Even as the speedo heads towards the 300-kph mark in the Bugatti Veyron Super Sports, the traction control fights to rein in 1,184 hp of pure fury behind my head. I know it cannot get better than this. This time.
This is a rare, exquisite taste of perfection with a living, breathing 8-liter quad-turbocharged work of art snorting in my inner ear. Suddenly, speeding fines, prison, even the 1.6 million ($2.2 million) asking price, or 1.95 million ($2.7 million) for one of the five black-and-orange World Record editions, become the problems of lesser men.
Absolute power really does corrupt absolutely, and I just have to experience a car that can hit 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, 125 in 6.7, and 185 in 14.6. Then there’s the rich tapestry of sound coming from the engine bay, not just the exhaust, with the pistons, bypass valves and turbos all combining into one orchestral movement. It’s a thing of beauty.
This is the fourth Veyron I have driven, which makes me almost a veteran, but there is no way to get used to this outrageous power and every time I lift off the throttle the sound of my childlike giggles fills the cabin.
Because when you floor it both time and space just disappear, the car roars, the windscreen simply arrives at the next bend and there’s a sharp intake of breath from both the engine and driver as the near stupidity of the last second’s events hit home.
The Veyron does not squat, it does not wriggle, it just explodes down the road with pure, perfect, Teutonic efficiency. It is scary fast, but also perfectly controlled. It’s a strange dichotomy that turns anybody, even a grandma, into the fastest driver on the road, any road. Traffic is cleared in moments; a downshift and a squirt of throttle and they’re a speck in the rearview. And that reserve of power and 1,016 lb-ft of torque means any visible road is a clear overtaking opportunity.
That there’s nowhere on Earth you can use full-bore acceleration for long is the sad reality. It’s almost too much car for public roads and sits on the very limits of physics. But then the Veyron is all about the acceleration and braking, the mind-numbing power that can only be enjoyed in short, quick spurts. It is sheer omnipotence, if only for a few short seconds at a time.
Admittedly I don’t get near Bugatti test driver Pierre Henri Raphanel’s best, because he stormed past 268 mph on a closed course and retook the production car speed record that was stolen for the shortest time by SSC’s Aero.
The car is so much more than the headline numbers, though. With legendary test and development driver Loris Bicocchi by my side, we’re back to the old skills as we embark on our epic journey.
The DSG gearbox sits in Drive, there is no semblance of a jerk from the twin-clutch gearbox designed to handle the torque, nothing. It just glides down the gravel drive like a high-end saloon and on to the tortuous, ripped-up tarmac to start our drive. The engine is barely audible, there’s just a gentle whine from the transmission. But that’s the hors d’oeuvres.
Other cars would buck, grind and graunch, shaking vertebrae free as they go. Not the Super Sports, it is built for the kind of client that doesn’t want a go-kart or a road-legal race car, it is on a higher plane altogether. I don’t even need to tense up on the steering wheel, the suspension squashes the topographical nightmare first.
We’re doing stupid speeds for such confined and varied tarmac, but the car is utterly imperious. Somehow it tucks almost two tons of weight away in the bends, too, it just disappears as this compact hypercar dives to the apex.
There’s no driving the Super Sports sideways on public roads, it’s just too good for that and the only time the four-wheel-drive system feels even questioned is when all four turbos come on song at about 5000 rpm and the engine does its best to melt all four tires simultaneously as the 1,184 hp kick in. No, the Veyron is simply about owning the road; knowing for sure that nothing can come close, on two wheels or four.
The new car can take 1.45 g of cornering force now, thanks to the suspension tweaks and weight saving measures that reduce the curb weight to 4,150 pounds. It’s not much, 120 pounds less than the old car, but then again, every pound helps. So as I plough into a corner that would leave a lesser car on its roof in the roadside ditch, the Veyron SS just turns in. There’s no kick through the wheel, no nervous moments at the rear, it just crushes the bend.
This isn’t just a tuned Veyron with an additional 200 hp either. It’s a ground-up rethink of the world’s most complete hypercar and it’s even kinder on fuelslightly.
There is a new aero setup, including the extended rear cowl over the exposed engine bay, NACA ducts in the roof that cut out the bubble-top vents, and a new front end treatment to get more air to the 10 main radiators. Under the skin, the car gets four bigger turbos; revised cooling to cope with the W16, quad-turbocharged furnace mounted in the middle; a new exhaust and trick suspension with a bypass valve that improves the ride quality on high-frequency bumps. Even the monocoque is revised with a lighter, more expensive variety of carbon fiber.
And that shape is still unique, this is a total rethink of the supercar genre and the Veyron remains as fresh as the day VW first unleashed it upon the world in 2005. It is still the apex predator, the great white shark of the automotive world, it was VW’s Formula One project for the public road and SSC simply cannot steal its thunder.
The only criticism, if we can call it that, is that when the original Veyron went on sale, the customers thought they had bought a landmark car. And now it isn’t: Bugatti has beaten itself into second place by finding room to improve on perfection.
But many owners fixed the issue for themselves with an order for the new car and they should rest assured that, this time, it simply cannot get better.
From the hip
V12 power, excellent chassis feedback, leather surrounds
You could buy several Panameras and a few Caymans for the price
Longitudinal mid engine, all-wheel drive,
8.0-litre, quad-turbocharged W16
Seven-speed DSG, Haldex clutch w/ transverse diff lock
Double wishbone front and rear
Eight-piston calipers w/ 400mm rotors (f), six-piston calipers w/ 380mm rotors (r)
Peak Power: 1200 hp @ 6400 rpm
Peak Torque: 1016 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
0-62 mph: 2.5 sec.
Top Speed: 257 mph