Between the Lines: Csaba's Excellent Adventure

When Car and Driver received an invitation to run the world s fastest production passenger car up to V-Max, it s no surprise that Editor-in-Chief Csaba Csere grabbed the keys. Needless to say, the assignment held its dangers— and I m not talking about the prospect of Csere ending his life in a twisted heap of mangled Volkswagen parts. (As John Lennon said when he heard of Elvis death atop the porcelain throne, it would have been an excellent career move.) I m referring to the possibility that Csere s prose would not prove itself equal to the task of describing one of the seminal events in 21st century automotive journalism. The piece certainly starts well enough

When you re ripping along at 235mph, your mind is not drifting aimlessly.
It s a terrific lead. Csere s use of the impersonal pronoun puts the reader exactly where he or she wants to be: in the driver s seat. Ripping along is a wonderfully casual yet cavalier expression, with a distinctly English air to it. There I was, ripping along over the Burma Sea, when a Japanese Zero appeared from out of the sun. I say! Unfortunately, Csere s second sentence fails to continue the understated elegance of his opening salvo.
Your senses are cranked up to full volume to detect any hint of impending catastrophe in the maelstrom of wind rush, tire thrum, mechanical thrash, and exhaust roar that surrounds you.
At the risk of seeming petty, the word volume indicates output. If you re in a state of heightened sensory awareness, you senses may be dialed-in or fine-tuned, but they are not cranked-up. Also, having popped my 200mph cherry, I can assure you that tires do not thrum at that speed. They sound like that bass-heavy rumble sci fi films use to indicate that space is really, really big— only 10X louder. In any case, point taken. Or not, as Csere s second graph lists three potential indications of potential disaster.
Is that slight shift in the whistling wind caused by a body panel coming loose? Does that vague vibration signal a tire starting to delaminate? Does that subtle new mechanical whine presage a failing bearing that's about to lock up the powertrain?
As a way of ratcheting-up the tension, it s not a bad technique. And you can t help but like a sentence with the word presage in it. That said, the fact that we know Csere didn t crash or die in the Veyron kinda spoils the fun.

In the next graph, Csere insists that no such problems occurred because the Veyron was developed and tested to the standards of Volkswagen . Huh? I m not sure if Csere checked Volkswagen s rankings in the last JD Power Initial Quality Survey, but they ranked 33rd with 147 problems per 100 vehicles. Anyway, that s it: we re out of the driver s seat and into the kind of earnest information provision that makes Car & Driver such a riveting read.

By the time we return to the Veyron s cabin, eight paragraphs later, we ve been info-pummeled into the usual torpor. But hey, we re talking about going pedal-to-the-metal in a $1.25m sports car. So our literary adrenal glands kick in again when Csere resumes his tale of high speed adventure. Maddeningly, the author s narrative eschews strict linearity; we re jumping in and out of the car and around and about its various mechanical capabilities. And then, after a technical discussion of the Veyron s carbon fiber stoppers, the payoff

With the top speed verified, Schreiber jumped into the car to demonstrate the Veyron's "launch mode," which allows the engine to light up all four tires in a full-bore accel run.

It s an ideal example of reverse literary porn: a perfect anti-climax. No description of The Moment. No poetic reflections on life above 250mph. No insight into the author s post-record mindset, other than If any automobile is worth more than a million bucks, we're happy to nominate the Veyron 16.4.

While we respect Csere s willingness to deploy his encyclopedic automotive knowledge in the service of technical accuracy, we can t help but wonder why driving a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 at 253mph didn t inspire him to greater eloquence. Maybe next time

[Jalopnik s Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, and the media that covers it, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]

BUGATTI VEYRON 16.4 [Car and Driver]

Related:
More on the Bugatti Veyron; More Between the Lines columns [internal]