Obscure supercars come and go, each proclaiming to be faster than the Bugatti Veyron. Five years after driving the original Veyron, it's time to try this final evolution of the species, the Super Sport, a car that should secure Bugatti the ‘World’s Fastest’ title for some time.
How has a standard Bugatti Veyron become a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport?
By gaining an additional 196bhp and 184lb ft, thanks to bigger intercoolers and four enlarged turbochargers. The 0-62mph time doesn’t improve (it’s still a stunning 2.5 seconds) but the 0-125mph times drops (7.3sec to 6.7), as does that all important 0-186mph sprint (16.7 seconds down to 14.6), and the top speed climbs to 268mph. Or at least it would if Bugatti hadn’t limited the Super Sport’s top whack to 259mph for the sake of the tyres – the standard Veyron is limited to 254mph.
There are other changes, too. The redesigned nose features bigger brake cooling ducts, a differnt bumper for more downforce and more powerful LED headlamps. The rear wing rises earlier – at 112mph instead of 137mph – and it drops again at 75mph. Also new are more progressive spring and damper rates, thicker diameter anti-roll bars, and a ground clearance that has been reduced to 80/95mm front and rear in handling mode.
Yes, it’s more, more, more, but there’s also less, 50kg less to be precise, mostly accounted for by the new lightweight wheels. Other calorie-savers are a thin-wall free-flow exhaust, a stiffer monocoque and a lower-drag roof with integrated ram-air NACA ducts rather than alloy air intakes. That’s a lot of changes for such a small batch of cars – just 30 Super Sport-spec Veyrons will ever be built.
Is this new Veyron Super Sport more fun to drive?
I meet the Veyron somewhere between Jerez and Seville. The keyhole next to the driver’s seat is empty, indicating that the 233-to-268mph ultra-high-speed window remains closed, but Bugatti chief test driver and 268mph-record holder Pierre-Henri Raphanel (PHR) is co-pilot and navigator for our journey.
Time to put launch control to the test on a sealed-off stretch of road. Left hoof on the brake, right foot at 6000rpm, and then presto, we’re scorching down the road, the Veyron smoking its tyres in first and again in second. Only the subconscious registers the whiplash upshifts, but the body’s G-force meter is at all times fully aware of the 1106lb ft torque battle between the front Haldex clutch and the mechanical rear differential.
The engine needs to be revved hard to unleash the additional horses, but the benefits of the more compliant front suspension are obvious: gone for good are the nervous high-velocity tremble, the discomforting pitch triggered all too easily by transverse irritations and the harshness when encountering potholes or bumps.
Although the speedo is fast counting up to 186mph, Pierre-Henri keeps smiling his roguish been-there-done-that smile. This car is like a drug, and PHR knows it. I drop the anchors and watch the shiny rear wing increase its angle from 27 to 55 degrees, causing an involuntary downward nod of appreciation as the Veyron sheds speed.
So it sprints like a champion, but can it dance?
The Super Sport is more than merely a quarter-mile king. During our four-hour drive, I pushed the brakes past the ABS threshold corner for corner, accelerating into the ESP software barrier exit for exit, manually extending the mighty wing to load up the rear suspension with an extra 200 kilos of downforce over those blind sickbag crests, mixing the dual-clutch gearbox’s Manual and Sport modes to trigger spine-snappingly sudden upshifts and yield an afterburner effect at the top end of the rev ladder that combs your hair backwards, shapes your eyes into olives and flattens your nose. PHR stopped talking for a while, but his complexion remained rosy, and he walked away in a straight line from the car park to the coffee house at the end of our drive.
Pushing a Veryon Super Sport to the limit of adhesion can be an almost surreal experience. You feel like the pilot of an alien craft morphing video game fantasy with rural Andalucian reality. Sometimes, the speed differential is so crass that you wish for two more wings to make this thing fly properly. Even in the mundane 60 to 125mph range, the Bugatti blitzes us through traffic, beaming itself from gap to gap, ever ready to raise the curtain of the even more ambitious 125 to 185mph stage. When other supercars run out of gears, revs or both, the SS simply ignites the next rocket stage and leaps towards the horizon in one grand magnet-to-magnet move.
Any downsides to the Super Sport experience?
For a car so otherworldly, there are naturally real-world drawbacks: the Super Sport hates tall kerbs, tight parking spaces and any kind of reversing manoeuvres. Being two metres wide, the Veyron also is quite a handful on tight country roads where the vulnerability warning light never stops flashing inside your head. It sure is great to field a riveting stopping distance of 103ft, to muster a record shift time of 0.1sec and to double the downforce by deploying that tall tail rudder, but none of this helps when a mere mortal coming the other way cuts a slow corner, running the costliest collision course one’s imagination can map out.
Other imperfections include shift paddles that are attached to the steering-wheel, not the column; poorly legible instruments; and stability control that has an on and a off, but no in-between setting. Last but not least, there is the running cost issue. One surely does not mind an average fuel consumption of 7.6mpg in town, but the price of four tyres is a rather steep £17,300, the magnesium rims need to be checked (and possibly replaced) every 9300 miles, and a major service at one of the 30 dealers typically costs £26,000. How much is a new engine? Bugatti does not know yet, because none of the 220 Veyrons sold so far has needed one.
Today, sadly, I’m one of Pierre-Henri Raphanel nine out of ten test-driving clients who don't sign on the dotted line, but that’s more from a lack of funds than any lack of desire on my part. It’s a privilege to drive any Veyron, but the Super Sport is truly something else.
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