Bigfoot. The blue whale. The most badass muscle car. Power is about more than just numbers, but the most powerful cars, trucks, bikes, and machines in the world can put up numbers that’ll blow your mind.
1. Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat: The Everyday Car Worthy of NASCAR
The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is the highest expression of America’s muscle-bound past. It’s a V-8, it’s rear-wheel-drive, and it’s certifiably huge—elements that ought to trigger nostalgia. But in its outsize ambitions, the Hellcat is something new. From the bones of a sub-$30,000 fleet car, Chrysler builds a projectile that tops out at 204 mph. Last year Jeff Gordon qualified at pole position for the Daytona 500 with a speed of 201 mph.
The Hellcat has strong brakes and decent suspension, but those components come across as afterthoughts compared with the effort that went into the engine, a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 707 horsepower. That V8 is the Hellcat’s defining feature, all thunderous exhaust and Mad Max supercharger whine, the centerpiece of the world’s most powerful internal-combustion sedan. Perhaps as a joke, or a taunt to fellow carmakers, the Hellcat comes with two keys: a red one that unleashes full power, and a black one that’s ostensibly for valets and newbie drivers. With the latter key, in safety mode, the Hellcat is limited to about 500 horsepower. You know, just three Miatas’ worth. Sensible.
2. Tesla’s Model S: The Sedan for the Grocery Store, Or the Track
Tesla’s Model S has been around only a few years, but it has already evolved more than most cars do in a decade. It started out rear-wheel-drive and quick. Now it’s got dual motors, all-wheel drive, and a Lamborghini-hounding 2.8-second zero-to-60 time. And with autopilot, it’ll pretty much drive itself. We didn’t really mess with that, though, because this is a car you’ll want to drive for yourself. With 762 horsepower, the P90D is the most powerful sedan you can buy. And the most powerful electric car. And the most powerful American car.
3. 5,000-MPH Bullets That Don’t Need Gunpowder
The Navy’s electromagnetic railgun, which accelerates a projectile to 5,000 mph in 0.01 seconds using a simple (and enormous) charge, requires no explosives and only one man to load and fire. It’s been in production since 2005 and should be completed by 2017. A few more facts:
• Each projectile is 18 inches long and weighs 23 pounds.
• The cost to fire a projectile is approximately $25,000—as much as 60 times less than traditional artillery.
• After storing up a charge,the gun releases 1,200 volts in 10 milliseconds.
• Firing distance exceeds 100 miles.
• In tests the projectiles were able to pierce three walls of reinforced concrete or six steel plates.
4. The Biggest Dam in the World
The Three Gorges Dam in Sandouping, China, is 607 feet tall and 1.4 miles wide—taller than the Washington Monument and several thousand feet longer than the Brooklyn Bridge. Its 22,500-megawatt-generating capacity is 1.5 times that of the next largest dam, producing an average of 273,790 megawatts of power each day. That’s enough to run Orlando. For two weeks.
5. The Hottest Pepper
South Carolina’s Carolina reaper pepper has a heat that’s been described as “nothing but pain” and “like a white-hot ball of nickel implanted just above my stomach.” Most people who try the pepper get uncontrollable hiccups. The unlucky ones throw up. The slightly more lucky ones just dry heave.
6. The Dump Truck the Size of a Tennis Court
It weighs almost 800,000 pounds—and that’s empty. Fully loaded, the BelAZ 75710 dump truck approaches 2 million. It’s 32 feet wide and 67 feet long, which means it’d be a tight squeeze to fit on a standard tennis court (and an even tighter squeeze into tennis whites), and 26 feet tall. To power such a beast requires twin 2,300-hp diesel generators. Like its slightly smaller cousins—400-ton-capacity trucks made by Caterpillar, Bucyrus, and Liebherr—the BelAZ lives and works in giant open-pit mines.
Unfortunately, because it’s made in Belarus, home to one of the most repressive governments on the planet, it’s hard to get anyone to talk about the 75710 in plain English, or even plain Belarusian. And you can’t see one unless you travel to Siberia. The only user at the moment is a Russian coal company. But in a sense, every giant dump truck shares the same story: As the human population boomed in the 20th century, we demanded more and more of the world’s geologic resources—coal, metals, and the rock itself. To transport these efficiently, bigger and bigger trucks were needed. The 100-ton barrier was broken in the 1950s; 200- and 300-class trucks followed. In 1999, Caterpillar broke the 400-ton barrier with its massive 797F. The 500-ton BelAZ, like much else that came out of the Soviet bloc, is the product of an arms race.
Curiously, the BelAZ may be the last salvo in that race. One reason is economics: Mining firms are obsessive about efficiency, and improvements in reliability, durability, and performance are returning the edge to earlier, smaller trucks. Another is more practical: rubber. Nobody has found a way to make tires that can handle bigger loads. —Tim Heffernan
Weight (Empty): 400 tons
Weight (Loaded): 900 tons
7. What It’s Like to Drive Bigfoot
That firebomb V8 is so loud that you upshift early because it sounds like the supercharger’s going to explode. (It’s bolted down with straps, in case that actually happens.) You line up the straightaway and give it half-throttle. As the hood points skyward you look down through clear panels in the floor as the truck’s 66-inch tires—cribbed from a fertilizer spreader—dig in and send the 6-ton behemoth barreling down the track. You can’t turn your head much, because your helmet is strapped to the seat with a HANS device that limits movement and protects you from the neck-stretching g-forces that come into play when you put 6 tons of truck into the air. Or, more specifically, return 6 tons of truck to earth.
An object this huge should not be fast. And yet, 1,730 horse- power changes the rules. The Lincoln Memorial would be fast with 1,730 horsepower. Bear that in mind as you square up for the ramp. You’re supposed to goose it as the front tires hit the jump and not let up until the rear tires are airborne. Any flinch will cause the front end to dip midair and lawn-dart into the dirt. Force your right foot to stay down, feel the truck go weightless, and only then lift the pedal. It’ll be a long time before you come down. Hard. —Ezra Dyer
8. The 600-HP V6
It wasn’t that long ago that 100 horsepower per liter was considered impressive. The GT-R Nismo has 100 horsepower per cylinder. There are V 12s with less than 600 horsepower, but Nissan hits that number with a 3.8-liter V 6. A psycho V6.
There’s a half beat at low rpm where the Nismo might fool you into thinking it’s a docile machine. Then the boost arrives and the instruments go haywire—the speedometer’s counting by 20s, the tach needle stays lodged above 5,000 rpm, the traction-control icon flickers like the porch light at a $40 motel. Six hundred horses can overwhelm a car’s chassis, its ability to cope. Not so the Nismo. Its torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system doesn’t waste energy on wheelspin. Whatever’s cooking under the hood, the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 tires serve it to the pavement, no leftovers. The GT-R’s sophistication and racetrack prowess somehow earned it a reputation as an aloof, robotic supercar. It’s anything but. The transmission rattles and the gears gnash; the turbos huff mightily and the car does whatever it’s asked. It’s all-wheel-drive but it’ll hang the tail out, if you’re so inclined. On the engine there’s a plaque signed by the guy who built it, by hand, and that guy might be named Nobumitsu Gozu because that job is done in Yokohama and not at some far-flung subsidiary. The GT-R Nismo doesn’t just have 600 horsepower. It has character.
9. Kawasaki’s Supercharged Race Bike
There’s a viral video that shows a Kawasaki Ninja H2 beating a Bugatti Veyron in a drag race. This is notable because the H2 is not even the quickest Ninja. That would be the H2R, a 200-mph production race bike that uses a gear-driven supercharger to help extract 300 horsepower from a 998-cc four-cylinder. The $50,000 H2R is so indulgent, the silver paint is actually a layer of pure silver. The fact that the H2R is track only—definitely not street legal—might be the only sensible thing about it.
Quarter-Mile: About 9 seconds
10. The Sultan of Johor’s Boat
We’re doing 79 mph on the Sultan of Johor’s new Cigarette Racing 41 GTR when Bud Lorow, Cigarette’s chief test driver, says, “I think we need more prop.” Lorow’s right, of course, not only because he’s an all-around hydrodynamic horse whisperer, but because the boat’s four tachometers are pegged at 7,000 rpm, sitting on the rev limiters. Change the props, get those revs down, and then the sultan will have a nice little 80-mph fishing boat.
Wisconsin-based Mercury Racing is the reason you can buy a 41-foot outboard center-console that tops 80 mph. Other companies make big outboards—like Yamaha’s 350-hp V8—but they’re big. Verado engines are narrow, built around a supercharged straight six, and every inch matters when your goal is to maximize total horsepower. Cigarette Racing also builds a 50-footer that’ll take five 400-hp Verados across the stern. That’s 2,000 horsepower. The 41 has a modest 11-foot beam, but that’s enough real estate to hang quad Verado 400Rs.
At idle, the engines are nearly silent, offering none of the lumpy pissed-off exhaust braggadocio of an inboard go-fast. But throttle up and it sounds like a Gulfstream G650 is attempting to land on the aft deck, the quartet of water-cooled superchargers spinning up and funneling boost to the intakes. There’s still no exhaust noise—the exhaust exits underwater through the prop hubs—but the turbine-like intake symphony sounds appropriately expensive for a million-dollar boat. Cruising at 50 mph, where most center consoles are nearing terminal velocity, the Cigarette is just loafing with speed to spare. Push the throttles all the way forward and the GPS speedometer leaps to 70 mph, and then keeps climbing. You’d be breaking the speed limit on I-95 into Miami, but out here on Biscayne Bay the speed limit is unlimited, dictated by horsepower alone. The sultan, I think, will be pleased. —Ezra Dyer
Top Speed: 80 mph
Price: $1 million
11. The Machine That Squeezes Metal Like Play-Doh
Universal Alloy, in the small city of Canton, Georgia, is one of the leading suppliers of structural components to companies including Boeing, Airbus, and defense manufacturers. It owes its preeminence to one extraordinary machine: a 75-year-old, 9,000-ton aluminum-extrusion press—the most powerful one in the free world.
The extrusion process is straightforward: A block of solid aluminum is pushed through a die, forming a strong, seamless structure. It’s similar to squeezing toothpaste from a tube. Or like Play-Doh, but for machine parts. To make 100-foot wing struts for the A380, however, or the sockets that attach a 747’s wings to its fuselage, takes a huge amount of force. Universal Alloy’s machine generates 16,200 tons of pressure in order to turn 5,000-pound bathtub-sized billets of solid metal into toothpaste.
The machine is nearly 300 feet long and is anchored to a concrete foundation 10 feet thick. Its history is just as remarkable. Built by Hydraulik in Duisburg for Germany’s Luftwaffe in the late 1930s, it was brought to the U.S. in the late 1940s as war spoil, which also had the benefit of keeping the Soviets from getting their hands on it. Myths abound: that it made the skins of V-2 rockets; that the Germans sank it in the Rhine to be resurrected by the hoped-for Fourth Reich; that its base plate was used as a bridge over that river by Patton’s army engineers. None of that is true, according to Paul Scaglione, the Universal Alloy engineer who oversaw the press’s Canton rebuild. What is true is that it took 160 semis and seven railcars to transport the press to Georgia from its former home in Illinois. And that “all the crusty old riggers with the big beards wanted a picture with it” when the colossal job was done. —Tim Heffernan
Weight: 9,000 tons
Force Capacity: 16,200 tons
Length: 300 feet
12. The Truck Powered by a Jet Engine
Pratt & Whitney J34–48 jet engines don’t normally have afterburners. They’re also not typically bolted into a Peterbilt semi. But that’s the case with Shockwave, a big rig that can run the quarter-mile in 6.5 seconds with its three afterburners lit. With a total of 36,000 horsepower, Shockwave holds the record for fastest semitruck, regularly hitting 376 mph at the air shows where it performs. Good thing it also has two parachutes.
13. The Laser That Can Melt a Car Engine From a Mile Away
It sounds like something that belongs on a UFO or in Putin’s garage, but soon the Athena laser will be on our army vehicles. And it will be amazing. In a demo in March, the Lockheed Martin–crafted laser burned a hole through the hood and engine of a small truck. From over a mile away. The power comes from multiple lasers combined in a single beam—a setup that makes the laser more efficient and less likely to malfunction, since the failure of one of the small lasers doesn’t disrupt the beam. Despite such power, Athena requires only one operator. It went into production this past fall.
14. The Beetle That’s Stronger Than a Gorilla
British researchers, hopefully shortly before washing their hands, discovered that male horned dung beetles, found in nearly all parts of the world except Antarctica, can pull 1,141 times their own body weight. That’s like you pulling five times as much as the new F-450.
15. The Truck That’s Almost As Strong as a Dung Beetle
The 2016 Ford F-450 Super Duty is the most powerful pickup you can buy, with 440 horsepower and 860 lb-ft of torque. The 2017 model will be even better.
Given the constant one-upmanship in trucks, Ford doesn’t want to show its hand till the last moment, lest it get trumped by 3 horsepower—as GM did a few years back when it announced a 397-hp truck only to have Ford fire back with an even 400. What we know so far is that the new truck will be 350 pounds lighter and have a maximum tow rating higher than the current 31,200 pounds, which is enough to haul some pretty impressive items. Like these:
• 11 Bobcat S70 skid-steer loaders
• 90,000 bananas
• 5 Chevy Silverado 3500s
• A nuclear family of African elephants
• An aboveground pool filled with mercury
16. The Ship Engine With More Than 100,000 Horsepower
The largest container ship ever built—the 1,302-foot-long Emma Mærsk—requires the most powerful engine in the world, the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C diesel. A few notable details:
Weight: In total, the engine weighs 2,300 tons (300 tons of that is the crankshaft).
Dimensions: The engine itself is 89 feet long and 44 feet tall.
Fuel Economy: With fuel consumption of 0.260 lb/hp/hour at maximum economy, it’s been estimated that the engine consumes more than 39 barrels per hour and costs $34 a minute to run.
Horsepower: Its maximum horsepower is 108,920 at 102 rpm.
Despite that, it still can’t get you up on water skis.
17. The Strongest Mammal
Blue whales can get as long as 100 feet and weigh as much as 200 tons. A 150-ton whale can exert 120 kilo- newtons of power—roughly double the thrust of an F-15 fighter jet. The force comes from massive tail muscles, but a whale’s speed is due primarily to its shape. Their bodies are relatively thin, like submarines, and tapered at both ends, allowing whales to reach speeds over 20 mph. Despite this strength and speed, which protects them from natural predators, blue whales cannot break a single harpoon line from a whaling ship.
18. The Most Powerful Hovercraft
The Griffon Hoverwork BHT Hovercraft can glide over mud, ice, water, and land. While carrying 18 tons of cargo. At 50 mph. To reach that speed, the hovercraft needs big fans and an even bigger skirt—the flexible cushion that traps air between the hull and the ground. Three fans fill, lift, and propel the 100-foot-long craft, which is powered by four engines from the Detroit Diesel Corporation with a maximum output of 1,200 horsepower.
Top Speed: 50 mph