness World Record for the fastest production car to accelerate from 0-300km/h (0-186mph), managing to do it in 13.63 seconds.
The current Venom GT costs around $1million and features a 7.0liter twin-turbo V8 producing 1,244hp. Just 29 have been built, another reason why the car can’t make it into the Guinness record books.
For a vehicle to class as a ‘production car’ under Guinness rules you have to make at least 30.
2 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport: 267.8mph (430.9km/h)
The Veyron Super Sport does 0-60 in 2.4 seconds, has an 8.0liter W16 engine producing 1,200hp and costs $2.4million.
It broke the official record for the world’s fastest production car on July 4 2010 at Volkswagen’s high-speed Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany, with the time verified by officials from Guinness World Records.
It averaged the speed during laps in both directions of the oval track, as required by the Guinness rule book.
The car sold to customers is electrically limited to 258mph (415km/h) to stop the tires exploding — which has led to Bugatti’s official title being disputed in the past.
In April 2013, its Guinness World Record status was taken away because Guinness decided that the speed limiter meant it had been ‘modified’, which is not allowed under their definition of a ‘production car’.
At that point the Ultimate Aero TT (then the world’s second fastest car) claimed the record.
But just days later Guinness did a bizarre U-turn and decided limiting the top speed was not an actual modification as it “does not alter the fundamental design of the car or its engine”.
Its official Guinness title of being the fastest car in the world stands today.
3 Koenigsegg Agera R: 260mph (418km/h)
The Agera R is said to have a theoretical top speed of 273mph — but this has never been demonstrated. It is supplied with tyres which can be used at speeds up to 260mph (420 km/h).
The Swedish manufacturer’s offering can do 0-62mph(100km/h) in 2.9 seconds, 0-200mph in 17.68seconds and 0-300km/h in 14.53seconds — which was a record for acceleration until the Hennessey Venom GT (below) did it in just 13.63 seconds in early 2013.
The Agera R has a 5.0liter twin-turbo V8 producing 1,140hp and costs $1.6million.
4 9FF GT9-R: 257mph (413.6km/h)
The GT9-R is based on Porsche’s most successful car, the iconic 911. It can do 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in 2.9 seconds and was designed specifically to try and take the title of fastest car in the world.
It made its claim by boasting a 257mph top speed — only to have the Bugatti Veyron come along and rain on its parade before it could be officially verified.
The GT9-R has a heavily modified 4.0liter Flat-6 that produces up to 1,120hp. It costs from $695,000.
5 SSC Ultimate Aero: 256.18mph (412.28km/h)
The SSC Ultimate Aero has twice been named the fastest car in the world. On September 13, 2007, it clocked 256.18mph (412.28km/h) in West Richland, Washington, US, and had the speed verified by Guinness in October of that year.
At the time the Bugatti Veyron’s top recorded speed was 253.7mph (408.3km/h) and the $695,000 Ultimate Aero held the fastest car in the world title for two years and nine months until Bugatti took the crown again when their Super Sport model reached 267.86mph (431.072km/h).
In April 2013 the record was given back to the SSC due to the controversy over the Veyron’s speed limiter — but it only managed to hold on to it for a week before Guinness decided that the speed limiter wasn’t a modification after all and handed the record back to Bugatti.
The Ultimate Aero has a 6.8liter twin-turbo V8 producing 1,287hp.
They released a limited XT version of the Ultimate Aero before winding up the model’s production.
The Ultimate Aero was said to be being replaced by the SSC Tuatara, which the firm claimed will have a top speed of 276mph.
6 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse: 254.04mph (408.8km/h)
The $2million Grand Sport Vitesse was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, and was built to set the record for the world’s fastest roadster — which it did by reaching a top speed of 254mph.
It is electrically limited to 233mph (375km/h) on the road, has an 8.0 liter quad-turbo W16 engine producing 1,200hp at 6,400rpm and can do 0-62mph in 2.6seconds.
7 Saleen S7 Twin-Turbo 248mph (399.1km/h)
The Saleen boasts a 7.0 liter twin-turbo aluminium V8 engine producing 750hp.
It was produced from 2005 to 2009 and cost from $585,000. It does 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 2.8seconds.
8 Koenigsegg CCX: 245 mph (394.3km/h)
Featuring an all-aluminium 4.7 liter twin-supercharged V8 engine producing 806 horsepower, the Koenigsegg CCX can do O-62mph in 3.2seconds.
Racing models of the CCX and CCXR, known as the Edition models, are fitted with roll bars and have a more racy 4.8 liter engine producing 1,004hp, allowing the car to do 0-62mph in 2.9seconds and reach a claimed top speed of 249mph (400km/h).
The Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita is the world’s most expensive street-legal car, costing $4.85million. The normal version of the CCX starts at around $545,000.
9 McLaren F1: 243mph (391km/h)
The McLaren F1 has a 6.0 liter BMW S70/2 V12 engine producing 618horsepower. It can do 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 3.2seconds.
When the car reached 243mph at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in April 1998, it was the fastest production car in the world at the time.
Just 106 McLaren F1s were produced between 1992 and 1998.
10 Zenvo ST1: 233 mph (374.9km/h)
Danish firm Zenvo produces just three of these cars each year for sale in the US — costing around $1.8million each (with a free $50,000 watch included).
It has a 7.0 liter turbocharged and supercharged V8 engine producing 1,250hp. Just 15 were set to be produced in total. It does 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in 3.0 seconds.
11Gumpert Apollo: 225 mph (362.1km/h)
Made in Germany, the Gumpert Apollo features a 4.2 liter twin-turbo Audi V8 engine producing 641hp in the base version and 789hp in the race version. It can do 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in 3.1 seconds.
12 Noble M600: 225mph (362.1km/h)
The Noble is built in Britain and features a 4.4 liter Volvo twin-turbo V8 engine. It costs around $330,000 and can do 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 3.2seconds.
13 Aston Martin One-77: 220mph (354km/h)
In accordance with the name, just 77 Aston Martin One-77s were ever produced, from 2009 to 2012.
They sold for around $1.7million each. Aston Martin had estimated the car’s top speed to be around 200mph but it managed to go faster and reach 220mph in tests.
It does 0-60mph in around 3.5seconds, and has a 7.3liter V12 engine producing 750hp.
14 Ascari A10 220mph (354km/h)
The Ascari A10 has a 4,941 cc BMW V8 engine producing 625hp. It’s made in Britain by Ascari Cars, backed by Dutch millionaire Klaas Zwart.
It was designed by former Formula One designer Paul Brown. It can do 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds.
15 Lamborghini Aventador: 220mph (354km/h)
The Aventador is the Italian manufacturer’s flagship model. It has a 6.5 liter V12 engine producing 690hp and can do 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 2.9seconds. Like other Lambos, it is named after a bull and began production in 2011.
They cost around $380,000 each. In 2013 Lamborghini unveiled the Veneno, based on the Aventador’s engine but producing 740hp. Just three of them were set to be made, costing $3.12million each.
16 Pagani Zonda Cinque: 217mph (349.2km/h)
Just five of the coupe version and 5 of the roaster version of the Pagani Zonda Cinque were ever built.
It has a 7.3liter AMG V12 engine producing 669hp. Gear shifts on the car take less than 100 milliseconds, meaning it can do 0-62mph in 3.4seconds.
17 Ferrari Enzo: 217mph (349.2km/h)
There were 400 Enzos produced between 2002-2004. It features a 6.0 liter V12 engine producing 651 horsepower. It can do 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 3.14 seconds. They cost from $670,000.
18 Jaguar XJ220: 217mph (349.2km/h)
The XJ220 can do 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds and features a 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6 engine. There were 281 made between 1992 and 1994.
It’s thought the XJ220 could have reached 223mph (359mph) on a straight road, but tests were only carried out on Italy’s Nardo Ring high-speed test track.
Two theoretical future contenders for the fastest car title
Although, not built yet two cars still being created which if they live up to the hype could vie for for the record.
Transtar Dagger GT: 315mph (507km/h) claimed
The Dagger GT is currently being developed by US firm TranStar Racing with the sole purpose of being named the fastest car in the world.
It’s estimated the car will cost $1,000,000. It will be sold in six different models, three for racing and breaking speed records and three that are completely road legal.
The Transtar Dagger GT-LS will be the version used to try and break the land speed record (LS for ‘land speed’). It will include a parachute to help it stop.
SSC Tuatara: 276mph (444 km/h) claimed
The Tuatara is also being developed in the US, by SSC North America (which used to be ShelbySuperCars).
They also hope to break the current speed record, but will stand no chance if the Dagger GT lives up to its billing.
It will have four overhead camshaft twin-thrust turbochargers and produce 1,350hp with a 6.9liter V8 engine.
The debate over the title
When compiling a list about the fastest car in the world, there are always going to be people who don’t agree with the order. And it’s no wonder with the prestige that comes with holding such a title. There are two main problems:
How do you define ‘fastest car in the world’?
When people ask what the fastest car in the world is, they are generally talking about the fastest production car in the world – not something that did an insanely fast speed but happened to have a jet engine fitted to the back.
For those interested, the actual world land-speed record is held by the ThrustSSC, a jet-propelled car-rocket which broke the speed of sound and reached 763mph (1,228km/h) while being driven by Brit Andy Green in America’s Black Rock Desert on October 15 1997.
But the ThrustSSC is obviously not a production car. The problem is…what is?
Unfortunately, there is no globally recognised and precise definition for what a ‘production car’ actually is.
Obviously it should be something that is unmodified after coming off the factory floor — and it should in theory be able to be bought by the public (or in reality, the super rich).
But there is no actual definition that says exactly how many cars have to be built to allow a model to be classified as a production car.
And because cars that are vying for the title of fastest car in the world are usually outrageously expensive to build, not many get made.
However, if just one is made and sold, does that make it a production car? Currently, nobody can agree, and this problem is still being cleared up.
The car experts at one of the world’s most respected auto websites, Jalopnik, have “>quizzed Guinness World Records about this and were told that Guinness are in the process of devising a proper definition that makes this clear.
How do you certify what is the fastest car in the world?
Because the title of ‘fastest car in the world’ is so sought-after it has led to a string of claims of glory (and counter claims) among the leading contenders.
And the problem is car makers don’t always use the same people to certify their alleged records. Guinness World Records have been used on several occasions, but not all.
This means when you create a list of the fastest cars in the world, some entries are certified (though not all by the same people) and some are claimed.
You also have to take into account that different weather conditions and different tracks can produce different results.
Aerodynamic tests can actually produce a theoretical top speed that is far different to what a car reaches in reality.
So, in many cases the industry has to look at what evidence there is and decide for themselves who should hold the title. Currently, that’s the Venom GT. But It’s an interesting debate.
Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
This article was updated on November 24, 2015.