Fastest Accelerating Production Cars
Until recently the Bugatti Chiron held the world record as the fastest accelerating production car, over the ¼ mile.
But now that crown has been taken twice. First by the Tesla Model S Plaid and then by the even faster Rimac Nevera.
I thought it would be interesting to compare these and a few other of the fastest cars currently available in three areas
1) Standing start performance – classic traffic light or drag strip performance over ¼ mile and 0-60mph
2) Rolling performance – how fast they go 60-130 mph. Arguably a better performance comparison for things like overtaking and stepping on “the gas” on a motorway/freeway
3) Lap times – how do they fare when you add in handling and braking. Certainly, a fair comparison for track use, arguably not so representative for road use as few would push the handling and particularly the brakes this hard the road, but the best comparison I can currently think of. This proved hard to create a comparison as I couldn’t find any tracks where most of the cars had been timed. So, I settled on two where there are some times available – Laguna Seca and Nürburgring, a combination of short and long tracks. Hopefully we will have more data on both soon which I can add.
It was actually surprisingly difficult to find data for all of these for all the cars. I used fastestlaps.com as the default and filled in gaps and some updates with a combination of Google Search and dragy.com. Disclaimer: There is some variation on the data available online, so you might find some differences, if you see a glaring error let me know.
I divided the comparison into two groups:
1) Supercars/hypercars – Comparing the Rimac to other two-seaters
2) Fastest saloons – Comparing the Tesla to its most direct rival the BMW M5 CS
We know it’s a quick car, I found the 60-130 mph times particularly interesting as it’s a long way ahead here, not just in standing-start acceleration. While there isn’t a drag race comparison, yet, between the Rimac and Bugatti there is a good video by Carwow who raced it against the Ferrari SF90, which has headline acceleration figures similar to the Bugatti and the difference is very stark:
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Rimac does on the track, we don’t yet have any track testing. We do know Rimac are preparing for a Nürburgring from a February 2021 video:
My expectation is it will do well on the track. While it’s a heavy car it does have a very low center of gravity, extremely stiff chassis, and advanced torque vectoring technology, combined with huge acceleration and top speed. Given that Tesla has been unofficially timed at 7:13 on the Nürburgring and the Nio EP9 with less bhp did 6:45 it seems very likely the Rimac will be sub 7:00 mins. Turning to Laguna Seca, I can see it taking the product car lap record from the McLaren Senna’s 1:27.6. A track prepared Tesla recently hit 1:28, so it seems likely the much more powerful Rimac will beat that significantly, I can imagine around 1:25 being possible.
I love what Rimac are doing with torque vectoring – yielding better handling, more control of how the car behaves and more fun! In simple terms, torque-vectoring means the car controls the power output of each of the four motors /wheels separately, at over 100 times a second. It’s a bit like stability management, which cars have had for years, but way more advanced. For example, it can pull the car around a corner faster. They also let the driver adjust the system – vary the ratio front to back as much as you want, turn on drift mode etc. From the review videos, it looks like a lot of fun! Hopefully, we will see both torque vectoring and lots of driver control of it on more cars. While it works best with four motors it can work with two or three, Tesla already uses, but with much less driver control allowed.
Rimac Torque Vectoring
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S Plaid
Bang for the buck the Tesla is incredible. It’s a fraction of the price of the Rimac, and while not as quick, it is faster accelerating on all three measures than every other production car – let this sink in – a “boring” saloon car can out-accelerate production hypercars, even 60-130mph. It completely destroys its nearest direct competitor, the BMW M5 CS.
However, the track performance is less clear. It has been timed at 1:28 on Laguna Seca, which is very close to the production car lap record, but that is a race-prepared version, not really a fair comparison with a production car. A production Tesla has been measured at 1:30.3, which is a lot faster than the BMW M5 CS at ~1:36* (*the M5 CS hasn’t been timed on the Laguna Seca so I’ve estimated around 1:36 which is similar to the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 S, that has comparable power-to-weight and Nürburgring times)
There isn’t yet an official Nürburgring time, but during testing the Tesla was clocked unofficially at 7:13, again beating the BMW M5 CS’ 7:30, but not up with the sub-7:00 times recorded by the top hypercars.
The Tesla Model S Plaid reportedly lapped the Nurburgring in a time of just 7 minutes and 13 seconds. That's 29 seconds less than the Porsche Taycan time.
How does #1 and #2 compare? Obviously not really a fair comparison as one is a $2.4M ~2,000 bhp hypercar and the other a $130K ~1,000 bhp saloon, but what the heck, take a look at this video by Drag Times racing the two. At the start, they are very close, probably both limited by grip, but of course, once they get going the extra ~1,000 bhp means the Rimac pulls well ahead:
There are plenty of exciting hypercars coming over the next couple of years. Which ones stand a chance of taking the fastest accelerating production car crown?
Set to become the first production car to break the 2,000 bhp barrier, with 2012 bhp of EV power. It's lighter than the Rimac and has an even better power-to-weight than the Czinger, so very likely to take the crown. It's been measured at 1.72 secs 0-60 and in its final form expected to hit 1.69, faster than then Rimac and Czinger, it has a shot at getting into the 7s for the 1/4 mile.
The Czinger 21C hypercar is designed, manufactured and assembled in Los Angeles, California using the world's most advanced production technologies.
Using innovative Generative Design, this US-built, hybrid hypercar claims to deliver an 8.1-sec ¼ mile from its 1,250 bhp ICE+EV combination. It recently recorded 1:25.4 at Laguna Seca.
The Lotus Evija. Welcome to the thrilling next chapter of one of the greatest automotive stories ever told.
With 1,972 bhp this will be even more powerful than the Rimac and a lot lighter, it has a power-to-weight ratio better than even the Aspark Owl and Czinger. so it’s very likely to have a superior ¼ time, possible in the 7s? Being a Lotus expect great track performance too.
An all-electric vehicle, the Tesla Roadster is the quickest car in the world, with record-setting acceleration, range and performance. Reserve yours today.
In its base form, it’s not going to take Rimac’s crown as the published performance figures at 8.8 sec ¼ mile sit between the Tesla Model S Plaid and Rimac. It uses the same tri-motor power train as the Model S, just in a smaller, lighter car.
Tesla Roadster Space-X Pack
However, Tesla has said they are planning a “Space-X Pack” which will add cold-air thrusters to improve acceleration, braking and corning. In simple terms, this is an air tank replacing the rear seats. Pressured by an electric motor and hooked up to thrusters around the car – technology they are borrowing from their SpaceX business.
There is a fun simulation showing how a standard and Space-X Roadster would perform:
Engineering Explained dives into the science:
I can see this hitting the ~1 second 0-60 mph, how much this takes off the ¼ mile will depend on how much air the tank can store – if it’s not that much then the 0-60 time reduction would carry through to take the ¼ mile down to ~8 secs. If it’s bigger then we could see a ¼ mile time in the 7s.
Tesla says it will have thrusters around the car, so it can also be used to increasing braking, by firing the forward-facing thruster(s) and increase corning speeds by firing the side facing thrusters. I could see the accelerating and braking thrusters coming at the start, but making corning thrusters work safely strikes me as much harder – I wonder if that part will end up being dropped?
The potential effect on braking is also impressive, Engineering Explained calculated/estimated this could give a 60-0 stopping distance of 45 feet / 14m, which is ½ the stopping distance of the fastest braking production car in the world – the Porsche 911 GT2 RS.
The Space-X pack should increase acceleration a lot, both standing start and overtaking. But I can't see it helping much with track times as it seems likely it will run out very quickly unless they can recharge the tank extremely fast.
A big question is of course “is this legal”? That would vary by country depending on regulations, but it may be legal because no one thought to have a law that prevents it! It's a bit like the yoke wheel which for a while people thought wouldn’t be allowed. I guess Tesla could use their cameras and AutoPilot technology to prevent the thrusters from being used if someone or something was too close. Otherwise, I wouldn't fancy the idea of being behind a Roadster on a bike!
The other big question is when, or indeed if, this will come. My guess is a few years off. The Roadster itself has been delayed (again) until at least 2022 as Tesla have higher revenue priorities and the Space-X thruster pack is likely to be even further away.
There are some other interesting hypercars coming, but don’t qualify – The Bugatti Bolide, but it’s a track-only car. Aston Martin Valkyrie is a beautiful car, but not fast enough to have a chance of winning the crown.
As all the hypercar and fast car makers transition to EV expect to see a lot of exciting new cars coming. Which one of Aston Martin, Bugatti/Rimac, Czinger, Ferrari, Gordon Murray, Koenigsegg, Lotus, McLaren, Lamborghini, Lotus, Pagani or Porsche will join Aspark in passing the 2,000 bhp barrier, how long before we have a 3,000 bhp EV hypercar?
Back in the world most of us mere mortals inhabit we can look forward to seeing more 1,000 bhp+ monsters saloons from Alfa, Audi, BWM, Merc, etc. While Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, etc. do the same for the muscle car.
I’m sure many of us will miss the sound of a performance ICE, but at the current rate of progress, it's clear where the world’s fastest cars are headed. I’m sure once upon a time people enjoyed the sound of a galloping horse and its "character", but the new technology won the race as it caught up with and soon far surpassed the horse. Much as the EV is starting to overtake the ICE....don't shoot the messenger :-)