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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Bugatti Veyron is the Closest You’ll Get to a Fighter Jet: First Drive


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.

You look down at the beautifully machined aluminum steering wheel, bathed in the kind of opulence you expect to see only in movies. Your vision darts around the cabin, soaking in the glorious blue leather as your fingertips run over every inch of the trim.
Then, as if drawn in by some sort of gravitational pull, your hand moves towards the starter button. Your heart starts to race, your hands become sweatier than you even thought possible. You whisper a silent prayer in both anticipation and fear that nothing will go wrong. And this is all before you even start the car.

Truth be told, I’ve been fortunate enough to drive some of the most wild automobiles on the planet. But it’s this car—the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse—that caused my hands to physically shake before pressing the ignition and releasing all 1,200 raging horses from the ludicrous 16.4-liter W16 engine. But with a deep breath, I steadied my hands, and ignited the king of all supercars.


The Devil is in the Details

But before we get into the good stuff, trust me when I say it’s the tiny details that make the Bugatti Veyron such a triumph of engineering. For instance, one of the most interesting pieces of information about the car’s development comes from the valve stem caps on the tires. Due to the immense rotational forces applied to the caps when the Veyron guns for top speed, Bugatti needed to essentially re-invent the valve stem cap. A normal cap, due to its shape and weight, had the possibility of ripping a wheel off at those speeds because of the forces exerted on it.

To alleviate the problem, Bugatti made the cap out of titanium, reinforced the threading, and decreased the weight to 2.2 grams. Additionally, because the Veyron was exerting so much downward force on the tires at top speed, the valve stems themselves had to be re-engineered. This was due to the air in the tires being forcibly pushed out as the Veyron’s speed climbed. And the Bugatti Veyron is full of these little details—these little nuances that even most supercar manufacturers wouldn’t sweat.


One of the most important details on this car, though, is the braking system. Rather than installing a normal version, which has the tendency to lock up the tires under hard braking, Bugatti completely re-engineered it for the Veyron. In order to stop the car at those speeds, Bugatti developed a system that stops the wheels faster than the road speed. Essentially, it locks the tire for a fraction of a second, but then allows the tire to slip so as to not completely lock up. This thereby gives the car more stopping power as it allows both the brakes and the tires to work harder.

Because of the goal Bugatti set out to accomplish, these are the details that mattered to the engineers. And without them, this car wouldn’t be the technical accomplishment it is today. Now to the good stuff.


Great Gobs of Fast

Cars like the McLaren 650S and Nissan GT-R are incredibly fast, there’s no debate there. But when I tell you that neither of those cars—hell, no other car on the planet compares to the sheer speed of the Veyron, you better believe it. You can get up to a preposterous, dangerous speed in mere seconds.

Stepping on the gas for the first time catches you off guard. Your mind knows that you have 1,200 horsepower on tap. Your mind knows that it makes 1,100lb-ft of torque. And your mind knows that, according to Bugatti, the Veyron is capable of hitting 1.4 lateral g as you launch the car. But nothing prepares you for what really happens when you step onto the accelerator and the world turns plaid.


Forget whatever you consider fast, it’s just not. Throttling up the Bugatti Veyron is as if you just engaged hyper drive. Everything all of a sudden is just shooting by you as the speedometer needle seems to practically fly off the dial.

It takes only 7.0 seconds for the Veyron to hit 124 miles per hour. For comparison, the McLaren 650S can only manage to hit the same speed in 8.4 seconds. While a second and a half difference doesn’t sound like much, trust me when I say it’s a huge difference.

 Whereas the McLaren’s acceleration tapers off, the Bugatti will continue to pin you in your seat well past triple digit speeds. But it’s how the Bugatti delivers that power that makes it so breathtakingly fun.


You Need a Call Sign to Operate

As journalists, we love to talk about supercars. And in doing so, we have a penchant for likening the sound that supercars make to that of fighter jets. I’m guilty of this myself. But after experiencing the Veyron, if I could retract those previous statements, I would. When you press the accelerator in a Bugatti Veyron, and the quad-turbos begin to spool, you feel like you should be wearing a full-faced helmet and an anti-g suit.

The sound those turbos make when spooling up can only be compared to that of the sound of a jet engine. It begins as a soft hiss, and then builds to an all out crescendo. The Veyron’s engine is brilliant, loud, and practically forces you to slow down in order to then punch it repeatedly. It’s as close to becoming a fighter pilot as you can while still on the road. With that capability of immense speed and acceleration though, you’d think that the Veyron wouldn’t be able to make a turn. You’d be dead wrong.


The Veyron isn’t only an all-out top-speed machine, but one that is equally staggering in terms of how planted it is, even on rougher pavement. As I drove through the mountains near Monterey, the roads became twisty and fast. Both the camber and surface of the road changed constantly, and through it all, I felt as if I could push the Veyron faster through every corner.

This allegedly culminated in taking a turn designed for 35 miles per hour, again allegedly, at 95 miles per hour. The all-wheel drive system is tremendously good, and combined with the direct feel the steering gives you, you have all the confidence in the world to explore the very extreme limits of this car.


The Verdict

If you asked me a few days ago to choose between a 10-year-old Bugatti and a brand new McLaren, I probably would have gone with the latter. But after experiencing a car like the Veyron first hand, I can now safely say that that decision would have been idiotic. Between the acceleration that presses on your chest like you were escaping Earth’s gravitational pull, and the stopping power that rearranges your internal organs, this car—if you can call it that—is astonishing in every sense of the word (as is the price tag).

In just a few short months, Bugatti will introduce the world to the Chiron—a faster, prettier replacement to the Veyron. While it sounds promising, none of that would have been possible without the success of the Veyron. Even ten years after it debuted, the car is a testament of engineering. The car doesn’t feel old, and it sure as hell doesn’t feel slow.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to top the experience that the Veyron delivers. Someone suggested that the only way to top it would be to fly in an actual fighter jet. I wonder how I can make that happen?



Horsepower: 1,183
Engine: 16.4-liter W16
Price (as tested): $2.245 million


Power that rivals the Millennium Falcon
Details are staggeringly beautiful
Even at ten years old, it still feels like a contemporary design


Impossible to see out the back
If you have a bruised lung, the g-force can be a bit painful
Price isn’t exactly user friendly

Photo Credit: Jonathon Klein for BoldRide