Cooley On Cars
2013 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport VitesseFor its big company sophistication, fastest-in-the-world title, haughty heritage, and now open-air design, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse really is in a class of one.
When you make about the only car in the world that can impress people in Monaco around breakfast time and do the same thing in St. Moritz at lunch the same day, what do you do for an encore? You take the top off. Let's drive the 2013 Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse and check the tech. In fact, this is the halo car of halo cars. Back in 1998, Volkswagen bought up the rights to the Bugatti auto brand name. About all that was left was of a store aide French carmaker that by then was better known for making air craft landing gear. Probably holding up the last jet you flew. But with this move, VW set out to prove it's about more than just jaunty Jettas and failed Phaetons. And by 2001, they unveiled the Veyron. This is its latest iteration. Now I've got the Bugatti staff 10 yards away from me and I'll still tell you this car is not exactly conventionally pretty to my eye. But such as the tyranny of aerodynamics, if you wanted your 250 plus and stay on the surface of the Earth, you shape the car exactly as the wind tells you to. And do it with a smile. What's interesting is those who've taken this thing to the limit on the track with the top off, always remark how still it remains in the cabin. The body is basically all-carbon fiber, you can even order the car finished in a clear coat so everybody knows it. It seats two in front of its massive mid-mounted engine and offers virtually no rear visibility. You handle blind spots by driving away from them. Now when you build a car like this, nothing about its routine-- it's kinda like one big rolling book of bar trivia. Just at this one corner, I could tell you stories for an hour. These tires for example, they're made to order because no other car uses them. And they're about $25,000 a set. And when you replace those every third time, you're advised to replace the wheels as well pushing about 49 grand a set. Even these valve stems are unique. Extra strong spring is in them because at 3,000 or so rpm on the wheel when you're at full tilt, conventional valve stems springs would open up and bleed out the tire. Not good at 200 plus. When you do get a tune up, most of this outside body work has to come off to get to the spark plugs. On those months, your mortgage drops to number 2 in the budget. Now the specs of this car and particularly its engine have been breathlessly over-covered by every blog and car magazine on Earth. So I'm not gonna kill you with that, except to talk about the architecture of this guy. This is an 8-Liter quad turbo W16. The W16 part throws a lot of people. Here's what it means. It's basically 2 kind of V8s that are both siamesed together, sharing one crank. I say kind of V8 because each of these 2 banks of 8 cylinders are sitting in a nested format. That means they take up less longitudinal room when those two 8-cylinder banks are put together on one crank and that means much better packaging. This engine would be substantially longer and more on wieldy and throw off the balance of this car if it was a traditional architecture. The results-- 1,200 horsepower and 1,106 foot pounds of torque-- yes, both 4 figures. I have never seen that in a car we've reviewed before. That means it's roughly 4,400 pound vehicle, it's quite dense, gets up to 60 in a mere 2.6 seconds. All of that thanks to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission that's been beefed up quite a bit for the additional power of this Vitesse going out to all-wheel drive. There's no other way you could distribute that power otherwise. MPG, if you care, is about 815. You don't care. Now inside this guy, it's frankly CNET's nightmare, we don't have every tech option, you can get navigation. They don't make a big deal about it. And then you can imagine why? Instead, it's a simple set of climate controls, some basic radio and CD controls. Good ole analog gauges that are real crisp and nicely placed. There is an iPod connectors that's relatively new for the Veyrons and a cool little retracting spool reel here. Why don't other car makers think of that? So here we are and stopping no traffic in California's Wine Country and believe it or not, this is not wasted footage. Because I've driven a lot of so called super cars that have a very un-super gear box-- very cantankerous sometimes at this level. This car has impressed me with its ability to be docile and drive like a sledge box when you want it to. And then of course transfer all that out at other times when you want it to. That's a pretty good trick. It makes the most amazing sounds. There's whirring. There's growling. There are these sounds like a medium caliber hand gun going off. Those are the boost valves on the turbo. It's releasing excess pressure. Now all these cars been clocked at 254 miles an hour the top off, it's actually only going to go there if you have a special mode on, a high speed mode. That limits the top speed to a mere 233. I know that you're all asking, "Hey, coolie. Is it really that fast?" Well, let me tell you. There's no way you can flex this car on public road for any degree of responsibility. Really remain a mere reality. Neither it's zero to 16 or top speed or any other metric have much relevance on the street. About the only icon of its prowess is that the window's automatically raised at 95 miles an hour. At which point you are still in second gear and wondering where that stretch of road went. And in some strange sense, there's almost nothing you can do with this car in a public road you couldn't do in a $70,000 Audi, except this. Pulling up in a Veyron creates an event. In the space of 20 minutes, I had one person offer, rather seriously to trade me their child for it. Several bag to be allowed to sit in it. Dozens took their picture just near it. And a few, resentfully and clearly purposely ignored it. People react because until that moment, it was a myth, and because of the price. Okay, now the fun part, let's put a price tag on our little orange friend. Base is around $2-1/4 million or roughly 45 years of the US median income. On top of that, there's a $51,000 destination charge, because they air freight this things around via DHL-- not kidding. $6,400 gas guzzler tax-- you don't care. And about a 2.6 percent customs duty, I bet you've never seen that on a car bill of sale before. In the end, this car is phenomenally expensive. And you would look at its German engineering, French manufacturer, and Italian heritage, and see a bar joke coming. But this car most certainly is not one. For its big company sophistication, brutal yet controlled performance, and cheeky open top design, it really is a class of one.