The eight-year wait to see if SSC’s Tuatara hypercar, something the company claims will be able to do over 300 mph, would ever become more than vaporware is over as customer car number one debuted Friday at, of all places, the Philadelphia Auto Show.
Tuatara numero uno was seemingly completed this January, several months after production kicked off at SSC North America’s facility in Richland, Washington, but only brought into the public’s eye now for, reasons.
At the production facility, SSC mated its aerospace-grade carbon fiber monocoque to a body of the same material, whose drag coefficient of 0.279 is one of the lowest in the automotive industry. The Tuatara’s body also features an active rear wing which lowers as the car’s speed increases.
So no matter the speed, its aero balance remains the same from 100 mph to well beyond 300, or so the company claims.
SSC originally aimed for the Tuatara to be the first production car to crack 300 mph, but Bugatti beat SSC to the punch with Chiron Super Sport 300+. And though you’ll have to ask Bugatti to remove a few software keystrokes to hit 300 mph in your own car, that won’t be so for Tuatara buyers who, if they can find a long, straight enough stretch of road, can see whether SSC achieved its goal of making a 300-mph car. All they have to do is be brave enough to open the taps on its Nelson Racing Engines-sourced V-8 and keep their foot in it.
Nelson Racing Engines isn’t like other supercar suppliers as the famed builder is more known in the world of drag racing engines, which doesn’t sound too off the mark when considering the 300 mph task at hand.
The hypercar’s 5.9-liter unit was built from the ground up and uses a flat-plane crankshaft for reduced rotating mass, making it atypically rev-happy for a V-8 of its size.
Redline is found all the way up at 8,800 rpm, near which, the Tuatara produces its peak power of 1,350 horsepower on 91-octane gas. Filling up with E85 grants an extra 400 horse, and if you’re not a mental math maestro, that’s a maximum of 1,750 horsepower, or a good 172 more than the most powerful Bugatti offers.
Italian race transmission specialist CIMA supplies the seven-speed automated manual that forwards power to this SSC’s rear wheels, meaning less drivetrain power loss than the all-wheel-drive Bugatti Chiron. It also means that the SSC Tuatara might be more of a handful to drive than Molesheim’s best.
With a dry weight of 2,750 pounds, the Tuatara weighs more than a half a ton lighter than the roughly 4,400-pound Bugatti, so in a theoretical rolling drag race, the Tuatara would make the hypercar of every rapper’s dreams look like a Toyota Corolla.
Given how protective of its arrow-straight Ehra-Lessien test track Bugatti is, validating the Tuatara’s true mettle on a public road could earn you the one true speeding ticket to rule them all. But if you have hypercar money, you can afford to shut down several miles of Nevada highway like Koenigsegg did when it clocked 277 mph with an Agera RS.