Oy, Veyron!

This article appeared in Elements Magazine in 2007.


The Veyron 16.4


There are few luxury items that are, unquestionably, the “best” of breed. For umbrellas, Swaine Adeney Brigg makes the best; the best trench coats—undoubtedly Burberry. Yet, for sportscars, debate has raged for almost 50 years, with punters and millionaires alike squabbling whether Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini made the ultimate speed machines. Now, the debate is settled.

The iconic French automaker Bugatti is back in business and their Veyron 16.4 is simply the best sportscar in the world, bar none. It’s also the most expensive production automobile ever, at $1,440,000 a copy. The Veyron is a car made to settle all arguments with regards to excess for the foreseeable future: not only is it the most expensive car, the Bug’s also the fastest, the boldest, and the brashest conveyance ever unleashed on public roads. Ever.

In the early part of the 20th century, Ettore Bugatti’s company constructed some of the most innovative and successful racing cars to date. EB parlayed this success into a road car company that was equally innovative. Ettore viewed his creations as works of art—so very French! Just before the Great Depression, Bugatti created the Royale, a car so exclusive that he would only sell it to monarchs and heads of state. At about $50,000 in 1929, it’s no wonder that only six were ever built. The Bugatti organization didn’t survive World War II, and the marque was revived in the early-1990s in Italy—just in time for the recession. The second coming didn’t fare so well and Volkswagen eventually acquired the Bugatti name and constructed an impressive, state-of-the-art factory on the grounds of Ettore’s former estate in Molsheim, France.


On the factory floor.


Surprisingly, VW has remained true to the vision of the original company: the automobiles with the trademark “horse collar” grille are uncompromising in their engineering and quality. The 8-liter, W-16 engine’s block is basically a Bentley’s motor with four more cylinders…and four turbochargers. The power output is a stunning 1,001 horsepower, sending muscle via a 7-speed semi-automatic transmission to all four wheels, shod with bespoke Michelin run-flat tires. All this is bolted to an incredibly strong carbon fiber chassis that contributes to structural integrity and safety. The Veyron’s curvaceous body panels are also made of lightweight carbon fiber.


The Veyron's engine compartment is exposed to the world.


From rest, 60 miles per hour comes in a motorcycle-beating 2.3 seconds. The quarter mile arrives just 10.2 seconds, by which time the speedometer will read 142.9 mph. Top speed is a verified 253.2 mph. To take the 16.4 to its terminal velocity, a special key “unlocks” and engages “top speed mode,” which lowers the car and modifies the spoilers and vents for better aerodynamics and high-speed handling. At top speed, the Veyron’s full fuel tank runs empty after about 12 minutes, which is good because the tires can only handle 15 minutes at extreme velocity. At speeds over 124 mph, the Bugatti’s electrically deployed rear wing also acts as an air brake to assist the carbon brakes in slowing the beast with racecar-like deceleration.


Leather and machine-turned aluminum. No plastic.


Inside, the Veyron’s cockpit simplistic, understated luxury, but only enough for just two lucky souls. The seats are made from lightweight carbon fiber shells, covered with sumptuous leather, and Dieter Burmester, Berlin’s pre-eminent audio maker, supplies the sound system. Three main dials face the driver: a speedometer, a tachometer, and a power meter that displays how many of the 1,001 ponies are available. Unlike some interiors, a massive navigation display is nowhere to be found, with route guidance concealed in the rearview mirror. (Owners also receive a Bugatti personal digital assistant device that connects with the nav system via Bluetooth; this PDA can also download information about the car’s diagnostic system.)


Silver with purple to your liking? If not, there are myriad other combinations to choose from.


There are so many color and trim combinations available for the Veyron that it’s a safe bet to say that no two will ever be alike. Bugatti is smart in recognizing that even those traveling in an exclusive world crave more exclusivity. Only 300 Veyron 16.4s will ever be built, according to Bugatti, and maintenance is handled at Bentley dealerships. Yet, repair service entails flying a factory mechanic in from France, who is on 24-hour call.

Some may question why one would need a brand-new vehicle that costs $1.4 million, yet the answer is obvious: people drive such conveyances because they can’t motor around in their $50,000,000 estate. Long live the King!


  • Base Price: $1,440,800
  • Engine: quad-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 64-valve W-16; 8 liters, 1,0001 horsepower, 922 lb./ft. of torque
  • Transmission: 7-speed direct-shift semi-automatic with full automatic mode
  • 0 to 60 mph: 2.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 253.2 mph

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