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We all know 1200bhp is bonkers. Having that much potency wired to your right foot ought, by all rights, to send the world into crazy and corrupted meltdown. Especially in an open car, where the ensuing hurricanes should add to the chaos by tearing the very face off your skull.
So excuse me if this sounds idiotic, but the most remarkable and admirable thing about the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse is that 1200bhp doesn’t actually fry your mind. The power seems to live within the bounds of sanity. Well, more or less.
Yes, of course the price - about £2,000,000 depending on colour and trim - is staggering. Ditto the top speed - 255mph with the targa panel in place, an electronically limited (ha!) 233 with it open. Everywhere you look the numbers are fantastical outliers: eight litres, 16 cylinders, four turbos, 365-section tyres. Whatever you touch and see is gorgeously worked, from shimmering carbon weave, through buffed metals, to leather so supple it could still be alive.
What matters, though, is what you can’t see or measure. It’s the finesse of engineering development that makes 1200bhp more or less approachable, rather than something that rockets you helplessly towards planet oblivion.
The four-wheel-drive traction is immense. The steering is all about stability, keeping you straight when you don’t turn the wheel. But when you do, it carves neatly but not nervously into the arc. You can ask ridiculous things of the brakes and they give you sure and straight answers. The car’s always helping you. It feels solid and trustworthy.
So, because you’re not going to be un-nerved or distracted by the handling or grip, you can make merry with that engine. And oh, good grief, what an invading force that is. When the turbos spin up, the world starts flying backwards in speeded-up animation. It is, to all intents and purposes, limitless, chewing through the instant shifts of the seven-speed DSG. And on and on. Even at speeds that leave other supercars gasping to gather their last few mph, the Veyron is merely hitting its stride.
Of course in the real world, you’ll have to lift off long before then. You’ll have run out of road or vision. And that moment when you unclench your foot from the pedal is another piece of high drama. With the roof off the four wastegates release their pressure like Niagara down your ear canals.
It’s not just an even faster engine than the original 1000bhp Veyron. It’s harsher in sound, and darker and more ornery in nature. Bigger turbos mean less torque at low revs and more lag in the transition. The 0-62 time of 2.6 seconds (that’s not a typo) is actually slower by 0.1 sec than the ‘base’ Veyron. So you get a more brutal contrast when the burning fuse does actually reach the gunpowder and the boost kicks in.
While we’re on the subject of that comparison, it’s time for some consumer advice for the one percent of the one percent of the one percenters. Which Veyron should you buy? Well in a way it’s academic, because the hardtop Veyron and Veyron Supersport are sold out now. But you still have the choice of the 1000bhp Grand Sport and this 1200bhp Grand Sport Vitesse.
There’s a strong argument for saying this GSV is the best of the four. New dampers mean that the ride at low-speed is less harsh (noticeably so) and the maximum lateral grip even more clenching (can’t say I detected that). The steering is more weighty around the straightahead than in the Supersport, which makes it seem more stable. The absence of a hard roof does bring in a tiny bit of quiver over juddery tarmac, but it’s less than in the original GS because the tub’s stronger and there’s a vibration damper in the steering wheel. It’s certainly not enough to affect the handling. Anyway because there’s a targa panel, you have the option to boost the sense of speed by driving open, or use it as a coupe if you feel exposed being in a car so astronomically costly.
So there you are. It’s a hypercar like no other. Faster than the rest, but less intimidating too. Still, if you think cars like this are supposed to scare you, well this one’s happy to do that too.
Just keep your right foot buried in the loud pedal for a teensy fraction of a second longer than you planned to…