1,001 horsepower. “Who needs 1,001 horsepower?” If you’re asking yourself that question, feel free to move along, as this article probably isn’t for you.
Introduced in 2005, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is one of the newest and the most potent supercars ever to hit the streets. Bugatti is made in Molsheim, France, the location of the original Bugatti factory. A fourteen-year member of the Volkswagen family (if that surprises you, please meet Bugatti’s corporate cousin, Lamborghini, also part of VW since 1998), but draws heavily on the technical expertise of another Volkswagen sibling, Audi, and its German-based engineers.
Aside from the “base” version Veyron (if you can call a one-million Euro car “base”), there have been ten versions of the booming Bugatti, including four types of the Grand Sport targa top model and the ultra-fast Super Sport model, the last one introduced (in 2010). With French names like Pur Sang (“pure blood”) and Sang Noire (“black blood”), they sound as foreboding as they look – purpose-built, land-based missles.
As it’s the most common variant, I will focus on the “basic” Veyron (pronounced “vey–rhone,” the model is named after Frenchman Pierre Veyron, who drove a Bugatti type 57 to a 1939 victory at Le Mans):
- Horsepower – 1,001 at 6,000 rpm (6,500 redline)
- Torque – 922 lb-ft. at 2,200-5,500 rpm (a tremendous power range)
- Engine configuration – 16 cylinders, W formation
- Weight – 4,163 lb (not much less than the largest German luxury liners)
- Acceleration 0-62 mph – 2.5 seconds
- Top speed – 253 mph (408 kph for our foreign readers)
- Price – 1,000,000 Euros when it was announced (depending on the exchange rate, that would translate today to about $1,200,000*)
* These specs and prices vary for the different models, but for this article I have focused on the original Veyron. However, for example, the ultra-rapid Veyron Super Sport has 1,183 horsepower, 1,100 lb-ft of torque and hits a top speed of 268 mph (431 kph). The Super Sport’s selling price also was stratospheric: over $2.6 million, depending on the exchange rate and how good you are at negotiating (“You want floor mats and Armor All?”)
Much has been written about the technological prowess exemplified by this vehicle. But to drive it—thanks to Tim O’Hara and the good folks at O’Gara Coach Company, the official Bugatti dealership in Beverly Hills—is to forget about newtons, which is a good thing as you won’t care a fig about your license once you’re behind the wheel. Some vehicles are fast, others are breathtaking, and this car is – ohmygod. It accelerates so fast that the Roadrunner will ask for a ride. The only streetcar to touch it runs on 1.21 jigawatts. As a friend used to say, “This car is so fast that it takes two people to watch it go by!”
And go it does without a lot of drama (and without any wheelspin, thanks to the four-wheel-drive and the myriad computers which keeps things in balance). How fast is 2.5. seconds? About the time it takes to read one line of this article. And how fast is 253 miles per hour? How does Mach .33 sound? Dr. Mach would label this European projectile “subsonic” though it’s a sonic marvel – mix sixteen cylinders pressurized by four turbos into one major center-mounted exhaust pipe and you get a sound like no other vehicle on the road.
Some numbers are mythical – the four-minute mile; the 100 mph car; the speed of sound. The Veyron obliterates so many of what heretofore were considered maximums; a brief list is in order:
- 1,001 horsepower is roughly double what street cars had topped out at, and beats by over 400 what other supercars could produce (the Ferrari Enzo puts out about 660 ponies)
- 16 cylinders is double the norm these days, with a few Ferraris, Lamborghinis, BMWs and Mercedes venturing into V-12 land (with four valves per cylinder and four separate turbochargers, it needs two huge roof-mounted snorkels to breathe and ten radiators [!] to dissipate all of that heat)
- 253 miles per hour is so amazingly fast, not only as it is well above what other supercars can attain, it requires incredible power to get there. An engine needs an additional eight horsepower just to push even a low-profile car like this one kilometer-per-hour faster than 400 kph. How fast is 253 mph? How about LA to SF in an hour and twenty minutes, door to door (assuming a straight shot with no traffic) – the only faster way involves removing your shoes and getting wanded – however, please note that the alternate travel vender now is offering a free massage to every tenth guest.
- And while discussing mythical numbers, one must mention the price. Although “prices may vary,” the original Veyron sold for approximately $1,750,000 out the door (the amount of one price increase was equivalent to about one Carrera Cabriolet 4S). And at just over six miles per gallon, clearly one doesn’t buy this car for the economy. Your first DMV visit would get you an S Mercedes with all the trimmings. But never has it been more true than here to say “If you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”
Driving this chariot on the street is a thrill and a challenge. The thrill is obvious. The challenge comes from driving a land-based rocket ship that’s very low (48”) and very wide (79”, or barely two inches narrower than a Hummer H-2) and very close to the ground (less than five inches in normal mode, lowered to just over three inches for warp speed) while avoiding car buffs hanging out of neighboring vehicles trying to snap a picture-phone photo to show their friends. The Veyron-Meets-LA Story reminds us of an important calculation – as Sir Isaac Newton warned us, V+E=T (the Velocity of the car multiplied by the Ecstasy experienced by the driver equals the Trunk of the car in front of you, which would be a very expensive math lesson).
Surprisingly, the Veyron does not impose a punishing performance. Thanks to a DMG twin-clutch gearbox, which has seven forward speeds to chose among, the driver could opt for the ubiquitous paddle shifters or go for the full-auto treatment. And those shift times! Incredibly, the computer can grab gears in under 150 milliseconds, which gives an acceleration that’s as seamless as it is unrelenting.
Speaking of performance, you certainly wouldn’t want the valet to go airborne (“Bueller? Bueller?”) and the Bugatti folks have thought of that, too. Unless you turn the special key in the special lock located in a special place (I am sworn to secrecy), the suspension won’t lower and the car can’t go over 200 mph. Now, don’t you feel better handing over the keys?
Going fast is great but what about cornering and stopping? This car can pull a phenomenal 1.3 Gs on the skid pad, way beyond almost anything other than a racing cart. On one of my several drives, I had the pleasure of chasing my good friend, Matt, in a second Veyron (lots of Tweets that day – “OMG, I just saw TWO Veyrons on Olympic!!!”) along Mulholland Drive, where the Veyron rivals the painted lane lines for adhesion. And the massive brakes – 15.75” fronts, 15.00” rear – can pull this beast back to earth so fast that whatever you’ve left stuck to the rear window on acceleration will return to its normal location pronto – 62mph to zero in an astonishing 2.3 seconds, covering only 103 feet.
(Think about it – the Veyron can go from zero to 62 and back to zero before most “fast” cars get to 60!) Of course, if you’re at the top speed of 252 mph, even brilliant brakes like these can do only so much but, not surprisingly, the Bugatti engineers have come up with another ingenious device – the rear spoiler, which opens and tilts to help create downforce to keep this missile Earthbound, and then tilt even further on deceleration from top speeds so that it serves as an airbrake (heretofore seen only on airplane wings).
The tires are another exercise in pushing the envelope. Michelin, working with Bugatti, developed the new Pilot Sport PS2 PAX (265-680 R 500 A fronts, 365-710 R 540 rears), the widest production tire in the world. Yet their width is not that great in light of their height and huge inside diameter, which was required to fit around the massive brakes. And width is important here as wide tires have greater rolling resistance, which would make it impossible to meet the acceleration and top-speed numbers that the Veyron can achieve. One more technological leap – the tires utilize VCP (variable contact patch) design, which allows them actually to deform when cornering in order to create the greatest possible contact with the road (an important requirement when cornering at warp speed).
With an awesome sound system (reportedly costing $30,000), which to my ear rivaled but couldn’t beat the 16-piece mechanical orchestra, one’s never at a loss for aural pleasures. What’s it like to drive? Like no other two- or four-wheeled vehicle I’ve piloted. Although I’ve ridden superbikes with similar acceleration specs, the roar of the mighty 16 coupled with an amazing transmission and super-sticky tires literally launch the Veyron into time-travel mode. While actually quite docile in traffic (remember, this is LA and we couldn’t schedule the drives for that traffic-free 2:45 am-3:10 am window), with your choice of arias to zydeco pumping out of the speakers, it’s extremely smooth under normal acceleration in the automatic mode.
But stomp the go pedal and, quicker than you can say “phone booth”, this car is transformed into a lightning bolt. With its power and agility, this car finds traffic. Like nature and her feelings about vacuums, the B car finds a crowd while underway and when parked – but in motion, it wants to fill all open roads immediately. When friend Matt and I borrowed perhaps the only two Veyrons ever seen together and wended our way through Century City (what a straightaway Avenue of the Stars can be at mid-day) then up and down the Beverly Glens, Mulhollands and Coldwaters of the basin that we call home, it was a total hoot. How long do the smiles last? So far, several years and counting. In a phrase, we hit the Gearhead Powerball Extravaganza.
For more on the incredible Veyron, please visit www.ogaracoach.com or www.bugatti.com
Tim Lappen’s practice, spanning more than 37 years, emphasizes representing family offices as well as projects involving general corporate and real estate law, including business and real estate syndications and investments. Tim is the founder and chairman of his law firm’s Family Office Group, and he also is a member of his firm’s Corporate, Real Estate, Hospitality, Entertainment and Banking & Finance Groups. Read more about him here.
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