First Drive: Bugatti Veyron (2005)

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First Drive: Bugatti Veyron (2005)

By Matt Stone ,

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Bugatti Veyron


First Drive: Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Warp Drive: Not a race car for the road--in spite of its 1001 horsepower and 250+ mph top speed--but the world's most outrageous luxury GT.

Each handbuilt Bugatti Veyron costs $1.25 million. Its extraordinary W- 16 engine has as many cylinders and turbochargers as four Subaru WRXs--and more horsepower. The big, bad Bug accelerates quicker than a NASCAR stocker and is faster than a Formula 1 machine, yet it's as docile as a Lexus. It's the fastest, quickest, and most expensive production road car ever sold.

The Veyron is the vision of one man--retired VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piech--and Bugatti won't make a dime on its entire anticipated production run of just 300 cars (50 per year max, with approximately one third of those headed to the United States). Its main mission is the ultimate brand flagship, reintroducing this storied French marque to the marketplace in more-than-fine style.

Comparisons with the Ferrari Enzo, Maserati MC12, Mercedes-Benz SLR, and the McLaren F1 of a decade ago are inevitable but irrelevant--they interpret race-car ethos into an exotic street machine. Instead, the Veyron 16.4 was conceived as the world's ultimate luxury gran turismo, which just happens to employ considerable race-car technology and performance to get there. A significant difference.

We drove the Veyron 16.4, and, indeed, it's an experience like no other. There isn't enough room in this magazine to describe all its techno- wizardry, and our test gear has yet to be strapped to this amazing machine. But let's have a look and taste of the car that'll be parking in front of the Casino in Monte Carlo, tearing up the autobahns, and starring on the lawns of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 50 years from now.

Veyron: On the Road

As I pilot the 16.4 through one of Sicily's mile-long tunnels, and the speedo swings past 280 kilometers per hour (about 174 mph), I now know what it feels like to be a hollow-point slug traveling down the barrel of a long-nose 44 Magnum. Potent forces lunge me forward, the tunnel's lights blur into streaks, and the W-16's subwoofered rumble is magnified by the rock walls. That tiny white dot way up ahead represents the end of the barrel, and bursting out into the daylight is as bright as any weapon's muzzle flash.

Mashing the gas brings a controlled thousand (and one!) horsepower response that must be felt to be believed. The four turbos and engine- management system serve power as fast as the tires can stand it, and the gravity presses your internal organs together. You slow down to a mere 100 or so, just so you can spool up the snails and do it all again.

Yet, for all its brute force, there's polish, sophistication, smoothness. The ride is firm while suppler than that of any other exotic. Hit a bump, and there's none of the body crashing and bashing evident with many stiffly sprung, carbon-fiber intensive machines. Wind noise is commendably low, although the amount of road rumble allowed by the Veyron-specific Michelin PAX tires is dependent upon road surface and condition.

As amazing as the powerplant is, it's the transmission that impresses. VW group's dual-clutch sequential gearbox technology (Audi TT VR6, A3) has been supersized to handle this mountain of power and given seven ratios to do so. Shifts are instantaneous, with none of the lurching or delay common in other auto-clutch manuals. Downshifts are equally outstanding, accompanied by a proper, rev-matching throttle blip. Ferrari already wants to buy the design.

The cabin is awash in beautiful looking/feeling/smelling materials. All the stuff that seems like satin-finished aluminum really is, and the only no- cost option is a choice of "comfort" or "sport" seats; we prefer the latter. If there's a downer, it's visibility. There's a blind spot on the right side, and the left-side mirror placement isn't ideal, either. The nav screen is embedded in the rearview mirror--good for line of sight--but it's way small. And the front trunk is shoebox-size, but it is enough to hold your companion's cocktail dress and a bottle of Cristal.

Bugatti has delivered on every one of the Veyron's considerable promises. It meets the criteria set forth by Chairman Piech when it was announced and does so with aplomb. Luxurious, elegant, imposing, exclusive, crazy expensive, and mind-bendingly fast, the Veyron sets a new high watermark for grand-touring transport.

10 coolest things about the Bugatti Veyron...

1. A second key is required to program the car into its top "Speed" mode. 2. How many other cars are ballsy enough to have a horsepower gauge? 3. The top of the engine is exposed; there's no glass or other cover. 4. It'll score you the best parking place at any restaurant anywhere in the world. 5. The audio system costs $30 grand. 6. Switch the stability control off, and it'll spin all four wheels in third gear. 7. Going 0-to-250 mph takes less than a minute. 8. At full throttle in seventh gear, the Veyron gets less than three mpg. 9. What looks like a secondary rear spoiler is in fact an air brake. 10. Bugatti requires a deposit of more than $350,000 just to place an order.

Full Article: ndex.html

Photography by Mark Bramley Motor Trend, January 2005

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