There's a depth of engineering to European cars that is at once reassuring and breathtaking. We almost take it for granted that when a car with, say, an AMG badge is launched, it will make serious power but won't be a grenade. How serious is serious? For the purposes of this list, the most powerful production cars, the 600 hp point is where the men say goodbye to the boys. Meet the men...
Worried about the environment? How does an eco-friendly version of Koenigsegg's crazy CCX sound? The CCXR's 4.8-liter, dual-supercharged V8 runs on biofuel, E85 ethanol. And here's the really good news: it's more powerful than its regular gas-burning sibling (which already develops 806 hp). Because of the cooling properties of ethanol in the cylinder chamber, higher boost settings can be employed. Plus, the fuel has an octane rating of 113. Result? An astounding 1,018 hp. The petrol-powered CCX does zero to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds, with a claimed top speed in excess of 245 mph, and despite it having more power, aerodynamics probably won't allow anything much faster than that for the R.
Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
It says something when a name synonymous with power-a name associated throughout the world with motorsport and fast, exotic machinery-only just nudges into a roster of 600-plus-hp cars. The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Modena's grand tourer, makes 612 hp from its 6.0-liter V12. However, zero to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of over 205 mph just ain't enough for some people.
Lamborghini Murcilago LP640
It certainly looks like it should be capable of escape velocity. This combination of outrageous styling and ridiculous muscle is cause for celebration, for giving thanks that someone is in the business of constructing it. A 6.5-liter V12 kicks out 632 hp at a screaming 8000 rpm, going to an all-wheel-drive system with an electronic transmission. Launch control sends it whizzing to 62 mph in 3.3 seconds and the LP640, the ultimate Murcilago, won't stop accelerating until it hits 219 mph.
Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series
It's always nice to feature some fresh meat. The successor to the Mercedes-McLaren SLR is a fixed-roof version of the latest generation of Benz's well-known and well-loved SL. A straight-ahead AMG version is pleasant enough, but when the magic words "Black Series" are invoked, a different beast emerges. One that's lighter, with a body consisting mainly of carbon fiber and an engine (a twin-turbo, 6.0-liter V12) that makes it the most powerful production car to come from the three-pointed star: 670 hp.
Bristol Fighter T
That thing in the introduction about reassuring engineering? Maybe not so much in this case. Trouble is, it's hard to tell because Bristol is highly secretive about its manufacturing process. For all we know, the Fighter T could have been assembled by a handful of retired librarians in an old aircraft facility (Bristol used to make planes). And it doesn't seem like many people outside of the company has driven one. But since it has a twin-turbo 8.0-liter V10 making 1,012 hp and 1,036 lb-ft of torque, with a six-speed manual transmission claimed to be geared for 225 mph at 4200 rpm, that's a whole lot of fun much of the world is missing out on. But then, much of the world can't afford 351,931 (plus taxes).
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport
Yeah, we know all about the Veyron, so this is a good opportunity to feature the open-top version, to be known henceforth as the Grand Sport. It will be out in the spring of 2009 and will of course feature the same turbocharged 8.0-liter W16 engine, churning out 1,001 hp. Although the coupe version has a top speed of 253 mph, chances are that this model's maximum will be pegged at something like 217 mph. And it will cost about $250,000 more than the $2 million hard top. But it'll be the ultimate pose machine. Oh, and there are rumors of a 1,250hp, 274mph Veyron.
Four doors, front-mounted engine, nice stereo, plenty of room in the trunk for a couple of sets of golf clubs. Yawn? No way, this is a Brabus (based on a Mercedes-Benz CLS). The engine displaces 6.3 liters and squeezes in a couple of turbochargers between the banks of its V12 configuration. A four-second sprint to 62 mph isn't so wild in this company, but 730 hp and a top speed of 227 mph is reason enough to call the car a Rocket.
We've already featured Roland Gumpert's carbon-fiber monster (european car, June 2008) that accelerates to 62 mph in the time it takes to beg for mercy from whatever deity is applicable. Which should be three seconds flat. A 4.2-liter Audi V8 augmented by a pair of turbos cooks up 650 hp and sends the Apollo through the speed traps at 224 mph. Gumpert used to work for Audi and oversaw the company's success in rallying. An 850-hp version is also on the drawing board.
Pagani Zonda F CS
It's not just VW that names cars after winds. The creation of Horacio Pagani (an Argentinian building his cars in northern Italy) is named after an airstream that blows over his native land. The F in the nomenclature refers to Juan Manuel Fangio. The Zonda straddles the divide between old-school supercars and hi-tech modern machines. It looks like an exotic should, and the cabin is particularly sumptious. But beneath the carbon-fiber skin is a 650-hp engine, sourced from AMG, that propels the Zonda to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a maximum velocity of 215 mph. It could go faster, but this is with an optimum aerodynamic setup.