KING OF THE ROAD
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Apr 23, 2006
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
KING OF THE ROAD
By JOHN GRAFMAN
Imagine the scene: The singular most powerful production car is available, and behind the wheel is a competent race car driver and 24-hours of Le Mans competitor - and the weather is even cooperating. What can be better?
Sitting ringside next to Butch Leitzinger, a polite professional race car driver and intrepid tour guide, I get the feeling that the next few minutes within the confines of the Bugatti Veyron will overshadow nearly all other automotive occasions. As it turns out, I am correct - just not in the way I thought.
For what seems like eons, the automotive world has awaited the production of this very car. Numerous concept models have built the anticipation to this moment. Claims of unimaginable power and speed seemed like bar room bravado. Certainly, the current owner of Bugatti, Volkswagen, is able to produce unbelievable machines in the form of their other brands, Bentley and Lamborghini. But there is a big step from producing cars capable of speeds bordering on 200 miles per hour propelled by sophisticated motors that can reliably generate horsepower of 500 ponies or greater, and the assertion that the fabled Bugatti will offer 1,001 horses.
The official maximum speed claimed by Bugatti on the Veyron is 253 miles per hour. Think about that number for a moment and let it sink in. Typically, those speeds are the domain of either race cars - or aircraft! 253 is a big number. Bugatti is justifiably proud of this achievement. I, like anyone else who ever sat in a car, question Bugatti - they talk the talk, but can they walk the walk?
Butch fires up the massive eight-liter W16 cylinder motor (think two V eight motors coupled side by side) with a press of the metal start button on the center console. The rumble is reassuring, a deep, easily audible growl speaks to the power residing just aft of the passenger cabin. Upon juicing the accelerator redirects the attention of anyone who is within earshot. The Veyron is a magnet for attention.
Leaving the posh Beverly Hills authorized dealership of O'Gara Coach Company, I quickly become aware of two things: (1) This is incredible; and (2) We won't be seeing triple-digit speeds today. Butch Leitzinger is a law-abiding kind of guy who like to keep his driving privileges, and secondly, even if he decided to throw caution to the wind in someone else's million dollar ($1,375,000) car, the traffic simply won't allow it.
Perhaps this is the real conundrum with the Veyron. As fantastic as it is to have the pinnacle of sports cars, how much fun is it if you're mired in city traffic? As the saying goes, it can be worse. A postcard perfect, sunny day in Beverly Hills, a sumptuously sexy car that all but a dolt will appreciate, and letting someone else concern themselves with the mayhem of gridlock.
There isn't a red-blooded American who won't want some time behind the wheel of this car, but that isn't in the cards today for me either. In the plus column, being responsible for something this expensive with so many opportunities for trouble at every intersection would turn this into a white knuckle affair. More than once, I spotted some less than attentive drivers who could have put a damper on our day, let alone the bodywork of the car.
On just a few scattered sections of road, Butch has the chance to flick the pedal for a moment. The response is instantaneous. With maximum torque of 922 pound-feet, the 4,162 pound car has no trouble moving from a dead stop. Measuring this against some of the other cars we have featured on LA Car , I immediately recognize this is a winning thoroughbred. The engine increases in pitch and volume. The body gets sucked back into the thin racing inspired seats, and then it's over. The proof is in the pudding, and the Veyron has the right stuff. Providing so much power means that in urban settings any romp on the gas pedal will be a short one. In a heartbeat, this car will be in excess of the posted speed limits. In just another beat or two (your heart rate may vary), triple digits are obtainable. The stated time of 2.5 seconds for 0-62 mph is incredibly credible, and a bit frightening.
Our sojourn in this barrio never tests the limits on much of the cars capabilities. A supercar needs to have the proper equipment, and this one does. A few notable aspects are all-wheel drive, seven-gear DSG transmission, front axle differential with Haldex clutch and rear axle with transverse differential lock, the carbon/ceramic brakes, four brake pads up front/two rear, high-speed Michelin PAX system run flats, three suspension heights, double wishbone suspension at all corners, and four turbochargers - one per cylinder bank. All the right hardware means one thing, this is a bad mother!
Motoring down Rodeo Drive, the Veyron isn't the only super premium car on the road. As this is one of the days that capture the Southern California magic, the weather enticed several owners to bring out the bling. On this lap of Beverly Hills, the streets are sprouting automobiles right and left that cost six figures or better. But I pity those in cars like a nearby Bentley Continental GT with some aftermarket dubs that appears to be riding way too high, as if the driver set the adjustable suspension in the skybox mode. While the driver is livin' large, I can sense he is feeling just a bit smaller when we roll up beside him. It happens just that fast around these parts, one moment they're the king, the next they're just another car in traffic. The Bugatti has a way of making that happen.
The senses are entertained by a bevy of influences. The interior is awash in leather seating and suede covering the headliner. Machined metal surfaces flank the center console. All-in-all, the presentation is similar to a concept car with cutting edge styling and material selection. Maybe some small facets can be better executed, like the seat belts that are difficult to grab and fasten into place, and the sun visors that are a tad too small. But, hey, this is an exotic car. While this isn't as dialed-in as some mass production cars, who won't rather have one Bugatti over a fleet of Hondas or Toyotas?
The exterior also provides its own stimulation. The curvy body does speak to the French car manufacturer's past, but with a very modern interpretation. The profile is a bit bulbous, but the shape drapes over the packaging effectively and still allows for a terminal velocity that speaks for itself. The motor not only produces an elegant, race-car pitch, it also radiates a healthy dose of heat. With the windows down, it feels like a hot Santa Ana blowing in from behind me. Lollygagging speeds are the culprit, I would think at anything over a moderate crawl will eliminate this factor.
While accustomed to more aggressive driving, Mr. Leitzinger does a fine job at piloting this in town, which gives me an unusual chance to experience the behavior and road manners at less than impressive speeds. It is obvious that this car will be happier at more relevant speeds than what we are proceeding at, yet it is still a decent ride. This is a sports car, and it is a firm ride. On smoother surfaces, the ride is like butter, as it should be. On roads with a bit of wear, the thumping of the tires and suspension is rather noticeable - at least it wasn't teeth-gritting bad. It's actually far from that, but this is a sports car and not a commuter car.
Sadly, our venture returns us back to where we started. So, just who buys a car that costs a mil plus? More people than you think. The orders are already coming in.
I also found an answer to my own question at day's end. What could be better than spending a perfect day with a Bugatti? Being on the waiting list for your very own Veyron!
For more information please go to www.bugatti-cars.de/bugatti/index.html
Engine type: 8 liter DOHC sixteen-cylinder, 64-valve, four-cam, four turbo-superchargers
Drive configuration: All-wheel drive
Gas mileage: 6.36 combined city/highway