[FoRK] [NYT] Measuring Excess: Bugatti Veyron
rkhare at gmail.com
Sun Nov 8 20:58:35 PST 2009
Dan Neil is still comfortably ahead of any other critic IMO, even ticking over in overdrive and taking up a sideline in microsoft-bashing ad criticism... But this one's pretty damn fine work my mr ulrich! Highlights:
the Bugatti's price can fluctuate about $14,000 a day simply from one-cent adjustments in exchange rates.
The Bugatti shifts occupants around like a Star Trek transporter: from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds, to 125 m.p.h. in just over 7 seconds and on to a top speed of 253 m.p.h. - though 401 kilometers per hour has a better bullet-train ring to it.
With just a little instruction, your grandmother could drive this car at 150 m.p.h. while knitting a Nomex racing suit.
To run safely at speeds above 233 m.p.h., drivers must insert a second, special key that lowers the body and closes the front diffuser flaps Batmobile-style.
if your Veyron, at rest, were passed by a $500,000 Mercedes McLaren SLR doing 100 m.p.h., you could floor the accelerator and still reach 200 m.p.h. before the Mercedes could match its speed.
why would a Bugatti prospect care what I think? I'd be the guy tracking exchange rates on the Veyron, hoping to save enough to get a free Hyundai.
BEHIND THE WHEEL | BUGATTI VEYRON 16.4 GRAND SPORT
Pinnacle of the Past, Just $2.1 Million
By LAWRENCE ULRICH
Published: November 08, 2009
MY mission today is to offer my clear-eyed take on the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport. But the price keeps getting in the way.
This removable-roof version of the Veyron coupe costs 1.4 million euros, or roughly $2.1 million. I say roughly, because the Bugatti's price can fluctuate about $14,000 a day simply from one-cent adjustments in exchange rates.
For that price, a rare species of car owner gets a rocket that gleams across the planet's surface faster than any true production automobile that has come before. The Bugatti shifts occupants around like a Star Trek transporter: from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds, to 125 m.p.h. in just over 7 seconds and on to a top speed of 253 m.p.h. - though 401 kilometers per hour has a better bullet-train ring to it.
Particulars include 1,001 horsepower, 16 cylinders, 8 liters of engine displacement, 4 turbochargers, all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch automatic transmission. Only 150 Grand Sports will be built, tacked onto 300 editions of the Veyron coupe, making the Bugatti the automotive equivalent of a Fabergé egg. A $450,000 deposit gets that egg rolling at Bugatti's atelier in Molsheim, France.
As a fast-car fanboy, this is where I should need a squeegee to wipe the drool off the page. But while the Saudi sheiks who'll buy the Grand Sport want my advice as much as they want electric cars, the Bugatti ultimately doesn't do it for me.
Though I generally test cars for a week, I was granted barely an hour's audience with the Bugatti. But as with my previous test of the coupe, my impression was of a car so overqualified for public roads that even the ultra-rich would be better off with a more approachable sports car.
Bugatti's main achievement was making a car that weighs nearly 4,400 pounds - 1,100 more than a Corvette or Porsche 911 - accelerate and handle so well. The second achievement, and no small feat, is how a midengine exotic with more power than a Formula One racer manages to feel comfortable and pliable even in city traffic. With just a little instruction, your grandmother could drive this car at 150 m.p.h. while knitting a Nomex racing suit.
Press the gas pedal, thwack the paddle shifters and the next thing you know the aero wing emerges from the rear deck - a sign that you've already crested 137 m.p.h.
To run safely at speeds above 233 m.p.h., drivers must insert a second, special key that lowers the body and closes the front diffuser flaps Batmobile-style. That key, I might add, stayed hidden in the pocket of John Hill, Bugatti's American market manager, who rode shotgun with me.
The convertible buttresses the lost roof with reinforced doors and carbon-fiber bracing, including supports in the roof-mounted air intakes to bolster rollover protection. With near-zero storage space (and nary a cup holder), the removable transparent hardtop must be stashed in a garage, perhaps on a chinchilla throw. The carries a flimsy canvas roof for sudden downpours, but it's not recommended above 100 m.p.h., lest it fly off like a bad toupée.
I definitely prefer the targa-top Grand Sport to the Veyron coupe, because it lets you hear the 16 cylinders churning behind your head, along with the quad turbochargers slurping air and burping off the excess.
The car comes with a great cocktail-party boast: if your Veyron, at rest, were passed by a $500,000 Mercedes McLaren SLR doing 100 m.p.h., you could floor the accelerator and still reach 200 m.p.h. before the Mercedes could match its speed.
That kind of physics-textbook problem is where my issues begin. At speeds where cars from a $40,000 Nissan 370Z to a $90,000 Porsche 911 become your wingmen, delivering pure blasts of driving joy, the Bugatti feels bored to death. The artillery-shell acceleration is diverting, but the Bugatti leaves you nowhere else to go, except directly to jail.
Many Bugatti buyers surely have access to racetracks, yet I'm equally sure that 90-some percent of them won't have nearly enough driving talent to exercise this car. Mostly, I picture Euro-poseurs needing valet assistance to back up the Bugatti in Monaco, while jaws drop and the owner barks orders into his diamond-encrusted cellphone. When your car makes a Lamborghini seem tasteful, there's a problem.
As with the New York Yankees or most Picasso paintings, I respect the Bugatti as an engineering exercise and a conglomeration of overpriced talent. Yet I might argue that any $2 million car should be powered by hydrogen, electricity - even nuclear fusion - not a gas engine blown up to overkill proportions. The Bugatti isn't the future of the fast car; it's the past writ in extra-large type.
I try to avoid the pointless game of adding up the many cars you could have for the price of one exotic. The truth is that the exotic-car buyer is quite proficient at math. He wants what he wants, and he can afford it.
But this time I'll make an exception. For half the Bugatti's price, one could buy four genuine exotics that I find better looking and more rewarding: the Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R8 V-10 and Aston Martin DBS. That would still leave $1 million for a 10-car garage filled with classics like a Jaguar E-Type and a Corvette Sting Ray fuelie.
But once again, why would a Bugatti prospect care what I think? I'd be the guy tracking exchange rates on the Veyron, hoping to save enough to get a free Hyundai.
INSIDE TRACK: Right at home on a richer planet.
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