x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Bugatti Veyron Super Sports delivers smooth insanity

The crazy price is matched by crazy speed, and Neil Vorano is delirious with the experience of driving the fastest production car ever made.

The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport edition. Lee Hoagland / The National
The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport edition. Lee Hoagland / The National

Almost €2 million; that's what you'll pay to get your hands on one of the few remaining Bugatti Veyron Super Sports left in its limited production of 45. For that kind of dough, you could buy a few Porsches and Ferraris and still get a nice Audi as a runabout. It seems a rather high price to pay for something you wouldn't want to leave in a mall car park.

Oh, of course, it's an impressive car, when you read the specs. With 1,200hp from a massive 8.0L W16 engine with four turbochargers that sits midship, it has more power than a Second World War fighter plane. It has a race-derived suspension set-up and better aerodynamics with its all-carbon fibre body than the "regular" Veyron, and it recently officially became the fastest production car ever made when test driver Pierre-Henri Raphanel took it on a closed course to 267mph (429.7kph), a speed limited only because the stock Michelin tyres would delaminate and disintegrate at anything higher.

Even as I had the chance to get behind the wheel of one recently, with Raphanel himself as a co-pilot, I wondered about the exorbitant levy; sure, it's also one of the most distinctive and impressive cars on any road, even here in the UAE. Almost 2m wide, this one had the most gorgeous two-tone paint job of silver and deep blue carbon fibre; driving out of the city, people in car windows would do double takes and hold up their mobiles to take pictures.

Even driving sedately was a bit surprising for such a powerful car; though a little on the rough side, the ride was fairly comfortable, while the seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox was one of the smoothest-shifting I have ever operated. Yes, I suppose there's all that; but €2 million (Dh10.7m)?

But I began to realise, later in the drive, that there are really just two things that make this car so special. All the rest - the leather interiors, the beautiful bodies, the big engines - has been done by the Germans and Italians, but two points put this car in an echelon of its own and worth the money. Not to mention, worth it for Volkswagen Group, in a marketing sense, that they lose money on every Veyron sold.

The first is its all-out power, and that's not too much of a surprise. This car wants to go fast. Very, very fast. It will get to 100kph in under three seconds, but that fact seems almost inconsequential. Because its power just doesn't stop; it's like you're driving a locomotive instead of a car. With your right foot pressed to the floor, it keeps building speed at a startling rate, and there's not a point where you feel the W16 engine is going to huff out. The acceleration just doesn't stop, full stop.

The next point is somewhat surprising, but absolutely necessary for this niche of vehicle. Because, you see, it not only goes fast, but it gets there so very easily. You can literally pinch the steering wheel with your thumbs and forefingers and blow away Ferraris, Lamborghinis or any other supercar out there. The comportment of the Veyron remains relaxed and steady no matter the velocity; it will make you feel like you're a better driver than you really are. The only matter of real driver input in a straight line is making small corrections to the steering as the front tyres move over imperfections in the road; on a surface as smooth as plate glass, you could probably take your hands off the wheel as the car reaches terminal velocity. Even on a normal asphalt surface, there is no serious vibration, no shuddering, buffeting or jarring suspension movement to unsettle the driver, just the shriek of that massive engine sitting behind you and the blur outside the windows - adding even more to the feeling of piloting a train.

And braking from speed is just as unruffled. Stomping on the pedal clamps the massive carbon ceramic disks and throws out a huge air brake at the back, the effect of which hauls in the car in a perfectly straight line with no tail wagging or brake steer. In fact, Raphanel demonstrated this perfectly by getting up to high speed, taking his hands off the wheel and standing on the binders, something that would have sounded ridiculous to attempt, even for me. And yet, the car slammed to a stop and stayed between the lines with almost no dive or sway.

The engineering and design that has gone into this car looks impressive on paper, but the way it all works is staggering when you actually get behind the wheel. I used to think that €2 million was a little silly to pay for a car that will sit in a garage for most of its life, and to some that might still be the case. But then, these people have never driven a Veyron Super Sport. I get it now.