Building on the foundation laid by Hennessey’s Venom GT, which demonstrated the potential of an American V8 when shoehorned into a lightweight chassis, the newest offering from the Texas-based company aims to blend a proven powerplant with a carbon chassis to set a very impressive record. Out of the gate with guns blazing, the Venom F5 was announced with an appropriately audacious headline: it claims to hit 300 mph.
Named after the F5 tornado, Hennessey’s hottest hypercar will be their first complete car developed and constructed in-house; including the chassis, body work, engine and exhaust system, along with other bespoke components. The starting price for this giant beater: roughly $1.6 million.
The powerplant will displace as many liters as it has cylinders. The 8.0-liter V8 uses two massive turbochargers to produce 1,600 horsepower and 1,300 lb-ft of torque, which it sends to the rear wheels via a the seven-speed, single-clutch, paddle-shifted gearbox. The staunch purists will be given the option of a a six-speed manual.
Chock full of exotic components, the chassis and body will be made almost entirely of carbon fiber, and the lightweight Brembo brakes will be made from carbon ceramics. The weight reportedly stands at 2,950 lb with fluids, setting the power-to-weight ratio at 1,196 hp per ton. From a power standpoint, the car should be able to hit the targeted top speed—even with as much as 23% drivetrain losses, which are unlikely considering the simple layout.
That outrageous power-to-weight ratio, bordering on that of some drag cars, is expected to produce some numbers never seen among street-going machines. Acceleration is aided by the engine sitting just above of the driven wheels, as well as a sophisticated traction control system, without which, the car would be “would probably spin the tires at 150 miles an hour,” says Hennessey.
Chasing Speed Through Aerodynamics
The Venom F5 is supposed to sprint from 0-to-186 in less than 10 seconds—faster than a current Formula 1 car—and from 0-to-249 in less than 30 seconds. Even more impressive is their own active aerodynamic kit, which makes the car incredibly slippery and yields a coefficient of drag of just 0.33. The top speed is an estimated 301 mph; the most repeated headline about this car. The second-boldest claim is that it gets to nearly 250 mph and back to a stop in only 30 seconds.
Housed within the short and slim front end are the intercoolers and radiators. Though the latter items are typically mounted ahead with a mid-engined supercar with limited real estate, mounting the intercoolers that far forward—just in front of the cowl—raises some concerns. Though this circuitous means of mounting the intercoolers can contribute to increased turbo lag, the displacement of the motor, when coupled with responsive turbos, should minimize any perceptible lag.
The styish mirrors “went through twenty different iterations” to minimize drag, and help channel clean air into the rear ducts, which feed the transmission, oil, and differential coolers. Further behind, the complicated rear end is kept open to evacuate as much heat and pressure from the car as possible.
As the top speed is one of the selling points of the car, they optimized their aerodynamic package with an emphasis on drag reduction over sheer downforce. Nevertheless, the hefty diffuser under the rear bumper draws the eye and lends a sense of exotica to the car without looking gaudy or pseudo-racer. It also wears a completely flat underbelly made of carbon.
Going Beyond Power-to-Weight
Hennessey is not the first of the hypercar builders to set their sights on the 300-mph mark, as it’s one of the few remaining aims on the hypercar horizon. However, as a form of real-world measurement of performance, it’s somewhat arbitrary. Only so much of a 1,600 horsepower powerplant can actually be exploited on the public road. At this point, the more hot-blooded readers are probably looking at their watches, so it might be wise to delve into the practical issues with making a road-going vehicle capable of passing 300 mph safely and repeatedly.
The rubber might be the limiting factor, as the problems involved with maintaining the right tire temperature—and thereby the right tire pressure—grow exponentially as speeds climb. The chosen tires are the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2; as designed for the Bugatti Chiron and used on the Koenignegg Agera RS, which just eclipsed 280 mph in Nevada last fall.
The tires are suited well for the challenge. Instead of using typical steel belts, they use aramid fibers for greater strength and heat tolerance. It also boasts two types of rubber to suit the unique requirements. However, the temperatures and according expansion of the tire at those speeds is still followed by a disconcerting question mark.
As seen in Jalopnik’s latest article on the subject, Professor Joe Walter of the University of Akron had this to say: “The centrifugal force causing the tire to stretch increases with the square of speed, while the power absorbed by the tire (causing heat build-up) increases with the cube of speed. While going from 280 to 300 mph is only a 7% increase in speed, it produces a larger increase in the centrifugal forces and greater build-up of heat generation due to hysteresis of the internal components (especially rubber) of the tire.”
Drivers are wise to keep a close eye on their tire temperatures when running obscenely fast sprints, as seen here with Chris Harris and the Bugatti Chiron during a blast to 230 mph. “This insane vehicle runs with a tire pressure monitoring system that goes to two decimal places, because, tire pressures are critical!”
Another factor to consider is the cooling effect air has on the tires at those speeds. “There’s so much airflow over the front tires they cool as you go over 200 mph and they lose pressure. How mad is that?” A giddy and stunned Harris asks. Clearly, this area will need more research before the Venom F5 can surpass those speeds safely and repeatedly.
Bringing American Tuners onto the World Stage
Even in the rarefied air of the Geneva Auto Show, among the most exotic brands in the world, the Venom F5 holds its own with its stunning looks and staggering statistics. Whether it can challenge Bugatti, Pagani, Koenignegg, and the other heavy-hitters isn’t certain—it doesn’t quite have the pedigree or cachet—yet. However, that doesn’t seem to diminish the palpable confidence of the company; Hennessey claims “It exists to be the fastest road car we can build—hopefully the fastest road car in the world.”
Perhaps that certainty comes from an understanding of the big-number marketplace. As Hennessey says, “(For) the guys who buy these cars, the bragging rights are very important.” Though few owners would ever have the gusto or the circumstances to take their Venom to 300 mph, knowing their car is capable of such a feat is reassuring—and there are few things that that would beat that barroom boast.