Consequently, when you drive the Venom GT not only do you feel confident and connected to the car, you’re left free to concentrate on enjoying it and exploring its performance. At first you just tickle it along, revelling in the torque and the mighty soundtrack of this extraordinary twin-turbo, 7-litre, bespoke-built V8. There’s also a certain amount of trepidation at what this kind of power will feel like on the road in a mid-engined car on regular street tyres, but human nature being what it is, it’s not too long before your right foot pushes a bit harder for a bit longer until those turbos wake up with a banshee wail.
With an intermediate gear selected – let’s say fourth at 60mph – the build-up of boost and resulting acceleration intensifies like the breath-squeezing embrace of a boa constrictor. Accelerative G-force squishes you into the seat as torque builds to that Himalayan peak of 1155lb ft at 4200rpm. It’s shocking; not for its all-out violence, but for the sustained intensity with which it pulls and pulls, ever harder, ever stronger. Peak power might win bar-room bragging rights, but this is exquisite proof that torque-to-weight will always be the thinking man’s indicator of true on-road performance.
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Still, once you’ve tasted the Venom GT’s full-throttle through-the-gears acceleration, it expands your mind and opens a window to performance that no end of on-boost, in-gear roll-ons can replicate. When you scrunch up the courage to wind the Venom GT out through as many gears as you dare, the acceleration and sensation of speed is biblical. Samuel L Jackson spittle-flecked tirade in Pulp Fiction biblical. Trees, fences, road signs and even the vast Texan sky begin to form a blur as the traction control allows the 345-section rear tyres to rotate just faster than actual road speed in second and third gears. This is performance of an entirely different magnitude and intensity to any other hypercar. For the few seconds you can unleash it before running out of road (or nerve) it feels completely overwhelming.
As the speed subsides and sanity returns, adrenalin rushes through your system in a hot, roiling flush of fight-or-flight energy. And then you laugh: gusts of manic, helium-tinged hysteria that only come in the wake of experiencing something gloriously stupid. I’ve been lucky enough to feel that natural high in road cars, race cars and record-breaking cars, but nothing approaches the stimulant-like effects of the Venom GT’s all-out performance. If gasoline is your drug of choice, this car’s throttle is a syringe.
So where does it fit into the grand hypercar hierarchy? At the top of the tree, at least in terms of authenticated outright acceleration and estimated 270mph+ top speed. Incredible as it sounds, building a car that hits 186mph in 13.6sec is the easy bit. It’s making a car go that fast yet possess the polish and finesse to work as a road car that takes time, commitment and a rare ability to sweat over the details.
No, the Venom GT doesn’t have the refinement and accessibility of a Veyron, but for many people – myself included – that painstakingly engineered aloofness and disdain for hypercar theatrics is the Bug’s biggest weakness. Styling is a subjective quality, and while I’ll admit to having doubts about Hennessey’s Marvel Comics makeover of the S2 Exige prior to our trip, there’s no doubting its star quality and jaw-dropping presence when you see it close-up. As for the lack of pedigree, it’s worth parking our in-built European snobbery and remembering Pagani uses an AMG Mercedes motor, while Koenigsegg’s V8 still has traces of Ford DNA.
To my mind the Venom GT is in the mould of the Porsche Carrera GT and, in some respects, the McLaren F1. Its defiantly analogue approach makes it unique amongst its contemporaries, while its no-prisoners attitude ensures it will never be less than a challenge to master. If anything, the Hennessey’s handling is a little more flattering and forgiving than either, though there’s no doubt it’ll bite if you take liberties. If you ask me, that’s exactly how a supercar should be.
Of course we won’t know for sure how well the Venom GT stacks up unless we drive it against cars like the Agera R, Huayra, Veyron Super Sport and One-77 on the same roads (and runway) on the same day. We’re doing all we can to make that test a reality, but until then we politely suggest the hypercar establishment takes heed of this age-old warning: don’t mess with Texas.