• 2019 SSC Tuatara

Aims to set a new world speed record for production cars!

LISTEN 14:06

Originally unveiled in 2011 as a concept car, the SSC Tuatara has finally evolved into a production car. It was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2018, and it promises to be faster and more powerful than its predecessor, the Ultimate Aero.

Established in 1999, SSC North America, formerly known as Shelby SuperCars Inc., took the supercar market by surprise when it established a new world speed record for production cars with the Ultimate Aero in 2007. Driven to a top speed of 256.18 mph, the Aero surpassed the Bugatti Veyron’s 253.7-mph benchmark. The French firm regained its record three years later with Super Sport, which hit a certified top speed of 267.81 mph.

Eight years have passed since then, and the speed record is now being held by the Koenigsegg Agera RS at 277.9 mph, but SSC promises to move the benchmark into 300-mph territory with the Tuatara. Let’s find out more about that in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the SSC Tuatara.

SSC Tuatara Exterior

  • Heavily based on the concept car
  • Sleek profile
  • Incredible aerodynamics
  • Huge vents everywhere
  • Revised rear fascia
  • Fit and finish issues
2019 SSC Tuatara Exterior
- image 792414
Designed by Jason Castriota, the Tuatara is a radical departure from the company’s previous supercar

The production car is heavily based on the concept that SSC unveiled in 2011. Designed by Jason Castriota, the man responsible for the Maserati GranTurismo, Ferrari P4/5, and the Saab PhoeniX concept, the Tuatara is a radical departure from the company’s previous supercar, the Ultimate Aero.

SSC made some revisions to the concept car, but the Tuatara remains familiar seven years later. And despite the many years that have passed since then, it still looks fresh. Up front, the Tuatara looks clean and simple, but it’s decidedly aggressive thanks to the sharp nose, the V-shaped bonnet, and the big carvings that house the headlamps and the air vents. The headlamps are smaller than the concept’s, but they feature LED technology now. Under the "floating" nose, there’s a massive splitter made carbon-fiber.

2019 SSC Tuatara Exterior
- image 792416
The entire body is made from carbon, which helps keep weight down to only 2,750 pounds

Actually, the entire body is made from carbon, which helps keep weight down to only 2,750 pounds, but most of it is painted, with just a few elements sporting a transparent finish.

Unlike the concept car, the production model has a proper front hood that can be removed from the body. The gaps are noticeable below the nose and above the headlamps and it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t perfect. Hopefully it’s just a pre-production issue that will be removed before the Tuatara is shipped to its customers.

The profile and the roof are identical to the show car. The canopy-style roof extends further back, and it’s significantly narrower than the body on the sides. The door become wider as we look away from the windows, making room for a massive vent atop the rear fenders. The deeply sculpted side skirts also feature massive intakes for engine cooling. The 20-inch, lightweight wheels have orange accents on one of the spokes, as well as orange brake calipers. Overall, the profile looks sleek and fast, just like a proper supercar should.

2019 SSC Tuatara Exterior
- image 792422
SSC claims that the Tuatara boasts "an unmatched hypercar drag coefficient of 0.279"

It’s around back where SSC made most changes. And thank God for that, as the concept car looked like a toy from behind. The American firm kept the size and shape of taillights intact, but they now feature the traditional red lights and white reverse lamps. The curved blades that extend just above the taillights are still in place, but SSC also added a movable wing between them. The small grille between the taillights is much narrower, while the side vents are bigger. More importantly, the flat body panel from the center fascia was replaced by a massive triangular opening through which we can see some of the drivetrain. The lower section is interesting and unique, with the bottom tip of the triangle flanked by triangular exhaust pipes and carbon-fiber panels.

SSC claims that the Tuatara boasts "an unmatched hypercar drag coefficient of 0.279." This is indeed impressive, even when compared to the Koenigsegg Agera and the Hennessey Venom F5.

Let’s only hope that SSC will fix those fit and finish problems before the supercar hits the assembly line.

SSC Tuatara Interior

  • Simple design
  • Loads of carbon-fiber
  • Premium features
  • Race-spec seats
  • Needs more attention to details
  • No word on tech
2019 SSC Tuatara Interior Drivetrain
- image 792424
The center stack and center console are void of any buttons and controls, likely replaced by the big, tablet-like display

SSC had nothing to say about the Tuatara’s interior, but the photos show a modern and luxurious cabin. The layout is somewhat simple, with two panels covered in leather and contrast stitching covering the dashboard. The two elements meet in the middle, just above a pair of round A/C vents. The panels aren’t aligned properly, but SSC should fix this before production.

The center stack and center console are void of any buttons and controls, likely replaced by the big, tablet-like display. Strangely enough, the steering wheel doesn’t have controls either. The center section is covered in leather and includes a big "SSC" shield. Unfortunately, the leather and the stitching look a bit clumsy for a premium car. Both the steering and the shift paddles are made from carbon-fiber.

The seats have solid side bolstering and are wrapped in leather. There’s double stitching on the sides and a quilted diamond pattern on the seating surfaces. Not much else is visible in these shots, but if SSC manages to fix the fit and finish issues, the Tuatara will look like a modern luxury supercar. As things stand right now, it’s no match for the craftsmanship seen in Bugattis and Koenigseggs, though.

SSC Tuatara Performance

  • 5.9-liter V-8
  • Up to 1,750 horsepower
  • 0 to 60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds
  • Top speed in excesss of 300 mph
  • Aims for a new world record


SSC offers two versions, including one that gulps E85 fuel to generate a whopping 1,750 horsepower

American supercar manufacturers usually use V-8 engines. Saleen and Vector did it, Hennessey still does, and SSC is no exception from this rule. The big displacement is there too, but the company ditched the 7.0-liter it showcased in the concept car seven years ago. Instead, it went with a 5.9-liter mill engineered in collaboration with Nelson Racing Engines, a firm specialized in high-performance V-8 powerplants.

The new unit is smaller than anything else SSC used until now. The SSC Ultimate Aero, for instance, was powered by supercharged, 6.3-liter V-8s taken from the Chevrolet Corvette C5.R race car and, later, by a twin-turbo 6.9-liter V-8. But despite being smaller, the 5.9-liter engine is more powerful. SSC offers two versions: one that uses 91 octane gasoline and delivers 1,350 horsepower and one that gulps E85 fuel to generate a whopping 1,750 horses.

2019 SSC Tuatara
- image 793120
SSC says it’s confident that the supercar will be able to exceed 300 mph

While the 1,350-horsepower version is on par or slightly inferior to the competition, the 1,750-horsepower variant offers more oomph than supercars from Bugatti, Koenigsegg, and Hennessey. Specifically, the Agera RS cranks out 1,341 horsepower, the Chiron generates 1,479 horses, and the Venom F5 is rated at exacly 1,600 horsepower.

SSC has yet to release a 0-to-60 mph estimate, but the Tuatara should be able to achieve the sprint in less than 2.5 seconds. However, SSC says it’s confident that the supercar will be able to exceed 300 mph. Apparently, SSC has the same goal as Hennessey, which claims that the Venom F5’s will hit at least 300 mph. If this happens, SSC will set a new Guinness World record for production cars, currently held by the Koenigsegg Agera RS at 277.9 mph.

2019 SSC Tuatara Exterior
- image 792413
The Tuatara should be able to achieve the 0-to-60-mph sprint in less than 2.5 seconds

This wouldn’t be the first time that SSC owns the fastest production car in the world. In September 2007, the Ultimate Aero hit 256.18 mph, breaking the 253.7-mph record that Bugatti established in 2005 with the Veyron. SSC’s record stood until July 2010, when the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport reached a certified top speed of 267.81 mph.

The 20-inch wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, so it’s safe to say that the Tuatara is ready for track duty as well.

Other chassis information remains unknown at this point, but SSC mentioned the Tuatara rides on a carbon-fiber chassis. The engines will continue to be assembled by Nelson Racing Engines, while Linder Power Systems will handle engine sub-assembly fabrication.

SSC Tuatara Pricing

2019 SSC Tuatara Exterior
- image 792417

Pricing hasn’t been announced, but SSC said the Tuatara would cost a bit over $1 million back in 2011. With seven years of inflation having passed since then, it’s safe to assume that the sticker will higher when the supercar goes on sale. Expect it to cost in excess of $2 million.

Production of the Tuatara will begin at the company’s new facility in West Richland, Washington. The factory is still under construction, but production should begin in 2019. The Tuatara will be limited to only 100 units.

SSC Tuatara Competition

Koenigsegg Agera RS

2015 Koenigsegg Agera RS High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 657709

Discontinued in 2018, the Agera RS is no longer available for purchase, but it’s the Tuatara’s main rival when it comes to performance, mainly for holding the world speed record for production cars. Also made from carbon-fiber, the Agera RS sports an aggressive but much more exquisite design. Praised for its luxurious interior and race-inspired, lightweight construction, the RS packs a twin-turbo, 5.0-liter V-8 under the hood. The engine delivers a whopping 1,341 horsepower, which gives it a power-to-weight ratio of one horsepower per kg, a rare feat on the supercar market. Hitting 60 mph from a standing start takes less than 2.6 seconds, while top speed exceeds 280 mph. The Agera RS is the world’s fastest production car in the world at 277.9 mph. Its top speed was recorded at 284.5 mph in a straight line. Koenigsegg bult around 25 cars at more than $2 million a pop. The last example rolled off the production line in April 2018.

Read our full story on the 2015 Koenigsegg Agera RS.

Bugatti Chiron

2018 Bugatti Chiron High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 667475

The Chiron is the successor to the Veyron, the car that the SSC Ultimate Aero defeated in 2007 and got defeated by in 2010. Introduced in 2016, the Chiron continues the legacy that the Veyron left behind with a similar design and a similar drivetrain. Of course, the new supercar is much more luxurious inside the cabin, and it’s highly customizable, offering options you won’t be able to get from SSC. The engine is the same massive, quad-turbo, 8.0-liter W16 and delivers an impressive 1,479 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of twist. The Chiron needs 2.4 seconds to hit 60 mph and 13.6 ticks to reach 186 mph. Its top speed is limited to 261 mph for safety reasons, but it’s believed that it could set a new world record. Unfortunately, Bugatti has yet to run a record attempt. In 2018, Bugatti launched the Chiron Sport, a version with improved handling. Limited to 500 units, the Chiron fetches more than $3 million.

Read our full review of the 2018 Bugatti Chiron.

Hennessey Venom F5

2019 Hennessey Venom F5
- image 742052
Clean-slate design approach

Just like the Tuatara, the Venom F5 also replaces an incredibly fast supercar. However, the Venom GT doesn’t have Guinness Record to brag about, despite being faster than the Veyron Super Sport in 2014 at 270.5 mph. Because the run was in a single direction and Hennessey had sold only 13 cars (out of the 30 required to qualify for a production record), the Venom GT missed the chance to beat Bugatti. Hennessey hopes to take its revenge with the Venom F5, a supercar scheduled to go into production in 2019. Unlike the GT, which had a body based on a Lotus, the F5 boasts an original design and new underpinnings. The twin-turbo, 7.6-liter V-8 sends 1,600 horsepower, and 1,300 pound-feet to the rear wheels, which Hennessey claims is enough to hit at least 300 mph. Hennessey wants to build only 24 units and sell them for $1.6 million each.

Read our full story on the 2018 Hennessey Venom F5.

Final Thoughts

2019 SSC Tuatara Exterior
- image 792422

A relatively new company, SSC didn’t get much attention until the Ultimate Aero became the world’s fastest production car in 2007. Once Bugatti recaptured the benchmark with the Veyron Super Sport in 2010, SSC fell into anonymity. Sure, the Tuatara concept from 2011 made some headlines and gearheads talked about a new record for a while, but SSC North America had nothing to brag about for several years. Come 2018 and the Tuatara finally seems ready to hit the production line, and if the company’s claims are anything to go by, we should witness a new record attempt soon. But while I’m looking forward to see the Tuatara in action, I’m not getting overly excited as the car shown at Pebble Beach still has some fit and finish issues and the company’s factory is not yet finished. I’m hoping for the best, but since SSC spent a whopping seven years to turn a concept into a production car, we might need to wait a while to see the Tuatara set a new record.

  • Leave it
    • Still not ready for production
    • Fit and finish issues
    • Will it set a new record?
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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