There are sports cars, and then there's the Bugatti Veyron 16.4. Years overdue, the Veyron, with its 1000 horsepower, 252 mph top speed and near $1.5 million price, finally arrives on American shores. In mansion garages everywhere, Ferrari Enzos and Lamborghini Murciélagos are now feeling a bit short in the pants.
Even for an exotic sports car, the Veyron's gestation has been odd. After purchasing the rights to the Bugatti marque in 1998, Volkswagen's then boss, Ferdinand Piech, announced a few years later that a new Bugatti sports car, the Veyron, would be in production and ready for sale by 2003. Piech's goal, however, seems a bit unrealistic in hindsight. That year came and went with no car. It wasn't ready engineering-wise and subsequently suffered through a number of embarrassing delays and gaffes.
These problems were eventually sorted and now we have the 2006 Bugatti Veyron 16.4. The body styling is still pretty close to the original 2001 concept car. Though not exactly beautiful, the Veyron certainly has presence. Given the immense specs and hype, one could be forgiven for thinking the car must be rather large, but in fact it's actually a tad shorter than a Porsche 911. But there is a lot of dense mass. Although it uses a carbon-fiber structure and plenty of aluminum, it still weighs more than 2 tons. At high speeds, an active rear wing deploys and the body automatically lowers.
The star of the show is the Veyron's quad-turbo, 8.0-liter W16 engine. (The car name's "16.4" refers to cylinder and turbocharger count.) This engine is not shared with any other product, though in simplified terms its W layout could be described as being two Volkswagen narrow-angle V8s joined together. It's positioned amidships and has celebrity flair -- massive top-mounted intercoolers are exposed, as are two snorkel-like air intakes. It's officially rated at 1001 hp and rumored to make even more. Hiding in the shadow of that eye-catching stat is a not-so-insignificant torque output of 922 pound-feet. All of this superhero power is sent through an exclusive seven-speed sequential-shift manual transmission (VW's DSG) that has a fixed torque split of 30 percent to the front wheels and 70 percent to the rear.
Buying advice, as you can imagine, is largely superfluous. The 2006 Bugatti Veyron will be seen by few and driven and owned by even fewer. Those who have driven it report that it does indeed deliver astonishing performance and technical excellence but at the cost of some emotional involvement. And then there's the real cost -- about $1.5 million, all of it in a rolling depreciating asset. Still, few cars have made such an impact on the automotive marketplace. It is stupendous and ridiculous at the same time, so most of us just have to sit back and admire what a marvelous car Bugatti and VW's engineers have created.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2006 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 exotic sports car comes standard with a two-tone exterior paint scheme. The integrated wheels and tires are from Michelin's run-flat PAX line. Stated measurements don't quite equate to those of normal tires and wheels, but essentially the Veyron has 20-inch wheels in front and 21-inch wheels in back, with expansive tire widths -- 265 mm (about 10.4 inches) and 365 mm (about 14.4 inches) respectively. They're specially designed to handle the car's immense speeds. Behind each wheel are F1-style carbon ceramic disc brakes and a front-and-rear double-wishbone suspension with electronically controlled dampers and height adjustment. Inside, one will find a two-tone leather interior, heated sport or comfort seats, an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player, a navigation system that displays its information in the rearview mirror, and hands-free cell phone connectivity.
Powertrains and Performance
The mid-mounted 8.0-liter W16 has four turbochargers and is rated at 1001 hp at 6000 rpm and 922 lb-ft of torque at 2200 rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels through an exclusive seven-speed, sequential-shift manual gearbox. The transmission has two automatic modes or can be shifted via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Published road tests have indicated that the Veyron takes about 2.8 seconds to reach 60 mph and just 5.5 seconds for 100 mph. Bugatti says top speed is 252 mph, but that's only allowed in a special mode activated via a separate key. Normally, top speed is limited to a (mere) 233 mph.
There are no side or side-curtain airbags. Government-mandated front airbags are included, though they do not yet meet the NHTSA's impending "smart airbag" requirement. Stability control, traction control and antilock carbon disc brakes are standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Veyron's cabin is quite luxurious thanks to its leather upholstery and special aluminum trim that's used for the center stack, steering wheel and other controls. In the gauge cluster is a "power gauge" that gives a real-time indication as to how much horsepower the Veyron is making. Due to its high beltline and a low seating position, one can feel a little claustrophobic, though interior measurements are in fact quite roomy. Outward forward visibility is noticeably poor due to the car's very thick A-pillars.
No quantifiers or asterisks here -- the Veyron is simply the quickest and fastest production car on the planet. Due to its all-wheel drive, the 2006 Bugatti Veyron is capable of applying nearly all of the power from the W16 engine from a start rather than burning it up in pointless wheelspin. Those who have driven it report that acceleration is otherworldly, even when measured against other exotic supercars. Nor is drag racing the Veyron's only trick. Handling is very composed and the car feels surprisingly agile given its curb weight of nearly 4200 pounds. The only thing lacking -- and this is more of an esoteric issue -- is emotional involvement. Designed to perfection, the Veyron doesn't quite generate the visceral appeal that otherwise might come about in an exotic that takes a more raw and hard-edged approach to performance.