The 2010s were a stellar decade for fast cars. As engineers found new ways to squeeze more and more power out of the traditional internal-combustion lumps we know and love, performance levels climbed to nearly absurd heights. Acceleration times dropped precipitously; by 2019, four-ton-plus sedans were regularly cracking off 0-60 runs of less than three seconds, and super sports cars were cracking into the nines in the quarter-mile.
But fun as acceleration times are to compare, no measure of automotive performance prompts nearly as much barstool banter as top speed. Even if 200-plus-mph speeds are utterly inaccessible to most of us, they summon up the sort of wonder and awe that no brutal launch ever could.
Now, there’s a lot of contention out there about what exactly signifies a “fast car.” For the purposes of this list, we’re keeping it neat and tidy: “fastest” refers to top speed (if this were about acceleration times, that would be the “quickest cars”), and there needs to be public, reputable documentation of the car’s top-speed run.* Plenty of automakers claim their cars can way faster than 200 mph, but if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of the speeding is in the GPS.
*With one exception we’ll explain at the end.
Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 304+ — 304 MPH
As the 2010s wound down, it started to seem like Bugatti — a mainstay of “fastest cars” lists ever since it came back to life with the 1,000-hp 16.4 Veyron in 2005 — might not be able to reclaim its title as the speediest ride. Then, a few months before the end of the decade, the carmaker announced that it had not only broken every other production car speed record, but it had also become the first car to break 300 miles per hour. Granted, the Guiness Records folks won’t certify it because they demand runs in both directions, but unless Bugatti had a secret 27-mph tailwind in just the right place, their claim is effectively unchallengable.
Koenigsegg Agera RS — 284 MPH
Swedish carmaker Koenigsegg may not have the budget or resources of Bugatti (which benefits from the largess of its parent, the VW Group), but it does have a ton of heart — and brilliant minds working for it. Led by founder Christian von Koenigsegg, those Swedish chefs have cooked up a series of high-tech, innovative hypercars that can humble the world’s best. And in 2017, that’s exactly what they did, taking the 1,360-hp Agera RS to a Guinness-certified 276 mph and a peak top speed of 284.
Hennessey Venom GT — 270 MPH
Best known for hot-rodding Dodge Vipers and Ford Raptors, Texas-based Hennessey Performance took a leap of faith into the unknown when it morphed, mutated and rebuilt some skeletal bits of a Lotus into the 1,244-hp Venom GT. The work paid off; the twin-turbo 7.0-liter pushed the car up to a stunning 270 miles per hour during a top-speed run at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (They had to use the same runway the space shuttle used to land on.)
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport — 268 MPH
The regular Bugatti Veyron broke people’s brains when it showed up 15 years ago, but people grow used to such madness all too quickly. So to keep the luster on the brand, the carmaker rolled out an even faster version — the Super Sport, which used its 1,200 horsepower to nab the Guinness World Record for fastest production car in 2010. Later, a targa-top Gran Sport Vitesse version came along, but that one was limited to a mere 233 mph, so no one really cared.
Bugatti Chiron, Chiron Sport — 261 MPH
Okay, maybe it’s not all that surprising that there are so many Bugattis on this list. After all, the brand’s spare-no-expense credo and dedication to cracking speed barriers are exactly what it takes to achieve a spot on this sort of list. Now, we’re letting the Chiron and its slightly-lighter, more agile Chiron Sport sibling on here in spite of the fact that we have to take the company at its word about the electronically-governed 261-mph top speed. Yes, it’s a bit unfair to some other cars that claim such lofty speeds. Given the company’s history, however…unlike a lot of would-be contenders, we trust that Bugatti is good for it.