|2010 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport, Gayot.com, March, 2010|
When VW chief Ferdinand Pi‘ch assigned the initial concept of the Bugatti Veyron, he outlined four terse requirements: The car couldn't produce less than 1,000 horsepower, it needed a terminal velocity in excess of 250 mph, had to achieve 60 mph in under three seconds, and—curiously— shouldn't embarrass its occupants when it pulled up to the opera. The culmination of Mr. Pi‘ch's vision was the Bugatti Veyron, a groundbreaking two-seater that holds the mantle of being the world's fastest production car.
Since a 1,001 horsepower, million Euro coupŽ isn't always sufficient for the silver spoon set, Bugatti ditched the lid and is minting 150 convertible versions of their ne plus ultra Veyron, dubbed the Grand Sport. The roadster comes with a removable hardtop, a canvas top (good for up to 100 mph), and a host of mechanical alterations including a reinforced windscreen, carbon fiber doors, and a carbon rollover beam to compensate for the absence of a roof.
But focusing on the Grand Sport's mechanical distinctions proved challenging during an afternoon's drive through the two-lane highway that unspools from Palm Desert to Idyllwild, California. Especially at low speeds, the open-air experience imposes an auditory soundscape that's nothing short of surreal. The massive volumes of atmosphere required to feed the car's 8.0 liter, 16-cylinder, quad-turbocharged engine yield sucking, wheezing, and slurping sounds that would be considered obscene in most polite circles; seriously, this is possibly the most aurally entertaining exotic we've heard, thanks to the Grand Sport's sonorous intake, wastegate, and exhaust systems.
There are also seemingly bottomless reserves of torque that make the Grand Sport's mill feel like the only production engine truly deserving of the term "powerplant." Though pussyfooting through downtown Palm Desert yielded drama-free thrust with moderate throttle tip-in, more generous throttle—when space allowed—returned neck (and mind) snapping acceleration. The problem, which I realized all too quickly, wasn't that the Grand Sport is too fast. The challenge lay in the reality that there is simply never enough road for this ravenously pavement-hungry conveyance. When I finally summoned the nerve to bury the pedal into the carpet, the momentary pause as the seven-speed DSG transmission dropped to the appropriate gear was shattered with a forward lurch so taxing that a g-suit might have helped keep the blood flowing where it was needed the most: in my suddenly overloaded cerebrum.
Brakes were similarly overqualified for the terrestrial task of driving on public roads, and the only aspect of the Grand Sport's experience that wasn't cosseted in virtual layers of silk and alcantara swaddling cloth was the ride, which imparted a sensation that the car's massive Michelin Pilot Sport Pax tires just might have a secret layer of concrete in their construction. And at $25,000 a set with a short life expectancy, the tires—just like the car—are not for the faint of wallet.
But from the leather, magnesium, and turned aluminum-lined cabin of the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, that minor quibble takes a proverbial back seat to the almost incomprehensible sounds and sensations of this roadster. Until the concept of ultraluxury can redefine itself in this brave new world of eco-friendliness and alternative energy, we're unlikely to witness such a confluence of power and elegance for a very, very long time.