Just when you thought the Veyron had written the book on automotive superlatives, the Super Sport model arrives to recalibrate your concept of speed. Jonathan Crouch reports
Just when you thought that nothing could possibly kick sand in the face of the Bugatti Veyron, along comes the £1.4m Veyron Super Sport, a car that makes the original Veyron feel as if it's deployed a drogue chute. This 1184bhp projectile is electronically limited to 258mph and rewrites the rule book on rapid.
The Bugatti factory, tucked away on an unprepossessing factory estate on the outskirts of Molsheim a few miles west of Strasbourg, seems an unlikely place to come in search of ultimates. Perhaps when you build the undisputed king of performance cars you don't need to shout too loudly about it. Grand homme syndrome, if you will.
Since 2005, this little factory, which could be mistaken for a double-glazing fabricator at first glimpse, has built nearly 300 Veyrons and has lost, at a conservative estimate, around £4,000,000 on every car. While this sounds the sort of business operation I could have fronted, couple that with the global economic meltdown and it hardly sounds the footing to launch an even more extreme, massively more expensive model. Yet that's exactly what Bugatti has done and the result is the astonishing Super Sport. Think of it as Bugatti's farewell tribute to the Veyron line.
The Veyron Super Sport is a car that tends to be defined by statistics. It packs 1184bhp and its tyres are rated to an electronically limited 258mph. In the time it takes a McLaren F1 to accelerate from standstill to 200mph, the Veyron Super Sport gets to 200mph, back to nought and then up to 60mph again. Its torque figure of 1,100lb/ft is almost triple that of a Ferrari 458 Italia, by most measures a psychotically rapid car. Chat to Bugatti's personable PR people and these facts appear never ending. You'll empty the 100-litre tank of fuel in less than eight minutes when travelling at maximum velocity.
As brain-warping as these facts are, the Veyron's real genius lies in the fact that it can keep pace with an F1 car in a straight line but is nevertheless as docile as a Golf GTI. The seven-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox slurs between the gears effortlessly and the bespoke Sachs dampers give the Veyron Super Sport a ride quality not far removed from a Bentley Conti GT. The sound track of the Super Sport is something very different, however, with an absolute cacophony of engine exhaust, wind and tyre noise overlaid with a Wagnerian induction roar and whipcracks from the turbochargers as the throttle closes.
Rather than a subtly tweaked version of the existing Veyron 16.4, the Super Sport differs in virtually every regard. Bigger turbos are run at higher boost (up from 18.9psi to 21.8psi), there's a heavily revised exhaust system, four fuel pumps, a bigger clutch and revised gearing. If you've seen James May's Top Gear piece on the Veyron, you'll know all about its cooling system. With twelve radiators, a coolant jacket that holds 26 gallons of fluids and an engine exposed to the elements, a Veyron is all about heat management. The Super Sport gets huge NACA ducts to suck air to the powerplant and revised nose intakes while outlets pull air from beneath the wheel arches, creating a low pressure zone that sucks the car to the tarmac. A massive double deck diffuser at the back pins the tail of the car down at speed. A monster biplane rear wing emerges from the resculpted rear bodywork at 180kmh and emerges far more quickly than that of the standard Veyron, whose single blade items motors up at 220km/h.
All of the exterior panels are now carbon fibre, and the carbon tub utilises a special directional design in the fibre lay up to improve stiffness and crash performance. It also saves around 45kg. The suspension's spring rates are higher, the anti roll bars thicker and the dampers retuned. Somewhat surprisingly, the Super Sport is no quicker than the standard car to 60mph, the standard Veyron already limited to preserve traction. With another 184lb/ft of torque available the Super Sport doesn't stand a chance of deploying this until the speedo needle climbs much higher and it begins to really work its aero package.
Only 30 Veyron Super Sport models will be built and the production run is already oversubscribed. Should you sidle in hoping for a cancellation, make sure you have a spare £1.65m knocking about. Most of the Super Sport models will be optioned up above this price, but take that as a foundation. To get your name down on the list, you'll need to front up a £450,000 deposit plus taxes, and sign a non-refundable contract. The contract contains some interesting clauses. Some months later comes another request for £450,000 and six months after that you pay the balance upon delivery. You'll need to let Bugatti do all the servicing and repairs although it's doubtful you'll want to drop it off to Pavel the local grease monkey for a tune up. Instead, you'll have to get the engineers to jet in from Molsheim or drop the car off at the factory yourself. That might not be such a big problem from here but flying one in from Tokyo? Wow.
If all of this proves too much of a logistical nightmare, try selling it. Bugatti has a clause in their contract which means they have to approve the buyer before any transfer can be made. In the company's own words, they don't want to ??delude the reputation of the brand??. I think this is shorthand for wanting to ensure that only the Right Sort Of People drive Veyrons.
Pondering the cost of ownership when dealing with a £1.4m car is a faintly pointless exercise. If you have the means to afford a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, you will not care a jot about its 12.2mpg combined fuel economy or its 539g/km emissions rating. It's a non-issue. What might just figure on the radar is the fact that the special compound Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres have a mere 5mm of tread on them and cost £23,000 to replace. Each. Choose to have the Veyron's carbon body finished in blue lacquer and that tacks another £229,333 onto the asking price.
The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport is a car that is wasted on collectors, completists and callow new money. It's such a towering achievement, such an engineering masterclass that it deserves drivers. Rich drivers admittedly, but this is a car that deserves to be extended and not merely trundled along Knightsbridge or La Croisette. The Super Sport brings a new-found sense of purpose to the Veyron, demonstrating that this is a car that is more than a set of staggering statistics.
With the drawing down of the Veyron project and the calamitous financial rumours that have dogged it, it's been mooted that this car could mark something of a Concorde moment; namely that we won't see anything quite so incredible for quite some time, if ever again. It may well be the case that we step back to simpler, purer sports cars but we should never for a moment forget the car that offered a healthy surplus of everything.