SSC Tuatara aims for Koenigsegg and 300-mph mark

2020 SSC Tuatara front

After the Ultimate Aero dethroned the Bugatti Veyron as the world’s fastest production car, hypercar fans have been eager for an encore. SSC has been trickling out the details of the Ultimate Aero’s successor, the completely restyled Tuatara, and the company’s latest press release makes it sound like the wait may have been worth it. SSC claims the sleek mid-engine machine will be capable of 300 mph while bringing some seriously high-tech handling to the table.

To get the best track performance, many high-performance cars forgo top speed in favor of tacked-on lips and strakes that add downforce. Not so with the smooth, flowing Tuatara. SSC claims that active aerodynamics allow for a class-leading 0.279 drag coefficient, helping pave the way for a top speed in excess of 300 mph. It’s not quite that slippery through the air when at speed, however. From 93–198 mph, the adjustable rear wing adds as much as 1200 pounds of downforce with a drag coefficient of 0.335. That should cover just about any road course you could throw at the Tuatara, but as speeds exceed 200 mph, “Wing Mode” reduces downforce to 800 pounds and drag to 0.303.

Drag is just one part of the top speed equation, and even with an efficient shape it takes a tremendous amount of power to exceed 300 mph. As no off-the-shelf engine would do, SSC sought help from Nelson Racing engines, one of the nation’s top builders of high-performance street engines and a pioneer in symmetrical turbochargers. The pushrod, flat-plane-crank V-8 has equally-spaced intake and exhaust ports, so we suspect an aftermarket Chevrolet LS-style block lurks under all of the high-end speed parts. Each cylinder bank feeds into its own turbocharger by way of a very compact tubular header and then pressurizes the billet aluminum manifold through twin water-to-air charge coolers. Output is a staggering 1750 horsepower on E85 fuel and 1350 on 91-octane gasoline.

SSC released a video last November of Nelson putting the Tuatara through its paces on the dyno. It also shared a quick drive-by video that highlights just how wonderful the twin-turbo V-8 sounds in the wild.

Behind the engine is a seven-speed, CIMA computerized manual transmission gearbox controlled by hydraulics from Automac Engineering. The computer handles all the shifting after the driver provides input through paddles mounted behind the flat-top steering wheel.

So far, SSC has only provided renderings of the actual interior, but production is underway. We reached out to the Tuatara’s designer, Jason Castriota, a veteran of Pininfarina and Bertone, who told us the first Tuatara will be delivered next month at Monterey Car Week. He added that plans are underway to make a run at the production-car speed record, which is currently held by Koenigsegg at 277.87 mph. When (and where) that attempt will take place hasn’t been decided yet, but it could be just a couple months away.

Whenever final details surface and the showdown takes place, get ready for conversations stuffed with superlatives. With the SSC Tuatara, the fight for the title of world’s fastest production car is about to heat up once again.