California's highest speed limit may be 70 miles per hour, but that doesn't mean you can't tool around the Southland in a car that can go three times that fast. A word to those of us with a taste (and the cash) for high-end speedsters: A slew of brand-new and radically revamped vehicles are about to be unleashed on American roadways. These street-legal autos are setting production car records — and turning heads — around the globe.
With a top speed of 217 mph, the new McLaren P1 is the fastest of the bunch. Created to mark the 50th anniversary of the renowned British sports car and racing stable, the first P1s off the assembly line were delivered to customers in October.
"We designed the P1 from the outset with one clear goal: to be the best driver's car on road and track," said McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt. "The confirmation of the performance figures underlines this."
And stats are indeed impressive: 0 to 62 mph in a mind-blowing 2.8 seconds, 0 to 186 in 16.5 seconds and a combined city/highway 34 miles per gallon thanks to a fuel-efficient 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 petrol engine and lightweight electric motor.
The carbon fiber P1s are handmade at the McLaren Production Center in Woking, England. It takes a team of 82 technicians 17 days to craft each one, and only one car is produced each day.
Unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show in spring 2013, Ferrari's limited-edition LaFerrari clocks a top speed of 217 mph — although it can reputedly run much faster. The massive 6.3-liter V-12 engine (also with electric motor) pushes the vehicle from 0 to 60 in three seconds and 0 to 186 in 15 seconds.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo says the company chose the eponymous name because the car embodies everything that defines Ferrari: "technological innovation, performance, visionary styling and the sheer thrill of driving."
LaFerrari's muscular design clearly comes from the company's Formula One racing pedigree. Other F1 touches include a seven-speed DCT gearbox and sophisticated traction control.
Another fast Italian is the Maserati Quattroporte, which can zoom from a standstill to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 191 mph.
Porsche's response to the other Euro speedsters is the 918 Spyder, which can rip down a motorway at 214 mph and sprint from 0 to 62 in 2.8 seconds. Created by the same engineers and designers who develop Porsche's race cars, the 918 offers a 4.8-liter V-8 engine, rolling chassis and carbon-fiber-reinforced load-bearing structures.
At 206 mph, the 2014 Dodge SRT Viper is quickest of the domestic speed demons. The TA (Time Attack) Special Edition spec package offers drivers a turnkey track setup that can be tested on more than 150 road courses around North America. Manufactured at Dodge's Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, the Viper's V-10 engine helps accelerate the car from 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds.
Coming up right behind the Viper are two other super-fast American cars: the 2014 Corvette Stingray (186 mph top speed, 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds) and the 2014 Mustang Shelby GT500 (190 mph, 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds).