Carbon Fiber is as light as a feather yet stronger than steel. Considered by some to be the ‘all-star’ of automotive engineering, this light-weight, the corrosion-resistant reinforced polymer is highly sought after by manufacturers worldwide. This is due, in part, to its strength, stiffness, and weight. Carbon fiber sheets are five times as strong as steel, yet they are only a quarter of the weight, which makes it an ideal material for various car parts. It’s difficult to find another all-rounder that hits the ball out of the park, quite like carbon fiber.
With all its’ ‘too good to be true’ benefits, carbon fiber comes with one major drawback – the development, planning, and production of this material is incredibly costly. Machining carbon fiber sheets are very labor-intensive. Naturally, carbon fiber panels are found more so in high-end vehicles. Luxury sports cars need to be high-performing, lightweight, and incredibly fast to satisfy their car-enthusiast owners, and carbon fiber comes through to make this dream a reality. In this article, we’ll go over five luxury supercars that make use of carbon fiber in their manufacturing process.
1. McLaren 600LT
Image credit: Mclaren. https://cars.mclaren.com/en/sports-series/600lt
Carbon Fibre is a key player in the range offered by luxury supercar manufacturer Mclaren. In 1981, Mclaren revolutionized race car construction by unveiling Formula One’s first carbon fiber monocoque chassis. This chassis was found on the MP4/1, a lightweight mobile which won its first victory at the 1981 British Grand Prix. Since then, Mclaren manufacturers have worked tirelessly to bring carbon fiber onto the public roads through its range of luxury sports cars.
A carbon-fiber monocoque chassis has become the blueprint for almost every Mclaren vehicle, whether it’s made for racing or the road. Our first pick for this article is the Mclaren 600LT; a carbon-fiber intensive masterpiece.
This supercar comes as a part of the Mclaren long-tail series, which began back in 1995. The series started with F1 GTR Longtail, a race car that competed in over 120 races, and won 38 in the process. Inspired by the legacy of the F1 GTR, the long tail series operates on an ethos of weight reduction, performance, and aerodynamics.
As the latest long-tail variant, the 600LT boasts of significant weight reduction over past models. Specifically, the use of more carbon fiber in the manufacturing of the car allowed the manufacturers to reduce the weight by 96 kg in comparison to the Mclaren 570S (The total weight of 600LT amounts to 1,247 kg).
The car comes with a modified carbon fiber composite chassis, which has enough strength and stiffness to completely improve the car’s handling, agility, and ride comfort. Additionally, the front splitter, front floor, side sills, and extended side intakes also make use of the same carbon fiber technology.
In the words of Mclaren themselves; “Everything that can be made lighter, has been made lighter.” – And it is all done through the magic of carbon fiber.
2. Mclaren Senna
Image credit: Mclaren. https://cars.mclaren.com/en/ultimate-series/mclaren-senna
It’s impossible to talk about carbon fiber sports cars without talking about Mclaren, the company that started it all. For this reason, our list features a second carbon fiber beast from this company; the Mclaren Senna.
A striking feature of the Senna is its exposed carbon look. The lightweight design uses a carbon fiber monocoque called the MonoCage III, which contributes to the car’s low dry weight of 1,198 kg. Senna was built with a singular purpose; to give an F1 driving experience and to achieve faster lap times. Its lightweight build allows it to achieve new heights in the realm of speed. Think of it like a racecar that has been built to meet the legal requirements of the roads.
3. Alfa Romeo 4C
Image credit: Alfa Romeo USA. https://www.alfaromeousa.com/cars/4c
An Italian company’s effort to bring carbon fiber monocoques into mass production; the Alfa Romeo 4C. This supercar brings together the dream pairing of a lightweight monocoque with a turbocharged engine – aiming for a sleek exterior and an exhilarating driving experience.
Like the Mclaren 600LT, Alfa Romeo was also inspired by Formula 1 race cars, which is why they began looking into carbon fiber construction. The car itself is compact, and the chassis is made of a single piece of carbon fiber which brings the total weight of this vehicle to just 1100 kg. The chassis is composed of a central carbon-fiber tub, with aluminum subframes front and rear. The outer body is made of a composite material (SMC for Sheet Molding Compound) which is 20% lighter than steel. Overall, weight reduction via carbon fiber manufacturing is a major part of the 4Cs composition.
The mass production story of this animalistic appearing sports car began in May 2013, at the Maserati production plant in northern Italy. The production of the 4C was estimated at 1,000 units per year, depending on the number of carbon fiber chassis that could be constructed within that period. Alfa Romeo used this sports car to re-enter the American market, with the appeal of a lightweight, turbocharged sports car helping them to shatter barriers of entry.
Many critics complain that the interior of the car borders on being cramped, but the turbocharged engine often makes the $54k price tag worth the money. It’s not a comfortable vehicle for casual drives around town, but it can give a sporty experience on twisted roads. The tiny interior space can make drivers feel even closer to the turbocharged engine, which gives way to an exhilarating driving experience.
4. Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro
Image credit: Motor1. https://www.motor1.com/news/261532/aston-martin-valkyrie-amr-stats/
The brainchild of Ashton Martin and Red Bull Racing, the carbon fiber riddled Valkyrie is one of the closest things to F1 racing on public roads. The “AMR Pro” designation is typically only reserved for Aston Martins track cars, but this special edition hypercar promises to make you feel like an F1 driver yourself. That is – if you can get your hands on one of the 150 units that are being produced.
As this list progresses, the car weight grows ever lighter. This is the case with the Valkyrie, which weighs just 1,000 kg. Compare this with its 1,000 horsepower, and you have a beast of a hypercar with the most powerful naturally-aspirated engine ever found on the road. Carbon Fiber’s finest qualities come to shine with this car: we can see how it can deliver such high performance while encased in such a lightweight body.
The car has all-carbon fiber bodywork and is installed with a carbon fiber Monocell. From Ashton Martin’s website itself; “All carbon-fiber. There’s not one steel component in Valkyrie’s structure.” The bodywork, combined with the 6.5-liter V12 engine, delivers aerodynamics and speed to thrill even the most cynical car enthusiasts. All that power, yet it remains exceptionally lightweight.
5. Hennessey Venom F5
Image source: Hennessey. http://hennesseyperformance.com/vehicles/hennessey/venom-f5/
Vowing to become the fastest supercar in the world – the Hennessey Venom f5 features a carbon fiber chassis that can propel it to a top speed of over 500 kilometers per hour (310.7+ mph).
Hennessey is a company that offers a large lineup of late-model high-performance sports cars, muscle cars, supercars, trucks & SUVs, This includes the up and coming Venom f5, which has been teased with multiple photos and specs. The first three Venom F5’s are currently in production, and testing will begin in Q2 2020.
The carbon fiber chassis is one of the most talked-about features in this car, and rightly so. It is built to be strong and lightweight, and the chassis itself bears a ridiculously low weight of 86 kilograms (190 lbs). As a whole, the car is said to weigh 1,338 kg, and the horsepower is said to amount to an outstanding 1,817. With these specs in mind, the base price for the Venom F5 is $1.8 million, with just 24 units being planned for production. This is to be an incredible luxe, highly sought after carbon fiber supercar.
The common thread in all of these cars is not just carbon fiber, but also lighter weight, increased speed, greater aerodynamics, and improved performance. It is a testament to the efficacy of carbon fiber that it is used primarily by the top sports car manufacturers and producers in the world. The benefits of carbon fiber are not, however, limited to just sports cars. The all-star material has hit mainstream and is being used to manufacture daily-use cars as well – you can read all the details about that in our article “6 daily cars where carbon fiber is used in the manufacturing process.”