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Veyron equals1,000 hp, 1 million bucks

December 21, 2003|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

If history has anything to say about it, Ettore Bugatti would probably approve of the company's latest creation, the Veyron.

The man who once passionately proclaimed, "Nothing is too beautiful, nothing is too expensive," would no doubt view this megabuck, megahorsepower sculpture as a modern extension of the company he began building nearly a century ago.

Bugatti's factory in France turned out about 8,000 vehicles in total, including some of the most successful racing machinery of the 1920s and '30s as well as small runs of luxury cars from 1910-'57, 10 years after his death at age 66. All were known for their power and extraordinary beauty and the surviving cars represent iron-clad investments for their owners

Following a brief revival in the early 1990s, Volkswagen purchased the rights to the Bugatti name in 1998 and is now the keeper of the Ettore's legacy.

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The car that will finally reach (very) limited production will officially be titled the Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron. The first prototype was first seen at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show.

When the first of approximately 20 (out of a planned 300) year-one Veyrons leaves its assembly building in Molsheim-Dorlisheim (the French ancestral home of Bugatti) beginning in mid-2004, it will be the most expensive production sports cars ever, with a price tag of $1.2 million. That's a lot of money, but an amount commensurate with a car that lives up to its stellar heritage and one that's designed to be superior in content and in performance to anything on the road.

For those who dote on superlatives, the mid-engine Veyron absolutely defies description. The car is equipped with an 8.0-liter (488 cubic-inch) DOHC 16-cylinder powerplant that is made using two eight cylinder blocks joined side-by-side in a 'W' arrangement at a 90-degree angle. Also part of the 64-valve engine package are four turbochargers that help push the motor's output to an astonishing 1,001 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. and 922 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,200-5,500 rpm.

The Veyron's power is transmitted to all four wheels on a permanent basis via a Formula One-inspired seven-speed sequential manual transmission that operates without the driver having to push a clutch.

You would expect a sports machine of this caliber to deliver exemplary performance and the Veyron certainly doesn't disappoint. According to the manufacturer, 0-to-60 mph flashes by in a scant three seconds and the 200 mph mark is breached just 11 seconds later. Top speed, for those brave enough to make the attempt, is rated at 252 mph That would make the Veyron the fastest "production" car to ever bash the boulevard, besting the legendary McLaren F1 by about 10 mph.

Structurally, the Veyron has a single-piece carbon-fiber monocoque body with front and rear aluminum sub-frames. Fresh air to cool the W16 is ducted through a traditional Bugatti horseshoe-shaped grille plus inlets ahead of the rear wheels and on either side of the roof.

At high speeds, a rear spoiler is deployed to create extra downforce, but will also act as an air brake by tilting straight up to produce maximum wind resistance - like a parachute - during an emergency stop.

The interior is obviously coated in the finest of leathers (two-tone, if desired) and is devoid of all but the most essential of instrumentation. This simplicity is in stark contrast to the banks of switches, dials and electronic information displays that festoon other so-called luxury rigs. A large, round tachometer is the main information focus for the driver and is centrally located behind the Veyron's thickly padded steering wheel.

With such an expensive piece of rolling sculpture in your driveway (?), the question of service and maintenance naturally crops up. A spokesman for Bugatti addressed the issue saying that the company would fly technicians anywhere in the world to perform the required work.

Money aside, reasons for purchasing the Veyron will no doubt extend to Bugatti's rich, colorful heritage and illustrious racing pedigree.

Thanks to parent Volkswagen's commitment to a near-100-year-old legend, a new chapter in the Bugatti book is about to unfold, in grand style and with a grand price. Somewhere, Ettore is nodding in approval.




Malcolm Gunn is Wheelbase Communications' chief road tester and historical writer.

© 2003, Wheelbase Communications

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