At $2 million, the Bugatti Veyron is a seriously expensive car with equally expensive maintenance – an oil change alone costs $21,000. The car’s not exactly a looker, either. But the Veyron is an exceptional kind of insane, and the world could use more of it.
The Veyron was birthed as an exercise in the limits of engineering. Ferdinand Piech, prior chairman of the Volkswagen Group that owns Bugatti, was scoffed at when he asked his engineers to build a 1,000 horsepower road car. But he persevered, making it happen no matter the cost – VW reportedly lost $6.25 million on every Veyron they sold. With 450 cars made, that’s as expensive as stubbornness comes.
The end result was made to be as simple to drive as your run-of-the-mill family sedan. Some reviewers even criticized it for a lack of emotion. But this easy-to-use machine can achieve a top speed of 253 miles per hour, accelerating at a mind-bending rate along the way. By the time a typical car reaches 60 mph, the Veyron is traveling at more than twice that speed. And that was before the Super Sport came along – a variant of the Veyron that was put on a 110 pound diet and given 20% more power. The Super Sport still holds the title for the world’s fastest car, with a 268 mph top speed. But the tires can’t last long at that speed, so production models were restricted to a mere 258 mph.
Sitting inside the Veyron is a joy as well, with the interior pairing leather and expensive metals together in a beautiful package. It also has what must be the coolest gauge ever found in a car – the power meter, showing the driver how much horsepower the car is using at any moment. If you wanted to add a little more pizzazz to your gauges, the Veyron could even be ordered with diamond-studded speedometer and power needles.
Plenty of hypercars can do similarly ridiculous speeds in relative luxury today, but the Veyron’s attention to detail is unheard of. The indicator stalks were made from a unique blend of aluminum and magnesium, commanding $7000 a piece. The spoiler was operated by a unique sensor that could adjust its angle on the fly, or activate the air brake in just 0.4 seconds. It may have been assembled in France, but the Veyron embodied the stereotype of German overengineering.
And that’s exactly why the world could use a new Veyron. With this car, VW did what nobody else was willing to do. They poured endless resources into a hopelessly unprofitable project, just to see how far they could push the technology. Not many of the lessons learned will even trickle down to regular cars – your minivan almost certainly doesn’t need an air brake.
But who cares? It’s an engineering masterpiece. The car geek’s Mona Lisa. It serves little practical purpose, but it’s a much-needed reminder that people can do some amazing things when they put their minds to it. With Ferdinand Piech gone from the VW Group, we can only hope that the Veyron’s upcoming successor lives up to the legacy.