2010 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on February 08, 2010

It simply lays waste to steep mountain roads. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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How about a nice quiet drive down by the waterfront? Slow or fast, the Veyron is a dream. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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No expense spared. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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It's a two person job, but I'm guessing you won't have trouble finding someone to help. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The low-speed convertible top is literally an umbrella that fits snug to the roof opening, as seen here during the Grand Sport's Pebble Beach launch last year. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The Veyron's body structure is extremely rigid even in Grand Sport guise. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The Veyron is beyond fast... it's blisteringly quick! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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1000+hp together with snow and ice normally wouldn't mix, but Bugatti went to great lengths to make sure the Veyron could handle almost anything. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The heart of the beast! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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It doesn't get any better than this. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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So, just what does 1001hp and 922 lb-ft of torque feel like at takeoff? Absolutely nothing can prepare the mind, body and soul for such an otherworldly experience, and unless your name happens to be Alan Shepherd, Joe Engle, Joe Walker, Neil Armstrong or any of the twelve brave souls who manned the experimental X-15 back in NASA's glory days, only time behind the wheel of Bugatti's soul-stirring Veyron 16.4 can relate the g-force inducing sensation.

If it weren't for the paddle shifters connecting through to its 7-speed DSG transmission I probably wouldn't have been able to lift my right arm to make the necessary shifts, so intense was the Veyron's acceleration, its 8.0-litre, 16-cylinder, quad-turbocharged powerplant's jet-like whine going about its business with a purposeful nonchalance, as if it hardly needed to interrupt its relaxed breathing pattern to send this near 4,200-pound supercar to 100km/h in just 2.7 seconds, the quarter mile in 10.5, and on to a top-speed that I'll probably never experience yet apparently exceeds 400 km/h or 250mph (407 km/h or 252.9 verified). This particular Veyron is a Grand Sport, so depending on whether you have the targa-style roof closed or open it's top speed will either be the staggeringly unfathomable aforementioned figure or 360 km/h (223.7mph), respectively, and with the unique canvas umbrella-style emergency bad weather top in place, a mere 130km/h (80.7mph).

I was nicely positioned in front of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance last year when the car rolled across the stage, having had to make a dash from my lawn location where my camera's lens caught this special Veyron easing across the golf course greens. At the front of the stage I witnessed the top's removal and umbrella-like temporary roof's unique design first hand thanks to sunshine, but being that the weather in Vancouver appeared unpredictable during my four-hour stint behind the wheel, we didn't want to chance rain wetting the perfectly detailed interior.

Yes, as expected of a car that fetches 2.2 million the cabin detailing is exquisite, with nary a trace of plastic anywhere and the most beautifully crafted leathers I've ever seen. Likewise all metalwork is painstakingly handmade, and its switchgear is at that next level of quality, up and beyond its not-too-distant relative Lamborghini. Likewise the centre stack features a Puccini audio system that reportedly adds $30,000 to each Bugatti's build costs, while the most elegant ventilation system I've ever seen wraps around the entire upper console, joining tall and narrow side vents to feed automatically controlled air to both occupants.

Those lucky two, today one being yours truly and the other renowned American racing driver and really nice guy Butch Leitzinger (with three Rolex 24 at Daytona race wins to his credit), will hardly feel cramped or even claustrophobic in the airy, accommodating cabin, a partially transparent polycarbonate removable roof overhead and a lot of room all-round. The seats are wonderfully supportive and multi-adjustable, although you might be surprised to find manual fore and aft adjustment via a traditional metal bar under the front of the seat cushion.

Other weight-saving additions include carbon fibre just about everywhere, and refreshingly Bugatti doesn't make a big deal out of this expensive composite as it's all felt in the driving experience, and not seen. After all, if you're going to charge $2.2 million for a car it'd better be made of the best materials money can buy, and the Veyron clearly is.

That transparent polycarbonate removable roof, incidentally, comes with its own stand. It's either on or off, as there's no room to take it with you. To protect driver and passenger from a sudden shower, Bugatti includes the innovative rectangular umbrella-like soft-top I intimated at earlier, which gets stowed in the front luggage compartment and is only good for slightly higher than posted highway speeds. Bugatti Sales and Marketing Director Alasdair Stewart said the idea came from seeing a classic Type 35 drive by with the passenger shielding the driver from the rain with an umbrella. Why not?

And just in case a little rain gets inside before the top is in place, as I was concerned about earlier, that leather I spoke of is moisture-resistant and backstitched. A number of other unique features set the top-line roadster apart from Bugatti's coupe too, such as a back-up camera utilizing a 2.7-inch monitor integrated into the right side of the rearview mirror, and audio aficionados that tire of the quad-turbocharged sixteen-cylinder extravaganza (is that possible?) can now enjoy the aforementioned Puccini sound system, complete with a digital signal processor. The new Grand Sport also boasts a unique headlight design with LEDs, as well as special alloy rims, and a slightly taller windshield, signature details that will be easy to spot for true Veyron fans.

Cutting away the roof section brought about its own problems, mind you, but Bugatti added reinforcements along the convertible's rocker panels and within the transmission tunnel, plus used higher-strength carbon-fibre throughout the rest of the structure, and more of it than the fixed head car gets. The B-pillars are now cross-stiffened with the pricey composite material, plus a central carbon plate was fitted below the transmission tunnel to reduce torsional flexing, resulting in the stiffest roadster ever. For additional strength and less weight the Grand Sport's doors are also made of carbon fibre, and include a longitudinal beam for transferring load from the A- to B-pillar, dissipating energy in case of an accident. Lastly, the car's air intakes, which have been redesigned, now boast ten-centimeter-wide carbon-fibre elements to protect driver and passenger in the event of a rollover. It's all very comforting when speed rides so breathtakingly fast.

Yes, I would have liked to test that speed more fully on Germany's less restricted autobahn, which begins very close to where the Grand Sport and all Veyrons are produced. Bugatti's factory and headquarters in Molsheim, Alsace, France, hand build the car, a process that began in March of this year. The price, as mentioned, is in the vicinity of $2.2 million CAD, which seems reasonable considering that only 150 will be made. If you divide this into the R&D money spent to develop it, you'll understand the reasoning for the high price. After all, this isn't a crude sled with a supercharged big-block lump strapped on, but easily the most sophisticated car ever made, and one that has undergone intense performance and safety testing that I am now personally grateful for.

First I'll tell you what Bugatti did and then I'll finish with my story. The brand wanted to build the safest supercar ever made, and therefore one of the tests had it at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah at 390km/h, at which point the driver turned the wheel as quickly as possible to the lock position. Yes, the very thought sounds disastrous, but the Veyron merely slowed to a stop, totally in control. My experience? Butch and I were running up a local mountain road and enjoying the moment, a car so perfectly balanced on a road that I know well and love. Truly, I've never experienced anything as brilliantly stable at speed as the Veyron, and therefore was grateful when we turned a sharp corner only to find snow and ice layered across the roadway. A shocker for sure, the car immediately went into a slide which I caught quickly with a lot of opposite lock steering and subtle throttle control, and, after a little school girl yelp (I'm not willing to call it a scream) we gingerly made our way up the mountain road to a safe U-turn location and made our way back out of harm's way. The amazing thing is, despite all-wheel drive the Veyron only has summer performance tires and shouldn't have been able to do what it did, but it reacted like it was wearing all-seasons at worst, and truly shocked us both. What a car!

Yet what I'm most impressed with wasn't the car's high-speed performance, but rather how easy and enjoyable it is to drive around the city at regular speeds. Most supercars don't do well in these conditions, but the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport, and I'm sure the coupe, is as easy to drive as any VW. I had heard that Volkswagen Ag Supervisory Board Chairman Ferdinand Piëch gave one to his wife, Ursula, to use, and that she was and possibly still is enjoying it as a regular driver. Compared to some supercars, like Porsche's Carrera GT which just might be the most challenging to manage due to a floor-hinged clutch pedal and a powerful yet peaky engine, the Bugatti is a dream, and a dream, thanks to Bugatti and their publicity company, JMPR, which came true for this scribe. If you want your turn behind the wheel, the ever-pleasant and professional Asgar Virji and his Vancouver Lamborghini team will accommodate.

As good as it gets? Easily! The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport is not only a pinnacle of automotive engineering, but also one of the most passionately crafted driving machines I've ever experienced. Ridiculously expensive? Certainly. But overpriced? Hardly.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, Roadster, Bugatti, 2010, Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport, $99,999+,

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