But, whats the Bugatti Veyron like to drive?

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But, whats the Bugatti Veyron like to drive?

by Harry Metcalfe, windingroad.com, Dec 2005

The Studio Torino RK Spyder Supercar
Porsche Boxster or a Nissan 350Z - you decide
2005 Lotus Elise
Porsche Carrera GT

Dr. Ferdinan Piech

Bugatti Veyron

W-16 engine

F1 passed, the Bugatti would still reach 200 mph just before the McLaren did. Head spinning, I retired to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a big day. This was it then, and it was a b

This car is already the stuff of legend. In the early days of its development, so one of the stories goes, the engineers were struggling to get the needed power from the engine. So they asked for a meeting with Dr. Ferdinan Piech of parent company VW/Audi and suggested it might be easier to launch the Veyron with 700 to 800 hp and work up to 1000 hp with later derivatives, once they'd figured out how to do it. Piech fixed them with the famous deathrays, dismissed their suggestion and ordered them out, telling them not to return until the power figure started with a one.

But the horsepower isn't the only extraordinary statistic, of course. On the evening before our test drive, we'd only been in Sicily for a couple of hours, and I was already suffering from number fatigue. Take the Veyron's official top speed of 253 mph. The Veyron is actually capable of pushing on past 257 mph, with each further 1 mph beyond 248 mph requiring an additional 8 hp to overcome air resistance. At maximum speed, the 8-liter W-16 engine is consuming fuel at a rate of 2.3 mpg, meaning the 22-gallon tank would run dry after just 12 minutes (or 51 miles) of flat-out motoring.

Should you need to stop in a hurry, the Veyron will go from 250 mph to standstill in just 9.8 seconds, the vast Michelin tires needing just 1500 feet of tarmac to grapple with. That's bordering on surreal, but then so are the acceleration times. According to Bugatti, 0-60 mph takes under 2.5 seconds, 0-125 mph 7.3 seconds, 0-186 mph 16.7 seconds and 0- 250 mph 55.6. To put it in perspective, if a fully wound-up McLaren F1 went past a poised, stationary Veyron at 100 mph and the Veyron driver gave it the gun as the F1 passed, the Bugatti would still reach 200 mph just before the McLaren did. Head spinning, I retired to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a big day. This was it then, and it was a beautiful morning. Only three of the five Veyrons that were brought to Sicily for the launch were being used, but there they were, lined up outside the hotel, engines warmed, ready for our departure. It was quite a sight. The Veyron is a truly beautiful car; the signature Bugatti horseshoe grille and the subtle curves looked timeless in this early morning light. Yet the twin alloy air intakes peeking over the roofline leave the onlooker in no doubt that this is something immensely powerful, almost dragster-like, an impression reinforced by the huge, naked engine externals that lie between the highly polished intakes. The only jarring element is the front bonnet, which sits proud of the front wings, making it appear as if it isn't closed properly.

The door opened wide and although there was a wide sill, getting into the large, airy cabin was easy. It was a wonderful place to be. The roof, pillars and dash were covered in a mix of leather and Alcantara that looked beautifully classy, especially juxtaposed with the machined alloy center console. The steering wheel is a work of art in itself, with its aluminum spokes and perfectly shaped rim. Behind the horizontal spokes are the two aluminum paddles for manually controlling the seven-speed DSG gearbox (left for changing down, right for changing up).

The dash itself is less successful, the binnacle dominated by a needlessly huge rev-counter, redlined at 6500 rpm, flanked by a smaller speedo (calibrated to 280 mph on our car) to the right and the intriguing "power" dial (calibrated to 1001 hp) on the left. Above these are tiny fuel and water temperature gauges, almost too small to read, their legibility not helped by the redon- black markings.

Starting the mighty engine involved inserting a generic Audi-style key into the dash and hitting the start button that sits behind the gear selector. There was a beguiling, multi-cylinder whirl as the starter, located just behind me, whisked the W-16 into life, then a wall of mechanical sound reached the cabin before the giant settled to a busy tickover, the mighty gearbox chattering discreetly beside me within the center console. There was an acute sense of being close to the action. The noise emanating from the engine was just that, though, a busy noise granted, but not a particularly tuneful one - blipping the throttle seemed only to raise the noise level, rather than bring the 16 cylinders into some sort of harmonic order. (From the outside, it was significantly better; there's a classy, deep and purposeful rumble to an idling Veyron.) To move off, you can either nudge the central gear selector into drive or tap the right-hand paddle to manually select the tall first gear. As you release the foot-brake the car starts to inch forward thanks to the clever DSG gearbox having a helpful degree of "creep" built into it.

By the time we finally nosed out of the parking lot, it was rammed with onlookers and it was a relief to be out on the fantastic, winding roads of Sicily. I seemed to be sitting quite low, but as the sports seats don't adjust for height I had to lump it. Visibility was good directly to the front and rear, but not as good to the sides. The huge A-pillars and mirrors created a worryingly large blind-spot when maneuvering, an activity that is further hindered by simply a huge turning circle.

We found a terrific coastal road for some photography, which means seriously extending the Veyron would have to wait a while. So far, I had only the briefest opportunity to wake the power dial from its slumber, but the DSG gearbox had already made a big impression for its sheer usability. Having wrestled recently with the carbon clutch on a Carrera GT and the notchy 'box of a Pagani Zonda F, this was a revelation. The seven gears slipped home with no hint of lost momentum yet without suffering from that slightly disconnected feel you get with a manually operated auto 'box (or even an automated manual, for that matter).

Far from being a huge challenge to drive, the 1000 hp Bugatti was so far proving to be a very friendly device. The ride was firm but cosseting, and the steering was outstanding. Considering the size of the front tires, the weighting at the steering wheel was extraordinarily good, and there was a constant chatter of information coming via the leather rimmed wheel. Turning either side of dead center simply required a linear increase in effort, gently building as lock increased. It's easily the best steering I've encountered on any car from the VW Group, and it kept reinforcing the reassuring feeling of connectedness.

Time was tight if we were going to do more than take pictures, so I headed in the direction of the nearest autostrada, perched above on 650-foot-high pillars and hugging the northern coastline. A winding access road took me onto the slip-road, and I surged onto the highway. Finally, I got the chance to give the throttle a bit more than a tickle.

There was a slight pause, as if the mighty engine had to clear its throat before erupting into action. Then, the power dial started to swing into action as first 500, then 600 hp were brought into play. There was no time to think the car simply rocketed into the blackness of a tunnel. I caught sight of 140 mph on the tiny speedo; this was insane. Short seconds later, I burst back into the sunlight, and a touch on the right paddle slipped yet another cog into play without any pause in the action; I couldn't help but think that all other supercar transmissions were going to feel very crude after this. We swung through a series of curves that joined the tunnels together, and thumps echoed through the cabin as we crossed expansion joints inevitable with such massive tires and the carbon fiber body.

I was cruising at 130 mph in fourth, with barely 200 hp being called on, according to the power indicator. The Metcalfe brain computed that this meant there's around 800 hp waiting in the wings. Introducing the throttle to the carpet again seemed the only sensible option.

Whoah! As the tach swung past 4500 rpm, we were leaving the relative sanity of Ferrari Enzo levels of power and entering the exclusive Veyron zone: 700 hp rapidly became 800, the engine note grew menacingly deeper, more gravelly as the revs rose ever higher, the acceleration hit, intensifying beyond hurricane force as the needle stormed through 900 hp and lunged for the final 1001-hp marker. This was an entirely new dimension of accelerative excess, four turbos whistled behind me as the red line approached, and my eyes were fixed on a previously non- existent corner that was fast approaching. Another gear slipped home just as I started to ease off for the corner at 190 mph.

Outside, the dramatic rear spoiler was brought into play. Normally it lies flush with the bodywork, but it rose on its hydraulically powered struts once the speed exceeded 138 mph. It also functions as an air brake, tilting upwards in just 0.4 seconds to add up to 0.6 g to the braking effort, as well as increasing downforce over the rear axle.

The Veyron was clearly in its element on the autostrada, but how would all this power translate to the twistier sections of the Targa Florio course? We pulled off at the next junction and joined part of the historic roadrace route. With "handling" mode engaged (the ride height dropped 1.7 inches at the front and 1.2 inches at the rear, while the rear spoiler was permanently raised), we were immediately into a rhythm as the road flowed gracefully up the hillside in a series of constantradius curves. The Veyron seemed to control roll exceptionally well (the super-wide track must have helped), while the tireless brakes (eight-pot calipers on 15.7- inch carbon discs at the front, six pots and 15-inch discs at the rear) were so good you never notice how hard you're making them work. The pedal pressure remained constant while they refused to grumble (a common problem with carbon brakes) despite the massive weight they were having to slow.

Information about the changing grip at the road surface kept flowing to my fingertips. I could also sense when the rear tires started to get overloaded with torque; just as I thought it was about time I eased off the power, the electronically controlled rear diff shuffled the excess power to the front. I was surprised at the amount of turbo lag the Veyron seemed to suffer, though. Extracting over 1000 hp from an eight-liter engine that revs to 6500 rpm still required relatively high boost pressures (1.2 bar in the Veyron's case) and the four turbos, which all come into play simultaneously, took time to spool up. When I went into an overtake in toohigh a gear, there was an uncomfortable moment when there didn't seem to be anything happening, followed by a sudden, almighty rush.

felt the weight at the rear starting to get the upper hand. A front/rear weight balance of 45/55 sounded pretty good, but according to Bugatti, the quoted 4153-pound weight was in fact a dry weight. To get a truer figure, you need to allow for 25 gallons of fuel, 10.5 gallons of water for engine cooling, four gallons of water for the twin chargecooler circuit, five gallons of engine oil, a further six gallons for the gearbox and another four gallons for hydraulics, brakes, etc. That puts the weight closer to 4620 pounds. Bugatti says the figure was a lot higher, but they've taken nearly 450 pounds out of the car since 2003. Still, there's 2541 pounds over the rear axle, and that's over 28 pounds more than the total weight of a McLaren F1. So it's no Elise (or F1). But, while the weight works against it on these roads, that's not to say it feels unwieldy or difficult. In fact, it handles amazingly well, and having 1000 hp to play with on these roads was an absolute blast. The problem for Bugatti is that, in creating a mid-engined supercar, it is inviting comparisons with other mid-engined cars that are bound to be lighter and, therefore, more nimble. Cars like the Carrera GT and Zonda F. Choosing the Veyron over these rivals is to admit that you're more likely to get your kicks from the Bugatti's pulverising acceleration on the straights, rather than enjoying race-car dynamics through the curves. None of which should stop us from celebrating the Veyron's existence. It is a true engineering marvel, and some of the world's greatest engineers have worked long years to turn Ferdinand Piech's vision of the world's first 1000- hp supercar into reality. That seven-speed DSG gearbox is one of the finest pieces of engineering I've ever sampled in a car, period. The ride is superbly judged, as are the steering and the brakes. In fact, the ease of driving this 250 mph-plus car was extraordinary, while the build quality is such that it simply feels it will last forever. It's also one of the best looking cars on the planet. In previous decades, Piech's magnificent obsessions have brought us the all-conquering Porsche 917 and Audi Quattro. Today, we have another masterpiece, the 1000-hp Bugatti Veyron 16.4. Whatever its detractors would like us to think, the world is a better place because of it

Bugatti Veyron 16.4 $1,250,000 same W-16 8 L DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder 987hp @ 6000 rpm 922 lb-ft @ 2200-5500 rpm 472 hp/ton 441 lb-ft/ton mid engine, AWD six-speed manual 7-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox rack & pinion carbon-ceramic discs, ABS, ESP 256-680 front, 365-710 rear 106.3 in 175.8 in 78.7 in 47.5 in 2 passeneger 4162 lb 2.9 sec 10 mpg 12 mpg



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