If you think that a Ferrari is pricy, consider its cost compared to this Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport. Tomorrow morning, let’s say Bill Gates decides to buy every Ferrari model available on the market – the new 458, the 599, the 612 and the California ¬– and then decides to add an Enzo in, just for fun. Total cost to him would be a little more than two million dollars, Canadian.
Or, instead of all those cars, and for about 200 grand more, he could buy the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, which will be sold for 2.2 million dollars. It is THE most expensive production car in the world.
Only 150 Bugatti Grand Sports will be produced at the rate of two vehicles per week in the Bugatti factory at Molsheim, in Alsace, France. And in spite of its astronomical price, one-third of the cars have already found buyers.
A Rolling Superlative
Far more than a means of transportation, the Veyron represents a technological achievement. It is also the ultimate example of the ultimate automobile in all its splendour or its indecency – it all depends on which side of the fence you are situated. It is also a monument to the oversized ego of Ferdinand Piëch, brilliant engineer, great grandnephew of Ferdinand Porsche and the man behind the repurchase of Bugatti in 1998.
But the Veyron is above all the last example of uncompromising automotive engineering in its most enjoyable form. This exotic car’s numbers represent the most impressive statistics in the automotive industry. Its 8-litre, 16-cylinder, low pressure quad-turbocharged engine, in a W configuration, delivers 1001 horsepower.
To keep a cool head, Bugatti has installed nine radiators on the car. The rear tires are about one foot wide and the car weights nearly two tons unloaded. In our era of politically and environmentally sensitive times, this car is the last big kick in the backside of conventions, and that is why I am so proud that I had the opportunity to drive it.
Grand Sport or Coupe
But before going any further, let us examine what makes the difference between the Veyron Coupe and the Grand Sport versions. In comparison to the Veyron Coupe, the Grand Sport displays a slightly elevated windshield and redesigned lights. The engineers at Molsheim have worked on rigidity to compensate for the absence of a roof. Thus the monocoque structure has been reinforced at the lateral sills level and at the central tunnel, adding 40 kg in the process. The B-pillars have been strengthened transversely with a carbon fibre rod. Lastly, a carbon plate has been added under the central tunnel.
Other modifications have been made to increase security for the carbon fibre doors. To protect the two occupants in case of a crash, the two air intakes that ventilate the 16-cylinder have been modified to prevent squashing in case of somersault. The cockpit is swathed in moisture-resistant leather. The rear view camera with an integrated display in the rear fender is part of the standard equipment. Thus, when the roof is closed, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport can reach 407 km/h. When the roof is off, it can still speed up to 360 km/h. And since there is no way of fitting the targa roof into the car, an “emergency” roof/folding umbrella top allows passenger protection during an impromptu shower. But then, the maximum speed is limited at 160 km/h.
The moment of truth
Accompanied by my co-pilot, we have left the city centre by passing Stanley Park to find out how convivial this vehicle really is. The seven-speed DSG gearbox makes driving as easy as driving a Civic, except that the seats are much lower. The vehicle does not really appreciate poor road surfaces, but that is the case for the majority of exotic cars. The lateral vision is not ideal because of the B-pillars and the cockpit is a bit tight for the legs, but the comfort of the seat compensates.
Soon afterwards is the highway exit to Whistler. I begin to perceive the potential of the engine by taking the access road. The president of Lamborghini Vancouver Asqar Virji opens the way, driving a black Lamborghini LP 560. After a few minutes of coping with the traffic, the road becomes less travelled, the black Lamborghini dashes off and my instructor, calm, tells me to wait. We let the Lambo accelerate at top speed for about 10 good seconds and suddenly, I get the green light. I start by downshifting to third, punching the gas pedal all the way down.
The violence of the thrust disturbs my brain. The red line reaches really quickly, its 6,500 disappearing revolutions forcing the driver to change speed very rapidly. In less than eight seconds, I have charged up from 80 to 240 km/h by only adding only two gears, and arrived right behind the Lamborghini like a missile.
The stability of the vehicle is unreal. The Bugatti engineer onsite in Vancouver, Jens Schulenberg, explained to me that it took six years of work to create. Being capable of road holding powers with all the electronic aids to a vehicle more powerful than a F1 car almost results in science fiction on wheels. All the systems have been designed to react within milliseconds. Just imagine, this Veyron accelerates to 100 km/h in 2.7 seconds - in first gear. Add 4.7 s, and we get to 200 km/h. Add another 9.4 s with the accelerator pinned and the car crushes the 300 km/h threshold. And the tempest stops only beyond 400 km/h.
Following these few seconds of frenzy, the 400 mm carbon-ceramic brakes come into play by stopping the vehicle as ferociously as it accelerates. I even had help from the rear wing that transforms itself into a high-speed air brake. I almost had the impression of having a parachute. I believe this adrenaline rush can only be described as surrealist.
The one small disappointment, if your eardrums have enjoyed the exuberance of a V8 Ferrari or a V12 Lamborghini, is that this Veyron Grand Sport does not offer the aural enchantment that we expect from the king of exotic cars. But the unlimited power largely compensates this slightly monotone mechanical exhaust note.
For the really rich people that can afford a 70 000$ check-up at lease once a year. It is simply another planet.
Amazing driving ease