Bugatti Chiron a bit lardy? Koenigsegg Jesko a bit slow? The 1,817hp Venom has arrived
By Mike Duff / Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Talk is cheap when it comes to hypercars. It’s easy to boast about building a car capable of doing more than 311mph, but far harder to actually create one that can deliver verified numbers to back up such a claim. A point made all too publicly by the debacle around the SSC Tuatara’s ‘did it or didn’t it?’ 316mph record run back in October; one that SSC has now committed itself to reattempting. But even with a high level of skepticism applied it’s hard not to be impressed by both the statistics and the sheer audacity of the Hennessey Venom F5 that you’re seeing here in production form for the first time.
Hennessey is the Texan tuner that has been building over-muscled creations in the ‘States for nearly 30 years, and which has encountered a fair number of controversies in that time. But the F5 marks a different direction, and the brand’s transition to become a manufacturer in its own right. A very limited number of the earlier Venom GT were built around a Lotus Exige tub – and the car proved itself capable of 270mph. But the Venom F5 is all Hennessey, with a bespoke carbon fibre structure (much of which comes from the UK) and an engine that looks set to make every other hypercar look barely more potent than a snoozing house cat.
Let’s start with the extraordinary numbers. The F5 uses a 6.6-litre V8 dubbed (appropriately) ‘Fury’ by Hennessey. This is a 90-degree overhead valve unit – the company’s expertise in extracting power from pushrod motors is second to none – with a cast iron block and aluminium cylinder heads featuring both titanium intake and Inconel exhaust valves. Connecting rods and pistons are forged, camshaft and crank made from billet steel. Two turbochargers with 76mm diameter compressor wheels work together to add up to 23psi of boost. And the net effect – on Hennessey’s numbers – is a peak 1,817hp at 8,000rpm and 1,193lb-ft of torque at 5,000rpm. That makes it the most powerful engine ever fitted to a production road car.
Drive goes to the rear wheels through a seven-speed CIMA automated single-clutch transmission and limited-slip differential. The gearbox’s ratios have been chosen to help the F5 achieve both its huge top speed as well as astonishing acceleration numbers. Hennessey has only released figures corresponding to 100km/h increments, but says the F5 will be able to blast its way from 0-62mph in 2.6 seconds, 0-124mph in 4.7 seconds, 0-186mph in 8.4 seconds and 0-248mph in 15.5 seconds. Top speed is targeted to be above 500km/h – that’s 311mph – which would make the F5 faster than the 304mph Bugatti Chiron which most still regard as the world’s fastest production car. Interestingly, the F5’s seventh gear is so tall that the engine won’t reach its 8,200rpm redline in it until 334mph.
The Hennessey is also much lighter than obvious alternatives. Its carbon tub is built in the UK by KS Composites and is claimed to weigh just 86kg naked. This has aluminium subframes front and rear, mounting dual wishbone suspension as well as the engine and transmission at the rear; most bodywork is carbon fibre. Hennessey claims a 1,385kg kerbweight, meaning the F5 is just 25kg more than the Koenigsegg One:1, but has nearly 35 per cent more power.
Yet it is also much simpler than most hypercars. The F5’s suspension uses separate damper coil springs and passive dampers, although these can be manually adjusted for both bump and rebound. Ride height can be varied, but it is otherwise free of active systems – not even getting moveable aerodynamic elements. Chassis development is being led by John Heinricy, formerly the director of GM’s Performance Division.
Visually there are some obvious differences to the original concept car, which was shown at the 2018 Geneva motor show. Most alterations have been to the production model’s aerodynamics – it has lost the show car’s high-level rear wing and gained a much larger rear diffuser which works in conjunction with careful airflow management underneath the car. Hennessey claims a 0.39 coefficient of drag; an optional ‘track pack’ will bring a separate wing, but it will also drop the F5’s top speed.
Although production of the remainder of the run of 24 will take place in the U.S, the first F5 has been built in the UK – I got to see it in the very unTexan environment of Turweston Aerodrome. The standard of fit and finish seemed impressive up close, with the F5’s engineering team being particularly proud of the single piece rear panel which they claim to be the largest piece of machined carbon fibre of any road car, each of the vent holes having been milled individually. The quad exhaust tailpipes are finished with a special material to help with heat dissipation.
The F5’s cabin is accessed through hypercar-appropriate butterfly opening doors. Sills are noticeably slimmer than the hypercar norm and there is more elbow room between the seats, but the interior has definitely been designed around a brief of functionality rather than luxury. The central touchscreen is for an Alpine infotainment system, with most of the Hennessey’s controls on the yoke-style steering wheel (lesser switchgear between the seats is bespoke, though.) There will be five driving modes, selected by the green toggle switch on the wheel: Wet, Sport, Track, Drag and F5, with the last of these bringing the full power output.
Hennessey has proved plenty of doubters wrong by getting the F5 this far. Moving it from the original styling proposal to near production reality has required what company CEO John Hennessey describes as an “eight figure investment”, one that has come from both the success of the existing tuning business and also an investment from Shell Pennzoil. Just 24 will be built, and Hennessey says that “between 12 and 14” have already been spoken for, despite a $2.1m pre-tax pricetag. Like Gordon Murray Automotive, Hennessey is planning to use some of the same architecture in cheaper and more affordable models which will sell in greater numbers.
While we’re told to see the F5 as being more than just a potential record-setter, Hennessey is already planning how to demonstrate the car’s ultimate performance. Initially that will be with runs on the 3.2-mile long runway at the Kennedy Space Center next year – with independent verification and outside witnesses. But if that’s not long enough for an outright record John Hennessey admits that two-way runs on a closed stretch of public highway will follow.
When that’s done the Venom F5 may well have proved itself the fastest production car in the world.
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