I recently had the chance to drive a 2006 Bugatti Veyron, courtesy of CNC Motors here in Southern California. This is obviously impressive, but of course it doesn’t quite compare to some of the other cars I’ve driven this year — a Pagani Huayra, a Koenigsegg, a Bugatti Chiron. When you consider those, the Veyron fades into the background. It’s old news.
But not for me. I was absolutely over the moon.
I remember back when the Veyron was coming out — amazingly, it’s been nearly 15 years — and it was the coolest car in the world. Back then, no cars were available for over $1 million, and the very idea of it was totally insane. The Ferrari Enzo was $650,000, the Porsche Carrera GT was $440,000. Pagani and Koenigsegg hadn’t really come on the scene. And here was this crazy ultra-insane supercar from Bugatti.
The accolades were substantial. It was the first real production car with 1,000 horsepower. It was the only new car available for over $1 million. It was the fastest car in the world. It was the culmination of a multi-year engineering effort to create the ultimate sports car.
More importantly, back in 2006, everyone seemed to know all the statistics about the Veyron, largely because it was just so superlative. We all knew how much air it sucked in relative to a human being, we knew how quickly the fuel would run out at top speed, we knew how much tire changes cost. "Top Gear" was dominated by the Veyron, the excitement over the Veyron, the tests they did with the Veyron and the ultimate question: would the Veyron ever go around the "Top Gear" test track. It was an absolute icon.
Fifteen years later, I admit, its star has fallen a bit. I got in the Veyron and I was immediately surprised by the fact that it simply isn’t quite as special as some of today’s modern supercars — the Koenigsegg models, and the Pagani models and even Bugatti’s own Chiron. It’s not quite on that same level. Those cars are filled with such wonderful attention to detail, and such amazing customization bits — they’re truly works of art. The Veyron pioneered that "next level" of supercar, sure, but others have improved on it — and you can tell it’s starting to feel old.
Consider, for example, the pixelated screens for the gauge cluster and the climate controls. The floor mats, which are decidedly normal — and the key, which seems to be just a Volkswagen Passat folding key with a Bugatti logo on it. These things may seem like small touches, but that’s what makes these "hypercars" so special — the small, customizable ways they’re distinguished from one another. The Veyron just wasn’t quite so detailed.
Then again, for its time, it certainly was. Back then, in a world before these hypercars, the Veyron was king — and I think any look at the Veyron would be idiotic if it didn’t assess the impact this car had on the market. Back in the day, Ferrari knew the Enzo was worth over $1 million, but they were scared to price it there. Bugatti had no such fear. It blew past every barrier, and it created the hypercar as we know it.
And on the road, that’s incredibly evident. Handling is surprisingly sharp, and it’s clear that a lot of attention was paid to mitigating the car’s relatively substantial weight by tuning the steering and handling to be direct, communicative and sharp. The Veyron is largely without body roll, and it’s quick to change direction. It’s actually fun to drive, and not just because it’s fast.
But oh, boy, is it fast. Drop the accelerator and it still feels like one of the fastest cars on the planet, well over a decade after it came out. There’s no hesitation as the car picks up speed, and it truly, honestly feels as though the rate of acceleration is only increasing as you climb above triple digits. It’s monstrously, indescribably fast. Today’s modern hypercars only seem to match the Veyron, with none very obviously exceeding it.
One area where I was surprised was the actual driving feel of the car — beyond the steering and handling, but the ride comfort. The Veyron I drove had a surprisingly loud engine note, with the Chiron feeling far, far quieter and more luxurious. Although people always told me the Veyron’s engine has a "woosh" sound like a turbine, I don’t agree. It sounded angrier than I expected, both inside and out. It also doesn’t block out road noise to anywhere near the level of the Chiron, and it’s no doubt the Chiron improved dramatically on its predecessor.
Still, the Veyron is, truly, an automotive icon, and it’s one of my all-time favorite cars, simply on the virtue of how it captivated the world — and not just the car world, but everyone’s world — back when it first came out. I loved driving it — and even though it can’t quite match other ultra-high-end supercars in terms of performance, quality or modern technology, I think it’ll always be a little more special in my heart.
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