1. The first thing you need to know about the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse — the fastest convertible in the world with a 254 mph top speed — is that it is difficult to drive. Not because of its immense horsepower, or its gargantuan price tag, but because of other people.
They always want to get close to you, and you have to do your best to dodge them.
Imagine you’re the superhero who saved the entire world from an alien invasion, and you’re sitting in a convertible as it rides through in the parade thrown in your honor. You’re waving to your adoring public, all of whom are ecstatic just to get a glimpse of you. That’s what it’s like to drive a Bugatti.
Everyone wants to photograph it, to get video of it, to merely see it. People will follow you closely for miles in their Nissans and their Tahoes just to get a few snapshots or to wave to you. Some will even run out of their cars in heavy traffic to score some pictures with their iPads. No one rolls your eyes at you the way they would at the rich douchebag in the Ferrari; they’re too busy trying to bask in the Bugatti’s glow for just a little bit.
This can make it kind of tricky to drive.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: Bugatti had a Veyron at Austin for the F1 event. We badly wanted to drive it. We asked, they said ‘yes, of course’ and that was it.)
This story originally ran Dec. 6, 2013 and is being reposted in honor of the new Bugatti Chiron.
2. The Numbers. Insane cars like these are all about The Numbers, right? You get 8.0 liters of engine with 16 cylinders and four turbochargers that put out 1,200 horsepower, or almost double the power of the SRT Viper. You also get four fuel pumps and 10 radiators. (For the uninitiated, a normal car has one of each of those things.) The biggest number: $2.35 million. That’s what it costs to buy one. It ranks among the most expensive cars in the world.
3. The Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse is TÜV-certified as the world’s fastest convertible. It will do 254 mph with the top open. Its roofed version, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, hit a record (and much-contested) 267.8 mph earlier this year. We did not come remotely close to those speeds when we had one.
4. You should not try those speeds at home — mainly because you can’t. There are only about four places in the entire world where a Veyron has enough road to exceed 250 mph. One of them is Volkswagen’s private test track in Ehra-Lessien, Germany. That track has a 5.6-mile unbroken straight that’s impossible to see from end to end due to the curvature of the Earth.
5. The Veyron is so awesome that even the cops love it. These gentlemen are Fausto Rodriguez and Antwain Tarver. They are officers of the Austin Police Department, Jalopnik readers and dedicated gearheads. After they stopped by our Austin meetup to say hello and learned of our Bugatti plans, they offered to show us some good places to take photos on their East Austin beat.
They were extremely kind to us and a blast to hang with. (No word yet on whether APD has plans to commission some pursuit-rated Bugatti police cruisers.).
6. When you drive most press cars they drop them off at your house. When you drive a Bugatti they send a guide. And when I say guide, I mean someone with two class wins at 24 Hours of Le Mans. This makes sense because the car is fast enough to scare the shit out of anyone, even folks like your Jalopnik staff who have handled Vipers, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and other high-end rocket sleds.
The good news is our guide was Butch Leitzinger, a pro driver who has raced at Le Mans for Bentley and Panoz and now works for Bugatti, is behind the wheel. Bugatti doesn’t just let people take these for joy rides, but if you ever get to drive one, you’ll be glad an ace like Butch is there to hold your hand.
7. It is unfathomably fast. Put your foot down when you’re going 50 mph and you hit triple digits in the blink of an eye. It was faster than my brain could process — that’s the only way I can explain it. Zero to 60 mph comes in 2.4 seconds.
I thought I knew what speed was. Then I drove this thing.
8. Putting a deposit down for one costs $450,000 cash. If you want it, act fast. The Volkswagen Group only plans to make 150 Veyron Grand Sport models and they have 50 or so left to go.
It’s kind of a unicorn in the car world — before I drove this one, the only other time I had seen a Veyron was when it was parked behind a velvet rope at either the Detroit or New York Auto Show, I can’t remember which. Even for auto journalists it is hard to come by. VW doesn’t exactly loan these out like Passats.
9. It’s not what you think it is. I always had this vision in my head of the Veyron as a cushy, luxurious cruiser that just so happened to be fast in a straight line, almost like a mid-engined Bentley. I was wrong. It may not be as hard-edged as some, but it’s a legit supercar.
10. The right adjectives do not exist to describe the way the engine sounds. It’s obscenely, obscenely loud. It is ferocious, deep, guttural and nasty. It’s not mellifluous the way a Ferrari engine is; it almost sounds like the devil’s own diesel pickup truck. And the PSSSH sound from the turbos is almost ear splitting. If you had any doubts about this car, they’ll be erased when you hear it.
11. When you aren’t actively seeking 250 mph — a tall order even on the 85 mph Texas 130 toll road, aka God’s Gift To American Speed — the Veyron is actually quite civilized. Mind you, the ride is always supercar-appropriate levels of stiff, and the seven-speed dual clutch transmission can be finicky in traffic, but other than that it’s surprisingly easy to drive. The Veyron is perfectly suited to moderate-speed cruising if that’s what you want.
12. It’s basically impossible to keep up with. When we weren’t taking turns driving the Bugatti, we were in a 2014 Kia Forte I rented at the airport. (It was that or the 2014 Corolla. I believe I chose wisely.) While the Kia turned out to be a surprisingly good small car, it had less than a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping up with this $2.35 million beast. The Veyron’s acceleration is both terrifying and undramatic.
When you’re behind it, you watch its rear end duck down right before it sort of disappears into the horizon. It doesn’t speed off so much as it does vanish.
As you might expect, the mightiest acceleration came when Butch was driving. He’s had more time in this car than anyone so he knows exactly how far it can be pushed and is therefore less worried about crashing than Matt. He’s also about 3,000x the driver.
Following them in the Kia, I kept saying to myself, “I wish I had something that could keep up,” but that’s a dumb thing to say. What else could hold its own against a Veyron? I’d pretty much need another Veyron. Or an F-16.
13. The interior of the Bugatti is... well, it’s kind of perfect. Maybe this has more to do with the fact that it’s basically a decade old now, but it’s not loaded down with digital displays and fancy touch screens.
You get three big analog gauges right up front, a remarkably simple climate control and stereo setup, and about the nicest, highest quality materials you can find in any car. It’s both ornate and refreshingly simple.
Is the interior $2.35 million good? I don’t really know if anything is, but I know the inside of this car is fantastic. The seats are great, too. They have rather firm backs, but they manage to be extremely comfortable with just the right amount of bolstering.
Just don’t expect power seats if you get the Grand Sport Vitesse. They’re manual all the way in order to save weight. I think that’s hilarious and so should you.
14. Speaking of weight, the Grand Sport Vitesse weighs a whopping 4,400 pounds. In spite of this, it’s a decent handler. Butch is the first person to admit that it’s not a track car the way a Lamborghini or a Porsche is, but it never feels like a giant boat on the road. I didn’t get the chance to put it through as many corners as I would have liked, but I was surprised at how neutral it feels.
15. You will learn just how carefully you can drive a car when you’re behind the wheel of one of these things. Would you like to be the guy who put a dent in a $2.35 million car, the guy who made a mistake in traffic that led to it getting t-boned by a Ford Focus? No. No you don’t, and neither did I.
16. It’s not a Lambo, dude.
17. If I were to become $2.35 million richer tomorrow, I can’t say this is the car I’d buy. But even if it’s a car for the one percent of the one percent, it’s absolutely incredible from an engineering standpoint. It is every bit the rolling technological masterpiece Ferdinand Piëch dreamed it would be, a testament to everything VW Group can do when their scientists are allowed to go as mad as they can possibly be.
Even if I never even scratched the surface of its potential during my brief drive, I can tell you that it’s a marvelous machine.
18. Being able to say “I have driven a Bugatti Veyron” is pretty nice.