For the world's fastest supercars, 600 hp is the new normal

Brett Berk
March 7, 2014

If you look at all of the supercars just unveiled at Geneva’s Palexpo hall — the Ferrari California T, the Koenigsegg One:1, the McLaren 650S, and the Lamborghini Huracán — you will notice one thing they have in common: they’re not for you. They’re for rich people with wheelbarrows full of extra money to spend on speed and sporty/flashy good looks. The “cheapest” of them, the Ferrari, costs more than current median home price in the USA, which stands at around $195,000, and they accelerate well beyond $200,000 for the Lambo and McLaren, and onward into the millions, like, two or three, for the special Koenigsegg.

This isn’t surprising. Supercars (and we use that term because there isn’t really a better one for the rockets in this assemblage) have always been expensive; that’s part of what makes them super and super desirable, both to you and me and to the people who can actually afford them. What differentiates this group from previous sets of similar cars is in their power output. The least potent of this newly exposed set, again the Ferrari, makes over 550 hp, with the Lamborghini and McLaren similarly staking out the middle ground with 601 and 641 respectively, and the One:1 again reaching into the millions (actually, somewhere above the stratospheric range of 1,300). These four cars make more power than a baker’s dozen VW GTIs.

Again, prodigious power is within the category definition, but even within that context the numbers on the less expensive of these cars soar into terrain previously reserved for extreme pinnacle vehicles. Remember that the McLaren F1 — considered by many to be an apex supercar, examples of which now trade hands for well into the mid-seven figures — made “only” 627 hp.

But unlike the hypercars shown at last year’s show — the Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren P1, and by extension their competitor the Porsche 918 — none of these vehicles apply hybrid technology to boost these numbers. What they do apply is boost. As differentiated from even a few years ago when natural aspiration was the aspiration, three of these cars use not just one, but two turbos to enrich their mixture.

This means a car like the California — Ferrari’s first factory turbo car in over 20 years — can downsize its engine and still make significantly more power than the outgoing car, and increase efficiency by 15 percent. As with last year’s Veneno, Lamborghini is the outlier, making it the exception that proves the rule. In 2013, the Veneno was the sole hypercar that refused to implement a battery aid —company president and CEO Stephan Winkelmann told us that he had no plans to ever put a hybrid system in one of their sports cars, stating that it might be better suited to an upcoming SUV.

This year, Lamborghini stuck it out without trendy turbos in the Huracán as well, retaining its on-brand positioning as the home of unapologetic and outrageous profligacy. In a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too world of $55,000 Corvettes that produce 460 horsepower and return nearly 30 m.p.g. on the highway, we wonder what’s next for the supercar. We look forward to finding out at next year’s Geneva show.