April 15th. Tax day. No matter how much money you have, it is the one day that you don’t feel like you have enough. Even when you get a refund it comes with the knowledge that those fat cats in Washington have been living it up off of the interest at your expense.
So, the irony was abundant that day this year when I took my middle-class-at-best self to one of the most hoity-toity towns in the world, Greenwich, Connecticut, to drive the most hoity-toity car ever made, the multi-million dollar Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
This isn’t just a Veyron we’re talking about here - a car that has been with us now for over half a decade - the Super Sport is the ne plus ultra of Veyrons. The ultimate version of the ultimate supercar car ever made. It should’ve been named the Omega.
To refresh your memory: the Veyron sped on to the scene in 2005 powered by quad-turbocharged W16-cylinder engine fed by two fuel pumps that produced 1,001 hp. The Super Sport has 1,200 hp, courtesy of larger turbos providing higher boost pressure and four fuel pumps to keep up with it. That’s the same amount of power found in two 200 mph Bentley Continental GT Speeds, or 10 Ford Fiestas, depending on which economic strata you are coming at this from.
All-wheel-drive remains, as does the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The most visible changes are a front fascia with larger intakes to feed air into some of the 10 radiators that keep the mechanical parts of this beast cool and the replacement of the Veyron’s signature aluminum roof scoops with flush, aircraft-style NACA ducts that reduce aerodynamic drag while helping the engine breathe. A nearly full cowling over the formerly exposed engine compartment completes the exercise in streamlining.
The result? A top speed of 268 mph, which restores the title of World’s Fastest Production Car to the Veyron nameplate. The original’s maximum velocity of 253 mph was surpassed in 2007 by the little-known SSC Aero as it reached 256 mph on a closed public road in its hometown of West Richland, Washington.
Record runs in the Veyron take place at a high-speed test track in Ehra-Lessien, Germany owned by Bugatti’s parent company, Volkswagen. I was reminded of this fact when I buckled into the Super Sport in Greenwich, a town which may hold the world record for 25 mph speed limit signs per capita. Being handed the keys there is kind of like having a supermodel chat you up at an abstinence meeting. You can complain, but you probably won’t.
I’d like to think that it was fitting, however, as many people who buy this car will never achieve the climax of its top speed, either. Rather, they will appreciate it as a priceless possession crafted from the carbon fiber peeking through its clearcoat lacquer– a last seconds of twilight dark blue in this case – that carries with it an air of supremacy unmatched since the invention of the automobile.
The same feeling is inspired by the interior, where minimalist lines wrap two passengers in restrained elegance – as long as the owner has the good sense not to choose Carmine red over Tangerine as the color combination (try out the configurator to see what I mean.) Controls are simplified to the point that a navigation system isn’t even available anymore. Bugatti’s North American head of sales and marketing, John Hill, says that customers simply don’t want it. I imagine they have a good idea where they are going when they take the Veyron out for a spin.
Turn the key, press the console mounted start button and you’re met with a sound that is literally like no other, because there has never been an engine like this before. Over-engineering never sounded so good. Tap the gear selector into Drive, however, and a funny thing happens: not much.
Don’t go out of your way to make it angry, and the Super Sport is as docile as a VW Golf. Unlike supercars of old that need to be tamed every second they are in motion, this one is more like a championship thoroughbred that’s already been broken by your private trainer. But put the spurs to it, and prepare to clench your buttocks.
Find a straight stretch of road to mash the accelerator on and you initiate a war between the drivetrain and the $30,000 set of custom Michelin tires with armistice terms negotiated by an traction control system that makes the Treaty of Versaille look like a bro hug. Each full-throttle shift sends a shockwave through the Veyron that’s punctuated by a pop from the quartet of turbos letting off steam and a split second of blurred vision. This isn't just the world's fastest production car, it's also the quickest.
Fight the urge to keep your right foot planted and you’ll nevertheless find that you are going faster than is advisable, and much faster than you thought that you were. Relative to its top speed, a Super Sport traveling at 100 mph might as well be parked.
It’s the same through turns, where double-digit mph have little or no effect on the reworked suspension. New springs, dampers and stabilizer bars are aimed at increasing the Super Sport’s handling capabilities, but also manage to soak up bumps better than the previous model. Something I’m lucky enough to know, first hand.
Fuel economy? I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. Let’s just put it this way: at top speed the 26 gallon gas tank will empty in about 12 minutes, but the tires will likely self-destruct in half that time, so, as a reminder that even billionaires are subjects of the nanny state, all but five special edition Super Sports come with a 258 mph limiter. That’s faster than any other car, but just short of the golden ring.
(Don’t worry, I know a guy that can take care of that for you.)
Bugatti has limited total production of the Veyron to just 300 units, the last 30 of which were set to be Super Sports sold at a price of around $2.8 million, but I’m told the run will likely be extended to the final 40 cars. Unknown to my clueless self, the deadline to file taxes was also extended this year to April 18th. Doesn’t really matter, I still can’t afford either of them.
Where's a crate of tea when you need it?
2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport
Approx. Price: $2.8 Million
Type: 2-passenger coupe
Engine: Quad-turbocharged W16-cylinder
Power: 1,200 hp, 1106 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic