The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse sucks. And not in a limp-wristed, ‘domestic vacuum cleaner with curtain-cleaning attachment' kind of way. Nope, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, the world's fastest and most expensive roadster, sucks in a seven-and-a-half-million-plus-dirham, hard-core, batten-down-the-hatches "no other mechanical equipment I've ever come close to sucked like this" kind of way.
And from where I'm sitting right now, I'm acutely aware of 20 exceptionally good reasons why the Vitesse sucks like that. Sixteen of them are pistons located immediately behind my head, the merest hint of a firewall being the only thing preventing them from devouring my skull in a Veyron-feeding frenzy. Normally those pistons would, between them, suck more than 25,000 litres of air a minute into the work of art which is the Bugatti's 7,900cc, W16 engine. But nobody ever accused Bugatti of building normal cars, so to spice things up a little, the other four reasons are turbochargers.
Because in the engineering fantasy world in which this car was designed and built, if one turbocharger is good, two is better and three is best, clearly four must be Bugatti. Thanks to those four turbochargers, the Grand Sport Vitesse's engine is ultimately capable of ingesting a mind-blowing 55,000 litres of air per minute (and fuel — don't forget to add fuel). To put that in context, imagine an articulated truck carrying a six-metre shipping container. At maximum revs, in 60 seconds the Vitesse would consume every last atomic particle of air in that container, and the driver's cab, then wash it all down with what was left in the trailer's tyres.
Fortunately no articulated lorries were encountered in the making of this report on the blissfully radar-free byways and dual carriageways of southern Spain, where Bugatti's chaperone Loris gave me driving lessons in our deep blue Grand Sport Vitesse. It was his job to make sure I took good care of the car, and to show me the ultimate roadster's controls, whilst demonstrating the surprisingly conventional, and stiff, suspension. That's conventional in a double wishbone front and rear, adjustable ride height, enormous coil over dampers, built-for-speed manner of design. "You seem to know a lot about the suspension Loris," I proffered in a friendly, off-hand way. "Well yes, I have worked as a development driver for Lamborghini, Pagani, Koenigsegg, Dallara and Bugatti," came the reply. After which I simply listened intently, and referred to Loris as "Mr Bicocchi".
Occasionally my attention was diverted by the Vitesse's mottled blue carbon-fibre cockpit, offset with fine leather, brushed aluminium panels and scrumptiouslysolid controls. The words "opulent" and "extravagant" sprang to mind; it seems you get one word for each $1 millionyou spend.
How's the road holding? Apparently you can achieve lateral acceleration of 1.4g in a Grand Sport Vitesse, which is enough to disturb local weather patterns as you circumnavigate roundabouts. Comfort levels? Where I'm from, comfort is affording a Bugatti Veyron.
Should you accelerate to speeds greater than 150kph (you will) the side windows close to improve the car's dynamics and minimise cockpit buffeting, and at around 200kph the rear spoiler starts to rise. But not on public roads. Under Bugatti regulations, if one spoiler is good, two is better, so naturally the Grand Sport has a pair. The secondary aerofoil apparently refines the airflow and further reduces lift but, more importantly, allows a Veyron driver to brag like a peacock.
Talking of airflow, I take my hat off to whoever designed the wind diverter which clips on to the Grand Sports' windscreen, and which was so effective in reducing turbulence that I didn't need to take my hat off. Leave the targa roof on and you'll be able to achieve the car's top speed of 410kph, but then you might as well buy the original and enjoy 415kph instead. Better to leave the roof in your garage — there's no facility to store it within the car — and just go topless for the duration. If it starts raining, take0.2 seconds out of your busy schedule, the time it takes to drop from 7th to 5th, and simply head for a different continent.
You've a choice between automatic, stick select or paddle gearchanges, the seven-speed double clutch gearbox coping manfully with 1,500Nm of torque — more than can be said for me the first time I hit the very loud pedal. One second later, fundamentally what I said was "Crikey, that's the most impressive acceleration I've ever experienced in my life, my eyeballs hurt, and didn't that junction used to be a kilometre away?" But instinctively I whittled that down to just two short words instead. "Utterly fantastic." But not those two words.
Step on the eight-pot-front, six-pot-rear ceramic brakes and they do their utmost to bring this 1,990kg projectile to a halt, ably assisted when necessary by the uppermost spoiler flicking skywards, to act as an airbrake.
In fact I suspect that the sole purpose of the rear-view mirror is to let you enjoy the air brake's occasional appearance. Rear view mirror? You're expecting to be overtaken by what exactly?
But enough about the on-road performance, what I really need to puta car like this to the test is a circuit closed to other traffic, with banked corners, a team of Bugatti engineers on hand to fettle a blood red Grand Sport Vitesse for my personal pleasure, and an experienced test driver by my side as a private instructor. But what are the chances of that happening? Quite high it seems, here in Bugatti World…
"Into the banking at 200kph, that's it Tim, now don't slow down". As if. I'm acutely aware, as two kilometres of razor-straight tarmac sweep into view below the starboard side of my earthbound missile, the world's most magnificent engine prepares to unleash its full fury intoall four custom-made Michelin tyres beneath us, and my mouth dries in nervous anticipation, that my right footis rather tense.
"Now into sixth"
And the reason for that tension isMr Loris Bicocchi, upon whose instruction I am permitted to push down on that anxious right foot of mine. You seeMr Bicocchi has "the authority".
"Into fifth, wait for my signal."
I know what's coming, and I knowwhen it's coming, but I'm to wait forMr Bicocchi. Accelerate too early and, if we're still on the banking, the results could be messy. That's Dh7.8-million messy. So I wait.
"Now fourth, be ready Tim."
Oh I'm ready. At least, I think…
The next 17 seconds are, quite literally, a blur. In fourth gear we're smack in the middle of the Veyron's torque curve, and as I gratefully bury my impatient right foot, half a dozen Cold War Vulcan bombers drop from the clouds on full reheat, five of them formatting on the rear bumper, as the sixth directs all four of its Olympus engines at my ears… 220, 240, 260, 280 kilometres per hour. All in the time it took me to say those two words again. On and on we howl, the Veyron devouring the tarmac beneath us with impunity, and though I know there's a clearly marked "off the throttle" point now just a kilometre ahead, I'm hoping this ride can last forever. What a machine. Still we're accelerating relentlessly and I'm simply in awe, my eyes flicking down to the odometer for a fraction of a second, where I happily note that we just passed the 200mph mark. Here come the marker cones but the Veyron and I are agreed on one thing — to heck with backing off yet, there are still 100 metres to go.
I know that I've been privileged to have driven some beautiful cars, some fast cars, and some exotic cars, but the Bugatti is truly in another league. Oh sure you could build a lighter roadster, a more nimble convertible, or a targa with a softer suspension, but would it be a twelve hundred horsepower Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse? No, it would not.
I love this car, I want this car, and itsucks that I will never, ever be able to afford this car. But I want this car. My kidneys are for sale.