By now, we all ought to know everything there is to know about Volkswagen's Bugatti Veyron 16.4. Bugatti has been trotting out prototypes since the 1999 Tokyo auto show. A runner finally met the world's slavering motor press in Sicily last fall, and we devoted pages and pages to its supreme ridiculousness [November 2005].
How nutty is this car, anyway? Let's recap a few factory figures:
- 1001 hp (yes, SAE net)
- 922 lb-ft of torque
- Sixteen cylinders, sixty-four valves
- Four turbochargers
- 253 mph top speed (governed)
- 0 to 62 mph in 2.5 seconds
- 0 to 124 mph in 7.3 seconds
- 0 to 186 mph in 16.7 seconds
- $1.3 million
Isn't it about time for Bugatti to let us take one on a good old road trip?
As my dad used to say, if you don't ask, the answer is no. I asked.
Every year, just as rowdy Bike Week is ending in Daytona Beach and even wilder spring break is in full swing along every coastal Florida town with sand and cheap motels, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance at the Ritz Carlton is an oasis of beautiful vintage cars, manicured lawns, and well-heeled, finely mannered enthusiasts. It ain't at the Ritz for nuthin'.
With the golf course in back packed with nearly 300 show cars and 18,000 guests, the front of the gleaming hotel is perfect for parking your exotic wares (for a fee, of course). Valets hustled all weekend to clear away common transports in order to showcase a more impressive fleet, including three Maybachs, a Spyker, a Bentley Arnage, a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, a Rolls-Royce Phantom, and, most exclusive of all, a Bugatti Veyron.
The It car had arrived in America for real. In fact, two It cars had arrived. One was slated for delivery to a real, live customer, and the other was slated for Automobile Magazine.
I lurk behind a group of kids being lectured by their uncle, Timothy Groover, a doctor from Jacksonville: "This is a Bugatti Veyron, a car that will never happen again. It will go 250 miles per hour."
"252.75," murmurs a nephew.
"It makes 1001 hp," he continues. "It has 50 percent more horsepower and torque than a Ferrari Enzo. You need a three-mile straight for a 0-to-250-to-0 acceleration test." They whip out their cell phones and take pictures of the car. Our car.
We didn't need a phone cam because Tom Salt had blown in from Europe with a big bag of cameras to take photos of the Veyron for us. All we needed, in addition to the driver/writer and the photographer, was our technical editor, Don Sherman, to drive Salt in an Audi Q7 chase vehicle, its extralarge roof opening perfect for shooting from. "You need a chase-car driver," Sherman had barked into my phone, minutes after the call came from Europe confirming the loan. How did he know? "I'm your man. We need some numbers on that car."
By then, I was pretty sure that all we needed to do was hit the highway for Vernon, Florida, the subject of one of my favorite cult documentaries of all time, Vernon, Florida. "That's almost 300 miles away," snarled the Shermanator. "We could go down to Alligator Alley instead and get those performance numbers."
All I wanted to do was take that crazy car into the heartland of America, home of the normal citizen (see Vile Gossip, page 19), and catch some real-world impressions. About one-third of the estimated 300 Veyrons to be built in the next four years will probably make it to six U.S. sales "representatives." They will be sucked off the streets and into the garages of the megarich, vanishing forever into the ether of exclusivity. It was our duty to spread the joy. I was pretty sure I didn't want Sherman to top-speed the Veyron on Alligator Alley. I was totally sure that I didn't want to top-speed it anywhere. (Fact: A Veyron at top speed will run out of fuel in twelve minutes.) Our compromise would have Sherman snatching test numbers on the road to Vernon.