The Speedtail promised 250 mph when it was first revealed in October 2018, and 250 mph is what it delivered earlier this month—more than 30 times, in fact—at the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That’s where McLaren test driver Kenny Brack pushed the hybrid Speedtail to … what may or may not be its actual limit. With 1,055 hp and 848 lb-ft of torque courtesy of a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 paired with an electric motor, the Speedtail has been able to hit 250 mph at the Kennedy Space Center with ease. But could it do more?
We say “may or may not” because 250 mph is a nice round number, and it’s difficult for the powertrain and aerodynamics to coordinate with each other to reach a very specific, even number and go no further. By that we mean it’s unlikely that the Speedtail runs out of power exactly at the 250-mph mark and won’t do 251 mph, for example. Or a different top speed at a different location. The way automakers often record top speeds is averaging the numbers from several runs, so exactly 250 mph might not have been the highest speed displayed on several devices measuring speed during these runs.
Speaking of locations, McLaren has been testing the Speedtail at Papenburg in Germany as well as Idiada in Spain, so given the different road surfaces and atmospheric conditions, we’d venture that its top speeds—unless held in check by very rigid software—could have been different at all three locations.
“It’s fitting that the Speedtail’s high-speed test program concluded with multiple maximum-speed runs at a location strongly associated with pushing the boundaries of extreme performance and engineering excellence,” said McLaren Automotive CEO, Mike Flewitt. “The Speedtail is a truly extraordinary car that epitomizes McLaren’s pioneering spirit and perfectly illustrates our determination to continue to set new benchmarks for supercar and hypercar performance.”
The 250-mph mark isn’t the only company record that the Speedtail managed to set at the Kennedy Space Center and other tracks. The long coupe hit 300 kmh (186 mph) from a standstill in just 13 seconds. That’s quicker than any other McLaren model.
Its top speed makes the McLaren Speedtail the fastest McLaren out there, but it doesn’t make it the fastest production car. In fact, it’s pretty far from the top. The Bugatti Veyron kicked off the latest speed craze back in 2005 with a 253-mph top speed, and Bugatti has been able to chip away at that mark for more than a decade with the Veyron Super Sport later boasting a top speed of 268 mph. In that time, cars like the Koenigsegg Agera RS have been able to score points against Bugatti while it was distracted, hitting 284 mph in 2017. But Bugatti was able to regain its near-monopoly on land rockets just this year when the Chiron managed to squeeze out a top speed of 304.77 mph, achieving that first in August 2019.
It’s also worth mentioning, a McLaren F1 (with a tweaked rev limiter) managed 240.1 mph a bit more than 20 years ago, in 1998, after taking a few spins around Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien proving grounds. Among the more-impressive stats related to that run—and there are plenty to choose from—is that the F1 achieved this with a bit more than half Speedtail’s horsepower, producing 627 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque with its 6.1-liter V12. So one way of looking at the Speedtail’s stated ability is that its tremendous horsepower advantage only buys it about 10 mph over the decades-old F1.
Speaking of buying, where will buyers of the Speedtail be able to hit these speeds?
Probably not anywhere in the U.S. All 106 examples of the Speedtail cannot be produced to U.S. specs given the unique seating arrangement and thus will not be able to be registered for the road. There are some ways around that for supercar owners—via Show and Display, for example—but we wouldn’t expect a Speedtail to pass us on the interstate anytime soon. Especially at 250 mph.