Skip advert
Advertisement
Features

Supercar years: noughties

We chart the evolution of the supercar breed over four decades. Our final look focuses on the noughties

So the ’90s gave us by far the fastest car the world had ever seen (F1), comfortably the second fastest (XJ220) and a whole raft of tarmac-skimming missiles that could approach, do or exceed 200mph. It was the out-of-reach itch finally scratched, Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, the supercar living up to its name. Ferrari consolidated its membership of the double-ton club into the next decade with its fastest-ever road car, the Enzo, though it faced tough competition from the Porsche Carrera GT and new kid on the supercar block, the Pagani Zonda C12S. Interestingly, the carbon-bodied Zonda claimed to be the McLaren’s spiritual successor and, in design philosophy, the parallels were clear.

Advertisement - Article continues below

But the F1’s influence on the cars that would follow it turned out to be more far-reaching than that. It acted as a catalyst, igniting a let’s-shoot-for-the-moon initiative bold enough to fill the vacuum left by NASA. The F1, prematurely hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon in the previous decade, was merely the starting point in this one.

It set projects rolling in two directions. One, to exceed the F1’s phenomenal top speed and general accelerative prowess, however much power and technology it took. And two, perhaps more realistically, to apply the lightness and efficiency principles at the core of the McLaren in pursuit of speed without excess. The former approach found its ultimate expression in the Bugatti Veyron, the £1m, 16-cylinder, quad-turbo, four-wheel-drive, 1000bhp hypercar that effectively did to the McLaren what the McLaren had done to the XJ220 by smashing its top speed and acceleration records out of sight and, once and for all, drawing that line in the sand for ultimate supercar performance.

Except that, as we head towards the end of the new millennium’s first decade, the Bugatti, far from being regarded as the absolute summit of supercar endeavour, has become just another target to shoot at. The 9ff GT9-R, Ultimate Aero SSC and Koenigsegg CCXR all claim to best the Veyron’s 252mph top speed and, beyond a certain speed, once the Veyron’s off-the-line all-wheel-drive advantage has ebbed away, accelerate harder, too.

At the same time, ultra-lightweight minimalism is forging new extremes for what is almost certain to become the enforced supercar playground of the future: the track. Step forward the Caparo T1 and Ariel Atom 500. One thousand horsepower-per-ton is the new 200mph.

The first black president of the United States, a programme to fly men back to the moon, an iPhone that can send picture texts, and 0-100mph in 5sec. Things could be worse. 

Supercars: hero or zero?

Supercar years: 90s

Supercar years: 80s

Supercar years: 70s 

Not so supercars

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars
Used mid-engined bargains
Group tests

Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars

Everyone should own a mid-engined car at least once in their life, and the S2 Elise, Mk3 MR2 and 987 Boxster S are brilliant places to start
15 Jun 2024
How bad are modern car user interfaces? We ask an airline pilot
Technology overload
Features

How bad are modern car user interfaces? We ask an airline pilot

Do today’s touchscreen car user interfaces ask too much of the driver? And how can they be improved? We get an Airbus pilot’s expert opinion
18 Jun 2024
Porsche Cayenne GTS 2024 review – the SUV that might get you out of an RS6
Porsche Cayenne GTS – front
Reviews

Porsche Cayenne GTS 2024 review – the SUV that might get you out of an RS6

The new Cayenne model offensive continues with the introduction of the GTS, the sweet-spot in the line-up.
18 Jun 2024