Skip advert
Advertisement

Bugatti Veyron (2005 - 2015): review, history and specs of an icon

Bugatti’s first no-expenses-spared hypercar firmly cemented its place in automotive history as one of the greats, and one of our top 25 cars of the last 25 years

It’s safe to say the Bugatti Veyron only exists because of one man, VW’s mighty (and slightly scary) overlord, Ferdinand Piëch, who held an ambition to create the world’s greatest and most expensive supercar. His first move was to push through VW’s purchase of the then-dormant Bugatti brand. This was in 1998 (the year evo launched) and it allowed his engineers to set about creating what we now know as the Veyron. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

Initially, Bugatti teased us with a series of concept cars, but in 2000 the EB 16/4 Veyron concept was revealed and finally showed the expectant world exactly how the new supercar would look. And, in September 2001, Piëch confirmed the Veyron would go into production at the original Bugatti base in Molsheim, France. From that moment on I made it my mission that evo would be among the very first magazines in the world to drive it. 

> The Bugatti Bolide is a £3.5m, W16-powered track-only hypercar

The stats swirling around the Veyron reveal were nuts: Piëch had decreed the 16-cylinder, quad-turbo ‘W’ engine would have over 1000bhp and the car would have a top speed in excess of 400kph (249mph). It would also cost one million pounds. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

For the engineers behind the project, making Piëch’s dream a reality was tough. By a quirk of fate, I knew the man in charge of creating the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission at UK company Ricardo. He once explained to me the difficulty they were having making the gearbox robust enough to withstand the power of the mighty W16 engine, especially during a standing start. He organised a meeting with Piëch to suggest limiting the engine’s torque in the lower gears. It was a short meeting, apparently. Piëch gave him one of his infamous steely stares and, in no uncertain terms, explained that the Veyron would have full torque available from the moment the ignition key was turned and not to bother him again until they had a pre-production car for him to drive. There were aero issues to deal with too, as the design of the Veyron wasn’t particularly aerodynamic – during a test session at Nardo, legendary supercar development driver Loris Bicocchi crashed a prototype at over 400kph. 

All of this meant it wasn’t until 2005 that evo eventually got to drive the production-ready Veyron. I was one of a handful of journalists given the golden ticket to attend the exclusive two-day launch in Sicily. First impressions were that it was beautifully constructed, more compact than I expected and sounded like no other supercar I’d experienced, with a wall of sound that hit you at start-up and never became particularly tuneful. 

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

But it was the acceleration that left you bamboozled, as it was utterly relentless. There’s always a point when acceleration in any supercar starts to tail off, but not so in the Veyron. I had the opportunity to nail the Bugatti in Sicily and it breezed past an indicated 200mph just like a Ferrari 575 might pass through 100mph. I’d never experienced anything like it before and it made the Veyron the biggest game-changer I ever experienced during my time at evo. And all thanks to Ferdinand Piëch’s determination to create the world’s fastest supercar, whatever the costs. Mission accomplished, I’d say.

History

Bugatti has only been around in its current form since the Volkswagen Group acquisition in 1998, but the marque's history goes much further than this. The badge first made an appearance 111 years ago in 1909, when it was founded by none other than Jean and Ettore Bugatti.

The brand showed initial promise, producing machines for both the road and track more capable than most cars of the time – the first ever Monaco Grand Prix, held in 1929, was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti Type 35B, and the brand even held two Le Mans wins to its name.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

This era was relatively short-lived, coming to an end in 1952 following financial struggles, a consequence of the death of company founders Ettore and Jean Bugatti. 

A period of attempted revivals and aircraft part production ensued, up until 1987 when it was acquired by Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli. The brand's famous Modena factory was opened in 1990, just ahead of the start of EB110 GT production. Despite a reasonable amount of success with the supercar, poor finances once again led to the cease of operations in 1995, a few years before the Volkswagen Group’s acquisition and the brand’s rebirth in 1998.

Bugatti confirmed production for its W16-powered hypercar in 2001, around six years after the production line for the EB110 was brought to a close. The first customer car rolled off the brand’s Molsheim production line four years later in 2005, with a total of 450 examples produced between then and the end of production a decade later in 2015.

Engine and transmission

Though early concepts boasted a three-bank W18, an 8.0-litre, quad-turbocharged W16 is what you’ll find under the skin of the production Veyron, featuring four banks of four cylinders for an output just shy of 1000bhp, 922lb ft of torque and consequential performance figures that many have struggled to match even 15 years on.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

253.81mph was the top speed recorded at Volkswagen Group's Ehra-Lessien test facility in 2005, a figure the standard Veyron 16.4 could achieve simply through the use of the model’s ‘speed key’, lifting the standard 213mph limiter. Helping keep the powertrain within safe temperature limits, Bugatti’s boffins employed 10 radiators alongside a host of other cooling componentry.

Sending power to the ground is a Ricardo of England seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, capable of shifting in just 150 milliseconds, faster than the 160 milliseconds of the track-only Ferrari FXX Evo of the same period. Harry Metcalfe said: ‘The seven gears slip home with no hint of lost momentum, yet without suffering from that slightly disconnected feel you get with a manually operated auto box (or even an automated manual for that matter).’

Of course, a mere 253mph wasn’t quite enough, and so the Super Sport was launched in 2010 with new, larger turbochargers, freer-flowing inlet manifolds, a remapped ECU and bigger charge-coolers. The result was an increase of almost 200bhp over the ‘regular’ car, bringing the total to 1183bhp - engineers said the unit was capable of more still, but that the gearbox wasn’t up to the task.

When Chris Harris drove it for evo, he described it thus. ‘There’s quite a lot of turbo lag in the Super Sport: you push the throttle pedal down and it takes a second for the turbos to spool up. This is never a problem, because even while they’re doing it, the car still feels as fast as a 911 Turbo…’

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

‘Tellingly, when there are two people in an SS they talk liberally because the thing is so damn refined, but when the taps open, there is silence. You can’t talk because your brain is trying to work out if you were propelled at the horizon, or if the horizon was just dragged onto your face. It’s uncanny, ludicrous and, I think, completely addictive.’

Suspension, steering and brakes

As you might imagine, with such power comes the requirement for an equally powerful braking system, and so the Veyron is fitted with 400mm front, 380mm rear carbon ceramic discs, paired with eight-pot front, six-pot rear AP Racing calipers. Aiding the traditional braking system is an air brake, capable of switching from 15 degrees, to 55 degrees of attack in under 0.4sec.

The Veyron’s front and rear double-wishbone suspension arrangement comes complete with a fast-acting hydraulic system, allowing the machine to alter ride height based on conditions, for better stability, efficiency and practicality.

The tyres are quite an impressive feat, too, made specifically for the Veyron by Michelin to handle the unfathomable forces encountered during a 250mph+ run. Aiding stability and traction are widths of 365mm rear and 265mm front, with each tyre wrapped around a set of polished OZ wheels.

Interior

Despite what the numbers might lead you to believe, the Veyron’s cabin is more akin to a Bentley’s than a car designed for outright top speed. Exquisite leather upholstery (complemented by a healthy dose of carbon fibre, of course), a comfortable door aperture and even a rear-view mirror-mounted reversing camera display all make it a surprisingly liveable machine.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

An example as to just how far Bugatti took the 'no-expenses-spared' approach, would be the indicator stalks, famously costing as much as some small hatchbacks, machined from a single piece of aluminium/magnesium alloy - even the gear shift paddles are made from magnesium. The centre console is also derived from a single piece of aluminium, featuring guilloché finishing, a reference to the technique used on exposed surfaces of Bugatti’s early engines.

Rivals

Porsche’s Carrera GT and the Pagani Zonda F were perhaps the Veyron’s closest rivals, but in reality, it’s difficult to compare the Bugatti to anything of its time. All-wheel-drive, turbochargers and substantial weight set it apart from the lightweight, naturally-aspirated duo, but the Veyron’s straight line performance and outright refinement simply couldn’t be matched.

In a modern context the field has opened up somewhat, not least because Veyron money is in the ballpark for any number of other iconic supercars and hypercars, including the full back-catalogue of top-end Ferraris like the F40, F50 and Enzo, plus the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and Ferrari LaFerrari. The number of cars now coming close to matching what Bugatti was able to achieve but with significantly less weight and more driver involvement is quite impressive.

Bugatti Veyron specs

 Veyron 16.4Veyron Super Sport
Engine8.0-litre, quad-turbocharged W16
Max power987bhp1184bhp
Max torque922lb ft1106lb ft
TransmissionSeven-speed dual-clutch
TyresMichelin
Weight1888kg1990kg
Power/weight522bhp/ton594bhp/ton
0-62mph2.46sec
Top speed253mph268mph
Pricec£925,000 newApprox. £1.6m

What we said

Bugatti Veyron 16.4 (evo 86, December 2005)

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

'Far from being a huge challenge to drive, the 1000bhp Bugatti is so far proving to be a very friendly device. The ride is firm but cosseting, and the steering is outstanding. Considering the size of the front tyres, the weighting at the steering wheel is extraordinarily good, and there's a constant chatter of information coming via the leather-rimmed wheel. Turning either side of dead centre simply requires a linear increase in effort, gently building as lock increases. It's easily the best steering I've encountered on any car from the VW Group, and it reinforces the reassuring feeling of connectedness.

'...it's no Elise (or F1). But while the weight works against it on these roads, that's not to say it feels unwieldy or difficult. In fact it handles amazingly well, and having 1000bhp to play with on these roads is an absolute blast.' Harry Metcalfe

What to pay

The Veyron is an interesting example of how many intangible factors go into the rise and fall of the value of exotic cars over time. If you were to work purely on assumptions, one of the era’s most technologically advanced vehicles, once the world’s fastest in a straight line, should be - as some have no doubt erroneously assigned it - a “guaranteed investment”.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

And yet, given the Veyron started at around £925k new, before buyers enacted any kind of personalisation, the range of values for a 16.4 today, between around £800,000 and £1.3 million, does not seem to reflect perception. That figure does climb steeply for the special edition models (detailed below), Grand Sports and roadsters, though the market is fickle, and with the more recent Chiron taking the wind from the Veyron’s sails, and the relentless roster of hypercars from other brands since the Veyron’s introduction, perhaps the Veyron no longer commands the respect (and values) it once did.

The special editions

The Bugatti Veyron has been with us for almost 15 years now, and in that time there’s been an unseemly amount of special editions to help shift the steeply-priced supercar. It seems for £1million-plus, buyers crave uniqueness, opening the doors to a selection of questionably painted and garishly upholstered specials. Below are the most notable of them all.

Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 (2005)

The original Veyron became the world’s fastest production car after it achieved a top speed of 253mph. The car features an 8.0-litre, quad-turbo W16 which produces 987bhp and 922lb ft of torque. Development for the car started way back in 2001 and each car has reportedly cost Bugatti around £5million to produce, but being sold for less than £1million, each car was sold at a significant loss. 300 produced.

Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang (2007)

Introduced at the Paris motor show the Pur Sang (which translates as thoroughbred) was limited to a run of five cars and features high-gloss bronze wheels and a clear body finish to reveal the Veyron’s silver oxide and carbonfibre body.

Bugatti Veyron Fbg Par Hermes (2008)

Produced in association with the French style house (famed for its leather goods) the car features a Hermes monogram on the front grille, wheels with a single ‘H’ in the centre, and a fuel filler cap engraved with ‘Bugatti Veyron Fbg Par Hermes’.

Bugatti Veyron Sang Noir (2008)

Based on the ‘Pur Sang’, the ‘Sang Noir’ (black blood), features an all-black exterior finish paired with a bright orange interior. Just 15 examples were produced.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport (2008)

Unveiled at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, this targa top version of the Veyron can hit the same 253mph top speed as the coupe with the removable hard-top roof fitted, but is limited to 229mph with the roof down. Chassis no.001 was sold at Auction, raising 900,000 US dollars for charity. 150 are set to be made.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Sang Blanc (2010)

The car was designed at the request of a UK client. It was finished in a unique matte pearlescent white with black front grille, exhaust and engine cover.

Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport (2011)

After numerous special editions based on the standard car, the Super Sport boasts an enhanced output of 1183bhp and 1106lb ft of torque. The car was designed to retake the world speed record for a production car, after SSC’s Ultimate Aero had beaten the standard car’s top speed. The Super Sport hit a faintly ridiculous 268mph in the hands of Bugatti test driver Pierre Henri Raphanel. The launch version of the car included the ‘World Record Edition’, which was finished in bare carbon fibre with a bright orange contrast.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport by Bijan Pakzad (2011)

Before unexpectedly passing away, the Iranian born fashion designer collaborated to design this one-off Veyron. The car features a fairly questionable colour scheme, combining the unlikely hues yellow and chrome. One of the most garish special editions, and that is before you notice the handwritten-look ‘Bijan’ scrawled on the underside of the rear wing…

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport Sang Noir (2011)

Introduced for customers who did not like the look of the ‘World Record Edition’. The car, as the name suggests, is finished entirely in black. A bright orange interior awaited the owners who paid a massive 3.4million dollars for it…

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport L’or Blanc (2011)

Another collaboration with a design company, this time with Konigliche Porzellan-Manufatur Berlin – a porcelain maker. The car is finished in a more psychedelic than elegant blue and white swirled pattern, while the wheel badges, fuel and oil filler caps and the signature ‘EB’ badge at the rear are all made of porcelain. As you do.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Middle East Edition (2011)

The three different ‘Middle East Edition’ cars were unveiled at the 2011 Dubai motor show. The first car combines a bright yellow body with black carbon inserts and black wheels. The second has a two-tone body with blue carbon framed in polished aluminium. The final Grand Sport features a more tasteful green carbon finish, once again framed with polished aluminium. Prices from £1.4million.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

McLaren Artura Spider 2024 review – Ferrari 296 rival just got a whole lot better
McLaren Artura Spider
Reviews

McLaren Artura Spider 2024 review – Ferrari 296 rival just got a whole lot better

More power, comprehensive chassis updates and a new Spider model has resulted in McLaren’s Artura being impossible to ignore for those in the junior s…
16 Jun 2024
Ferrari F430 v Lamborghini Gallardo v McLaren 650S v Audi R8: The best used mid-engined supercars
Affordable mid engined exotics
Group tests

Ferrari F430 v Lamborghini Gallardo v McLaren 650S v Audi R8: The best used mid-engined supercars

For most of us, owning a mid-engined supercar is the ultimate. And because of the numbers built in the last 20 years, the dream is more attainable tha…
16 Jun 2024
The Lamborghini Huracán replacement will get a 10,000rpm flat-plane crank V8 
Lamborghini V8 to replace V10
News

The Lamborghini Huracán replacement will get a 10,000rpm flat-plane crank V8 

The iconic Lamborghini V10 is no more, but its upcoming eight-cylinder successor will pack hybrid drive and a 10,000rpm redline
20 May 2024
Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica 2024 review – a supercar of the old-school
Lamborghini Huracan Tecnica
Reviews

Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica 2024 review – a supercar of the old-school

The Huracán will soon be replaced by a V8-engined hybrid, but it’s going out as one of the truly great modern supercars
13 May 2024
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Le Mans 24 Hours 2024: Ferrari triumphs (again) with the 499P
Le Mans 24 Hours 2024
News

Le Mans 24 Hours 2024: Ferrari triumphs (again) with the 499P

The 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours was a thriller, with a record-breaking number of Hypercars, changeable weather and the new LMGT3 class making its debut
16 Jun 2024
Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars
Used mid-engined bargains
Group tests

Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars

Everyone should own a mid-engined car at least once in their life, and the S2 Elise, Mk3 MR2 and 987 Boxster S are brilliant places to start
15 Jun 2024
The new Alpine A290 sounds like the electric hot hatch we’ve been waiting for
Alpine A290 – front
News

The new Alpine A290 sounds like the electric hot hatch we’ve been waiting for

We’ve seen the concept, driven a prototype, and now Alpine has unveiled its A290 hot hatch in its final form
13 Jun 2024