Once upon a time, when public houses were open and drinks were consumed socially - not just in PJs on the sofa - this was car bore pub question number one. Namely, which slice of jaw-dropping exotica would you buy given a set budget? Not the coupe for every three-car garage or something that's 'all you'd ever need' - but the vehicle that throws caution to the wind in pursuit of the automotive excitement pinnacle: the hypercar.
They need not make concessions for practicality or usability or efficiency - even if the latest breed score pretty well on those counts - because hypercars exist only to thrill. To look at, to be in and to drive, they should be the most intensely memorable experiences on four wheels.
No small task, then, which is why so few manufactures have taken it on, and why an even smaller number have been successful. It'll also help explain why the very best hypercars are worth so much money - there really aren't many more exhilarating ways to travel. Hence the reason this rundown starts at £50k, and even then with one or two cars that might not conform to the traditional criteria. But if it's power, speed, drama and rarity you're after, look no further.
Up to £50,000...
Alright, so perhaps the big Bentley isn't low-slung, mid-engined and eye-popping - the hypercar go-to attributes - but there's plenty to associate it with the breed as well. After all, this isn't any old Continental GT - it's a Supersports, and that's quite important.
First launched at the end of 2009, the model was unlike anything that had rolled out of Crewe before. Not only was power upped to more than 600hp - meaning 0-100mph in less than nine seconds - more than 100kg was taken out of the GT, including the fitment of standard ceramic brakes. And how many great hypercars created start with more power and less weight than standard? Sure, it was still a two-tonne tubby when sat on the scales, but the dedication to a more focussed, more exciting Bentley to drive was welcome by all who tried it. The fact that the Supersports badge was used in subsequent generations implies that buyers were keen, too.
That popularity means early versions are now available from £40,000; unfortunately, many of the customer cars had the rear seats optioned back in, compromising the Bentley road racer vibe a little. But not this one: offered at £44,000 with just the two front seats and probably the most lavish strut brace ever seen, it's proof of how much Bentley is available for so relatively little. And we're just getting started.
Up to £75,000...
Another quite conventional silhouette for this top ten, albeit it another that has more to qualify it than might seem clear at first glance. Not only does the Vanquish have the obvious (and considerable) appeal of the storied V12 - and this is one of the more affordable ways to get the 573hp variant - it also looks utterly fantastic.
There were some reservations about the second generation Vanquish when new, probably because the first model was still so fondly thought of and certainly because the DB9 and Vantage had set a high bar. But the 2012 car stayed faithful to what had got Aston to that point in the first place and took on modern inspiration, particularly with the One-77-style rear.
With this era of Vanquish having been superseded by the DBS Superleggera - and the Die Another Day car appreciating in value - prices are falling. Bear in mind this was the flagship of the range until not so long ago and prices from less than £70k are hard to argue with. Push our £75k budget to the maximum and Aston approved cars are in reach. Subtle perhaps in the grand scheme of things. But try driving a Vanquish down your local high street and see what an Aston Martin does to people. Also, you won't care about anything else once that V12 is spinning.
Up to £100,000...
If hypercars are about presence, performance and rarity, it's hard to think of much that does it better than a Lister LFT-666. Because although it's front-engined and based on a Jaguar that can be had with four cylinders, the modifications make the Lister F-Type something altogether sillier. And better.
The 666 made the F-Type scandalously fast - more power than a Ferrari 488 ensured 100mph in seven and a bit seconds - even louder and better to look at. Oh sure, a lower ride height and bigger wheels did the ride no favours at all, but we're not addressing perfection here, we're dwelling on extremes. And nothing else Jaguar-based garners attention like the Lister. Well, not unless you're willing to spend a lot more money.
With just 99 built, the LFT certainly conforms to the exclusive aspect of buying a hypercar - and its other modifications, like the interior with Bridge of Weir leather, do help create a sense of occasion beyond the standard Jaguar. This 3,000-mile car is 18 months old and a tenner under £100k. A lot for a car now available from £30k, but this really is an F-Type like no other.
Up to £150,000...
Now we're rolling. By every metric possible to measure a hypercar by, the McLaren 720S easily qualifies. The doors open upwards and everything. A toddler could tell you it's special.
It's also a car that can reach 100mph in less than six seconds, stop grown men in their tracks and lap a circuit faster than a lot of race cars. That it's also incredibly easy (and rewarding) to drive serves to make the 720S one of the best cars you can buy, period. While continuing to distract buyers with special edition this and MSO that, there's a strong argument to say that the 'basic' model remains McLaren's greatest achievement this side of a P1.
That so much is offer for comparatively little - this Volcano Yellow Performance is £140k - was disastrous for early owners, but makes the 720S look irresistible a short time later. After all, this is new 911 Turbo money; however good that car is, the appeal of a McLaren for the same amount shouldn't take much explaining. It will continue to depreciate (at a steadier rate) and the interior is hardly flawless - but as a driving device the 720S knows almost no equal.
Up to £250,000...
If it must be a V12 powering your hypercar, then look no further than the 812. Because while it appears to conform to the front-engined, rear-drive, two-seat GT template, the Superfast driving experience is Ferrari ecstasy. With the latest in Maranello technology like four-wheel steer, Slide Slip Control and brakes borrowed from the LaFerrari, it's wildly exciting to drive fast. The frenzied nature is at odds with your expectations for it - and hardly ideal for long distance driving - but makes the experience utterly absorbing. Be in no doubt: the 812 is a hypercar, just with the engine ahead of you.
And what an engine. When the history books of internal combustion are written, as they will be in your lifetime, the Ferrari F140 deserves at least a chapter or six to itself. What began life as a 6.0-litre, 660hp engine in the Enzo is an 800hp, 6.5-litre masterpiece in the Superfast. With a flawless DCT gearbox in tandem, it's capable of everything from docile urban driving to genuinely breathtaking acceleration as 9,000rpm nears.
That access to this engine - leave alone the rest of this incredible car - can be yours for a smidge more than £200,000 seems like a good deal. With £250k to vicariously spend, we'd go for a Ferrari-approved car if possible; otherwise, anything goes. Whatever the specification, it's going to be beyond glorious.
Up to £350,000...
Though Maurizio Reggiani has confirmed that the V12 engine will continue in Lamborghinis (partnered with an electric motor) the introduction of that hybrid technology serves to make the Aventador seem all the more special. It closes a Lamborghini hypercar chapter - the mid-engined, purely V12 one - that stretches back to the Miura more than 50 years ago. When the replacement comes, and it can't be far off, given the Aventador has been in production for a decade, it'll be momentous for Lamborghini.
And while the Aventador isn't unimpeachably brilliant across the board, it is virtually impossible not to be won over by the Super Veloce versions. To this day the car looks stunning - and will forever more - that engine is a joy and it has one of the best known names in the business. Let's not forget, either, that the Aventador has shown it's much more than a high street poseur, the SVJ going around the Nordschleife faster than a GT2 RS.
At the moment, prices start at £300k for a Super Veloce Jota, rising to more than half a million for the very lowest mileage Roadsters. With an imaginary £350k to spend there's a wealth of coupes to choose from; this one has just 2,000 miles recorded and a £9k paint option, yet still sneaks in under budget. We won't see its like again, that's for certain, and any Aventador will live long in the memory - which is exactly the point of any hypercar.
Up to £500,000...
Truth be told, the best time to buy an XJ220 would have been a few years ago, when it struggled for the recognition it deserved and languished (all things being relative) at less than £200k. Those days are long gone, which is unfortunate for those wanting a Jaguar icon for the price of a Continental GT, but does at least mean the '220 is now being classed amongst the very best of the 90s' hypercar elite. As it should.
Because while the haters like to focus on it not being the same as the 1988 concept, its difficult start to life makes it all the more covetable now. Just 69 right-hand drive XJ220s were made, making it exceptionally rare, and of course every single one had the 217mph potential that made them so legendary. The XJ220 is big, beautiful, preposterously fast and far from the easiest thing to drive - it's a proper old school hypercar, demanding respect and consideration. Thirty years later, when your nan could operate a Huracan without much fuss, that makes the old Jag pretty cool.
As such, the very best XJ220s - something like this Monza Red car, with fewer than 2,000 miles - are nearing in on half a million pounds. Perhaps no longer an investment opportunity then, but surely the sort of valuation an incredible slice of Jaguar history deserves. Just don't go expecting a drive as simple (or as fast) as some others on this list...
Up to £750,000...
Even the most loyal of McLaren fans wouldn't call the Senna a hypercar to admire. It's not bedroom poster fodder like the traditional wedges are; let's be honest, it's the ugliest car ever to emerge from MTC. Anyone after a mega-money McLaren that's easy on the eye would be better served by the P1. Which is certainly a terrific hypercar purchase in its own right.
The Senna is here, though, because it offers a hypercar driving experience like no other, seamlessly combining liveable road manners with never-before-seen levels of circuit ability. It lapped Hockenheim almost three seconds faster than a 911 GT2 RS MR; before the AMG GT Black Series, that was the production car record holder at the Nurburgring.
So it's wickedly fast, but that was almost a given. What secures the Senna its spot here is how it involves the driver like the very best McLarens, with wonderful steering, great control weights and amazing visibility. It's an incredible thing to drive at everyday speeds, or faster than anything else on four wheels - and that makes the Senna a pretty sensational car. This 2020 example is believed to be one of the last made, with just 400 miles under its ultra-lightweight forged wheels. If it sometimes seems like hypercars are much of a muchness, try a Senna - it's out of this world.
Up to £1,000,000...
There was plenty of discussion about which cars went into this list, but there was one never in any doubt: the F40. For many the ultimate hypercar experience, the most famous of all the Ferraris brought together everything the genre demands: it was explosively fast, stunning to behold, totally bewitching to drive and steeped in history as the last project of Enzo's life. So what if they made loads and it was built like a kit car? This was raw, immersive, demanding hypercar hedonism, blessed with the greatest badge of them all and a manual gearbox to boot. No wonder they've always been in demand.
Nowadays a million quid gets a decent spread, everything from fairly early cars right up to the penultimate F40 made in 1992. You'll pay more for a non-cat, non-adjust car but, honestly, all the F40s are sublime. Which you might have heard once or twice over the years...
Sky's the limit...
Where to start? The lotto-win blowout purchase is where the hypercar comes into its own, with all manner of masterpieces out there. This list hasn't mentioned the hypercar Holy Trinity, a Koenigsegg, a Pagani a Porsche or anything pre-F40, just for starters. No doubt you'll have your own ultimate of the ultimates, the car to put above all others, but ours is going to be... the Bugatti Veyron.
Why? Because it broke new ground, raising the bar for the segment in a way that precious few hypercars ever do. The Chiron is even more powerful and capable than the original 21st century Bugatti, but can very much be seen as an evolution of what came before. There was simply nothing like the Veyron before 2005, no car that could so effortlessly meld power, luxury and usability. Anything with 1,000hp before it was a temperamental tuner special that needed a bi-weekly service. The Veyron was a 250mph car little more taxing to drive or own (costs aside) than an Audi TT - see this one for proof, which has covered 20,000 miles.
Perhaps the big Bug's reputation suffered a little with countless special editions, but the Veyron remains a landmark car. And, as we discovered when comparing it back to back with its successor, still a phenomenal thing to drive. With the future of hypercars set for an electrified future, the reverence around Bugatti's original quad-turbo W16 won't subside for a while, if ever. Given there are no limits in this category, we'll go for the Veyron's pinnacle: £2,850,000 buys a Grand Sport World Record Vitesse, once the fastest convertible on the planet with a verified 254mph top speed. Others have gone faster since, but none with the seismic impact of the Veyron. It broke the mould.
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