Anybody who thought that the Bugatti Chiron’s 490.48km/h top speed run in 2019 would mark the end of such macho record setting was sorely mistaken.
If anything, Bugatti’s achievement – the first production car to go over 300mph (483km/h) – has triggered a wave of interest from rivals.
Earlier this year relative minnows SSC announced that their Tuatara had managed an astonishing two-way average of 508km/h, although its unverified claim was widely ridiculed by internet detectives and the company has now committed to trying again.
But here’s another contender for the crown, and – on paper – the strongest one yet. Meet the Hennessey Venom F5.
Hennessey has been tuning cars for nearly three decades – and has encountered some lawsuits and controversies in that time. But the F5 marks a new direction for the Texan company, and its effective establishment as a manufacturer in its own right.
It uses a carbon-fibre monocoque made by KS Composites in the UK, which will be combined at the company’s HQ in Texas with a twin-turbo 6.6-litre V8 of such savagery it has been named ‘Fury.’
The 90-degree engine is an overhead valve engine – much of Hennessey’s tuning experience has been in extracting unlikely numbers from pushrod engines.
It uses a cast iron block and aluminium cylinder heads, with these featuring titanium intake and Inconel exhaust valves. The camshaft and crank are made from billet steel, while connecting rods and pistons are forged.
The turbos use 76mm compressor wheels in housings that have been 3D printed from titanium and can deliver up to 23psi of boost.
The net effect, on Hennessey’s numbers, is a peak of 1355kW of power at 8000rpm and 1617Nm of torque at 5000rpm.
With the carbon-fibre bodywork and a lack of fripperies giving a 1385kg kerb weight, that means the F5 is in the unlikely position of weighing just 25kg more than the Koenigsegg One:1 that previously led the hypercar power-to-weight stakes, but having a 35 percent higher output.
Hennessey says the F5 will be able to blast its way from 0-100km/h in 2.6 seconds, 0-200km/h in 4.7 seconds, 0-300km/h in 8.4 seconds and 0-400km/h in 15.5 seconds.
Top speed is targeted to be above 500km/h, with the gearing of the seven-speed single-clutch CIMA transmission so high that the F5’s engine won’t reach its 8200rpm limiter until 537km/h.
Aerodynamics are of critical importance to reaching that top speed, which is why some substantial differences have been made between the production F5 and the styling model that Hennessey showed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.
The finished car has lost the concept’s separate rear wing – although it will be possible to order one as part of an optional ‘track pack’ which will prioritise grip over top speed – and the rear diffuser is substantially larger.
This works in conjunction with a flat underside and air-sculpting channels to deliver mega-speed stability without huge drag. Hennessey says the F5’s coefficient of drag is just 0.39.
Although production of the remaining cars will take place at Hennessey Performance’s facility in the ‘States, the first F5 has been built in the UK – which is why CarAdvice got to make its acquaintance in the opposite-of-Texas environment of a cold, wet airfield near Silverstone.
Seen up close the standard of fit and finish seemed impressively high, and the F5’s engineering team is particularly proud of the one-piece rear panel, claimed to be the largest piece of machined carbonfibre fitted to any production car, with each of the vent holes being individually milled.
Getting in means climbing through butterfly-opening doors, with the cockpit being sparse but similarly well finished. Most trim is carbon, with leather panels on doors and dashboard.
The central touchscreen uses an Alpine infotainment system, with most controls positioned on the F5’s yoke-like steering wheel – chosen to emulate fighter jets.
These include lights, wipers, indicators and a volume dial, as well as a green selector switch that changes between five driving modes: Wet, Sport, Drag, Track and F5 – the last of these bringing the full power output and unfettered speed.
The interior felt respectably roomy by the cramped standards of the segment, with better elbow room between the seats than is normal in this rarefied part of the market. But luggage space is approximately zero, limited to what can be stuffed behind the seats or into the hinged compartment in the passenger footwell.
While Hennessey says the F5 will be capable of delivering more than just top speed – “a decathlete, not just a sprinter,” according to CEO John Hennessey – plans are already advanced for high-speed runs next year.
Initially these will be held on the 5.1km runway at the Kennedy Space Center, but if this turns out not to be long enough for the car to prove its true potential then a closed section of public road will likely be used. John Hennessey also says that any record run will be conducted in two directions and independently verified.
No more than 24 F5s will be built, for a pre-tax price of USD$2.1 million (AUD$2.79 million), with John Hennessey saying that half of these have already been assigned to buyers.
Both left- and right-hand drive will be available, but company insiders say that Australian sales aren’t in the current plan.
Hennessey is also planning to build other supercars beyond the F5, with these likely to be cheaper and sold in greater volumes.
“The F5 is the first but at some point over the next several years you’ll potentially see another one or two vehicles,” John Hennessey said, “but we have no desire, plan or intention of building a car with a greater level of power to weight or absolute performance than the F5.”