Bugatti Veyron – The Fastest Street-Legal Car in the World

Bugatti Veyron
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The Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 is a mid-engined grand touring car, designed and developed by the Volkswagen Group and manufactured in Molsheim, France by Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S.

The Super Sport version of the Veyron is the fastest street-legal production car in the world, with a top speed of 431.072km/h (267.856mph). The original version has a top speed of 408.47km/h (253.81mph). It was named Car of the Decade (2000–2009) by the BBC television program Top Gear. The standard Veyron won Top Gear’s Best Car Driven All Year award in 2005.

The Veyron’s chief designer was Hartmut Warkuss, and the exterior was designed by Jozef Kabaň of Volkswagen, with much of the engineering work being conducted under the guidance of engineering chief Wolfgang Schreiber. Though commissioned by Volkswagen, this car is only sold through the Bugatti manufacturers and cannot be found at any Volkswagen dealer.

A number of special variants have been produced, including two targa tops. In December 2010, Bugatti began offering prospective buyers the ability to customize exterior and interiors colours by using the Veyron 16.4 Configurator application on the marque’s official website.

Specifications and performance of Bugatti Veyron (2005–2011)

The Veyron features an 8.0 litre, quad-turbocharged, W16 cylinder engine, equivalent to two narrow-angle V8 engines. Each cylinder has four valves for a total of sixty four, but the narrow staggered V8 configuration allows two overhead camshafts to drive two banks of cylinders so only four camshafts are needed. The engine is fed by four turbochargers and displaces 7,993 cubic centimetres (, with a square 86 by 86 mm (3.4 by 3.4in) bore and stroke.

The transmission is a dual-clutch direct-shift gearbox computer-controlled automatic with seven gear ratios, with magnesium paddles behind the steering wheel and a shift time of less than 150 milliseconds, built by Ricardo of England rather than Borg-Warner, who designed the six speed DSG used in the mainstream Volkswagen Group marques. The Veyron can be driven in either semi- or fully automatic mode.

A replacement transmission for the Veyron costs just over US$120,000. It also has permanent All-Wheel Drive using the Haldex Traction system. It uses special Michelin PAX run-flat tyres, designed specifically to accommodate the Veyron’s top speed, which cost US$25,000 per set. The tyres can be removed from the rims only in France, a service which costs US$70,000. Curb weight is 1,888 kilograms (4,162lb). This gives the car a power-to-weight ratio, according to Volkswagen Group’s figures, of 446.3 metric horsepower (328kW; 440bhp) per ton.

The car’s wheelbase is 2,710mm (106.7in). Overall length is 4,462mm (175.7in), width 1,998mm (78.7in) and height 1,204mm (47.4in). The Bugatti Veyron has a total of ten radiators.

Top speed

German inspection officials recorded an average top speed of the original version of 408.47km/h (253.81mph) during test sessions on the Ehra-Lessien test track on 19 April 2005.

This top speed was verified by James May on Top Gear in November 2006, again at Volkswagen Group’s private Ehra-Lessien test track. May noted that at top speed the engine consumes 45,000 litres (9, of air per minute (as much as a human breathes in four days). The Veyron at the time had the highest top speed of any street legal production car. Back in the Top Gear studio, co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson commented that most supercars felt like they were shaking apart at their top speed, and asked May if that was the case with the Veyron at 407km/h (253mph). May responded that no, the Veyron was very controlled, and only wobbled a tiny bit when the air brake deployed. May further commented, “Absolutely yeah, it’s totally undramatic. But I would give you a bit of a warning: It’s a bit disorientating doing that sort of speed, because after I came off the banking, I was slowing down to stop, and you know how you get a bit impatient and think ‘I’ll just open the door’; fortunately I looked back at the speedo, and I was still doing seventy.”

The car’s everyday top speed is listed at 350km/h (220mph). When the car reaches 220km/h (140mph), hydraulics lower the car until it has a ground clearance of about 9cm (3.5in). At the same time, the wing and spoiler deploy. In this handling mode the wing provides 3,425 newtons (770lbf) of downforce, holding the car to the road.

For top speed mode the driver must, while stationary, toggle a special top speed key to the left of the driver’s seat. A checklist then establishes whether the car and its driver are ready to attempt to reach 407km/h (253mph). If so, the rear spoiler retracts, the front air diffusers shut, and normal 12.5cm (4.9in) ground clearance drops to 6.5 cm (2.6in).

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport (2009–)

A targa top version unveiled at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on 15 August 2008, with production beginning in the second quarter of 2009. The model has extensive reinforcements to compensate for the lack of standard roof, and small changes to the windshield and running lights. There are two removable tops, the second a temporary roof fashioned after an umbrella. The top speed with the hardtop in place is the same as the standard coupé version, but with the roof down is limited to 369km/h (229mph) – and to 130km/h (81mph) with the temporary soft roof. The first (chassis 001) was sold at auction, raising approximately US$900,000 for charity.

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport (2010–)

The Veyron Super Sport features an engine power increase from the standard 1,001PS (736kW; 987bhp) to 1,200PS (880kW; 1,200bhp) and torque of 1,500N·m (1,100lbf·ft) and a revised aerodynamic package. It has a 431.072km/h (267.856mph) top speed, making it the fastest road car in production, although it is electronically limited to 415km/h (258mph) to protect the tyres from disintegrating. It was shown publicly for the first time at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2010. The first five of an unannounced production run made its debut in a matte black and orange colour combination, all of which have been spoken for. It is valued at GB£1.7 million and Bugatti have stated that only 30 will be produced.

On 4 July 2010, Bugatti’s official test driver Pierre Henri Raphanel drove the Super Sport version of the Veyron on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien high-speed test track to establish the car’s top speed. With representatives of the Guinness Book of Records and German Technical Inspection Agency (TÜV) on hand, Raphanel made passes around the big oval in both directions achieving an average maximum speed of 431.072km/h (267.856mph), thus taking back the title from the SSC Ultimate Aero TT as the fastest production vehicle of all time. The 431.072km/h mark was reached by averaging the Super Sport’s two test runs, the first reaching 427.93km/h (265.90mph) and the second 434.20km/h (269.80mph). Once produced for sale, the first five Super Sports will sport the same black and orange finish as the first production car, which was used to set the speed record.

Prior to the record-breaking run, the Super Sport was featured on Series 15, Episode 5 of Top Gear, where presenter James May attempted to set the speed record. It managed 417km/h (259mph), briefly setting a new production car speed record. This was broken later in the day, by Pierre Henri Raphanel claiming it through runs in both directions (May only did one run in one direction). The car then went round the Top Gear Test Track and topped the lap leader board with a 1:16.8 time, beating the 1:17.1 record set previously by the Gumpert Apollo Sport.

Praise from the Top Gear

All three presenters of the popular BBC motoring show Top Gear have given the Veyron considerable praise. While initially skeptical that the Veyron would ever be produced, Jeremy Clarkson later declared the Veyron “the greatest car ever made and the greatest car we will ever see in our lifetime.” James May described the Veyron as “our Concorde moment.” Clarkson test drove the Veyron from Alba, northern Italy to London in a race against James May and Richard Hammond who made the journey in a Cessna 182 aeroplane.

A few episodes later, James May drove the Veyron at the VW test track and took it to its top speed of 407.16km/h (253.00mph). During the second episode of the 13th series, Richard Hammond raced the Veyron on two occasions. In the first contest, the Veyron lost a two-mile sprint against the Eurofighter Typhoon. The second contest was a race against a McLaren F1 driven by The Stig in a one mile (1.6km) drag race in Abu Dhabi. The commentary focused on Bugatti’s “amazing technical achievement” versus the “non gizmo” racing purity of the F1. While the F1 was quicker off the line and remained ahead until both cars were travelling at approximately 200km/h, the Bugatti overtook its competitor from 200 to 300km/h and emerged the victor. Hammond has stated that he did not use the Veyron’s launch control in order to make the race more interesting.

The Veyron also won the award for “Car of the Decade” in Top Gear’s end of 2010 award show. Clarkson commented “It was a car that just rewrote the rule book really, an amazing piece of engineering, a genuine Concorde moment”. When the standard version was tested, it did not reach the top of the lap time leader board, which was speculated as being due to the car’s considerable weight disadvantage against the other cars towards the top. The Super Sport version, however, achieved the fastest ever time of 1:16.8 (later beaten by the Ariel Atom V8, the McLaren MP4-12C and the Lamborghini Aventador), as well as being taken to a (verified) average top speed of 431km/h (268mph) by Raphanel on the programme, thenceforth retaking its position as the fastest production car in the world.

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