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2010 Bugatti Veyron Credit: Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail
2010 Bugatti Veyron Credit: Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport

What it's like to drive a $2-million car Add to ...

Walking up to the driver's seat of the new Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport for a non-owner is akin to approaching the automotive version of royalty: all of a sudden, one feels compelled to consider proper protocol.

Should I have worn a suit to drive this $2-million car? Am I tracking in something unseemly onto this velvet carpet? How long behind the wheel before I can unleash its 1,000 horses with a company chaperone sitting shotgun?

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And not so proper protocol: Would the cops actually chase me in a 407-km/h dash for Mexico?

This car's 407 km/h top speed would not make for a long O.J. Simpson-like epic television drama, because at that speed, the Veyron's full gas tank would be empty in a mere 12 minutes. Besides, there's no news helicopter - and likely few small planes - that could keep up with it.

That's because this exotic sports car was designed to the ultimate degree by a major auto maker, the likes of which the world very likely will not see again, thanks to tightening fuel economy regulations. Its 8.0-litre engine doubles both the cylinder count and the horsepower of the Ferrari California and its 460-hp V-8. The Veyron's four turbochargers and 16 cylinders are arranged in a massive W-shape behind its two seats, in what is essentially four Volkswagen GTI 2.0T engines fused together and pumped up for supercar duty.

The founder of the famed Italian marque was a racing enthusiast with an artist's heart



The Veyron is officially rated at 1,001 hp, but that's a DIN number, whereas the more common in North America SAE figure works out to 987 horses. Regardless, a single GTI engine will give you about a fifth of the Veyron's massive power, so there's been a fair amount of extra tinkering happening under the Bugatti's hood to find those other 201 (or 187) galloping horses. As there should be, given that you could buy a fleet of 60 GTIs for the Veyron Grand Sport's €1.4-million asking price ($1,800,000) - and that's before adding approximately $200,000 in taxes, duties and delivery fees.

That total price has gone down substantially in the past few months with the instability of the euro, leading to something one doesn't see too often in this business: a $170,000 or so "rebate" on a single car. Enough to add a carefully selected Aston Martin or Maserati to your dream garage.

All lofty permutations of "deals" aside, this car is aimed at those few individuals attracted to the best of the best, no matter the cost. Individuals such as this who happen to reside in Canada no longer have to register the car at their U.S. or European homes, as the Bugatti Veyron went on sale for the first time in Canada for the 2010 model year, thanks to fully aligned North American bumper standards.

The first Veyron was produced in 2005 in Molsheim, France, following a lengthy gestation period. The Volkswagen Group had bought the remains of the Italian firm that put together the fast but ungainly Bugatti EB110 supercar in 1998, even as VW AG acquired other high-dollar performance brands like Lamborghini and Bentley that same year. Beginning work on the Veyron soon after its acquisition, a Veyron concept car that previewed the overall looks and killer 16-cylinder engine appeared at various major auto shows in 2000.

If the Bugatti Veyron looks familiar to the exotic car enthusiast, at least on paper/computer screens, it's still a wow moment for all onlookers in person.

"I have to say I love your car," said a tollbooth attendant just outside Orlando, as a line of vehicles waited behind. "What is it?"

The question became a common one, highlighting the fact that many people still don't know about the Bugatti Veyron, the ultra-exotic crown jewel in VW Group's prestige car lineup that lives up in the auto market stratosphere above Lambo and Bentley, and is meant to shine a positive glow on the talents of VW and Audi engineers and technology as well.

The Veyron Grand Sport I tested is what Bugatti calls a roadster version of the two-seat coupe, although it would more accurately be called a targa car than a convertible. The entire lightweight polycarbonate clear roof can be removed, although you'll have to leave it in the garage, as there's nowhere to store it in the car.

If you get caught in a rainstorm topless, there's a foldable fabric umbrella roof in the front trunk that can be installed as a temporary barrier to the elements, although Bugatti says top speed with it installed is only 100 km/h. So check the weather forecast carefully, or your seven-figure Veyron sports car could be driving grumpily in the right-hand lane while being passed by grannies in their beige church-mobiles.

The real roof stayed in place for most of my morning with the Veyron Grand Sport, thanks to rainy weather that barely let up. Florida highway engineers apparently never met a road they couldn't straighten, but what they do have that's interesting for someone with a car such as this are multiple highway tollbooths, which allow for repeated zero to 'oh-my-lord!!' acceleration blasts up to and often well past legal highway speeds.

Flooring the Veyron is like entering an arrow-straight time warp, all thoughts and sounds banished except for the baritone bellows of those mini-explosions behind you that thrust you forward with the violence of a nasty rear-ender. Bugatti quotes a 0-100 km/h time of 2.7 seconds, thanks to all-wheel-drive that sends the engine's monstrous 922 lb-ft of torque to all four tires instantaneously, as well as a seven-speed DSG paddle-shifted transmission that quickly transfers its shifts in less than 150 milliseconds without the driver having to lift off the gas.

This spare-no-expense philosophy can also be seen in its interior, where a continuous horse-collar-shaped vent that wraps around the instrument panel mimics the motif on the car's nose. These vents obviously could not be taken from any other VW/Audi product, and surely required a great deal of behind-the-scenes packaging work to pull off, another reminder that this is a no-expense-spared car.

Unfortunately, that message is muddled by the fact that it's missing some standard interior niceties that newer luxury cars have - satellite radio, an in-dash navigation system (although a PDA that can transfer a map to the rear view mirror comes with the car), and no keyless entry.

In the end, it reinforces the feeling that you're driving a landmark car, a bookend to the 20th century, encapsulating the zenith of automotive design up until the dawn of a new millennium. The Veyron Grand Sport is automotive royalty, dated in philosophy, but divine in performance.

The founder of the famed Italian marque was a racing enthusiast with an artist's heart

2010 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport

Type: Exotic, targa top, mid-engine sports car

Base price: €1.4-million; as tested: €1.6-million ($2.06-million)

Engine: 8.0-litre W16, DOHC

Horsepower/torque: 987 hp/922 lb-ft

Transmission: Seven-speed DSG sequential-manual

Drive: All-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 29.4 city/ 16.8 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Aston Martin One-77, Bentley Continental GTC Speed, Ferrari 599 GTO, Lamborghini Mucielago Roadster

Like

  • Ambitious, no-expense-spared driving feel
  • Nearly unbelievable engine specs: 16 cylinders, four turbos and 1,000 horses, until you floor it
  • Low and lean shape manages to be fashionably outrageous
  • Removable targa top allows in more 16-cylinder sound

Don't like

  • Ultimate thinking, but from late last century: huge engine, tech-laden but heavy
  • Two people needed to remove targa top, nowhere to store it in the car
  • Top speed of 100 km/h with the "umbrella" roof installed, far from its max of 407 km/h
  • Major funds lavished on powertrain; modern interior niceties, not so much

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