Photography of blue car by Mark Bramley
Good timing with the new Bugatti Grand Sport (2009) hypercar. The polar ice caps are melting and the world’s in the middle of the worst financial crisis since John Steinbeck was still scratching around in the dust bowl looking for a pencil, yet Bugatti manages to gauge the zeitgeist perfectly and unleash a £1.5m convertible supercar that emits 596g/km CO2.
Sleeping polar bears? One little Bugatti isn’t going to hurt, and anyway, there’ll always be sufficient disgustingly rich people to buy a truly outrageous car like the drop-top Veyron Grand Sport.
So how fast is the world’s fastest hair dryer?
As fast as the regular Veyron, at least with the roof in place when you can insert the second key to engage the top speed mode that drops the car closer to the ground and tweaks the angle of the spoilers. Do that, find enough road and you’ll hit 253mph. With the roof off, you can’t use the second key and are limited to a mere 224mph. Pah!
What about performance I can actually use? Will the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport (2009) beat my neighbour’s Nissan GT-R away from the lights?
Bugatti claims the 53kg weight penalty knocks a couple of tenths off the coupe’s 2.5sec 0-62mph time, but unless you stray onto Santa Pod drag strip when the top fuellers are doing their stuff, you’re not going to come across much that can beat it. Don’t believe me? How about zero to 186mph (300km/h) in less than 17sec? You won’t find a Ferrari or Lamborghini that can get within the same time zone as the Bugatti when it’s delivering all 987bhp.
In fact it’s truly unsettling the first few times you give it the lot and hold it there in second gear and through third. I’ve been fortunate enough to have driven plenty of quick cars – including a Mclaren F1 – and I was still startled by the kick in the back. If you’ve never driven anything swifter than a hot hatch, there’s a good chance that you might feel genuinely scared, it’s that quick. As soon as the quad-turbo W16 passes 2200rpm all 922lb ft of torque is at your bidding, though even that much twist can’t trouble the four-wheel drive system or £5k-a-corner Michelins.
£5k a corner! So the Bugatti's not a car for drifting then?
You’d struggle to get the Grand Sport out of shape, at least in the dry and on the road. There’s simply not enough room. Push really hard on tighter corners and you might get a little understeer, but that’s your lot. Don’t go thinking that the Grand Sport is a blunt instrument though. Its steering is surprisingly delicate and precise and you soon find yourself nibbling verges in a way you never thought possible in a car this wide, this expensive.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport drive
So the Bugatti’s easy to drive?
As easy as an Audi TT. Seriously. The seven-speed dual-clutch Ricardo 'box is massively refined, the steering light. Reversing into a space in your local Sainsbury’s might present a problem though, even with the reversing camera displaying your surroundings in the rear-view mirror. And as you’d expect of a £1.5m car, the build quality is incredible.
Isn’t the Veyron Grand Sport more of a targa than a full-on roadster?
Yes, the cabrio bit is limited to an Elise-like lift-out roof section, not least because the dual air intakes form part of the rear bodywork, but you still get plenty of exposure to the elements. In other ways though, you’d be hard pressed to know this car was never designed as a roadster from the start.
The Grand Sport feels massively stiff from behind the wheel. There’s no scuttle shake or steering wheel wobble, a feat that necessitated some serious re-engineering. The sills of the carbon chassis were beefed up, those silver air intakes became structural members, there’s a carbonfibre brace stiffening the B-pillars and a carbon plate beneath the transmission tunnel. Bugatti claims the Grand Sport suffers from less torsional flexing than any other roadster in the world.
What about wet weather gear? Even the mega rich can’t ensure that it never rains!
There’s a proper transparent polycarbonate targa roof panel that when fitted makes the cabin as snug as the coupé’s. But it’s a meaty bit of kit, removing it is a two-man job and when you have got it off there’s nowhere in the car to store it.
But even if you did leave it home and get caught out be a surprise shower, there is an emergency canvas roof. It looks like a huge, rectangular umbrella and you erect it the same way before clipping it into place and removing the umbrella handle/pole. It’s much sturdier and easier to use than the Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster’s canvas roof, but it’s only rated up to 100mph so don’t expect to use much of the performance with it in place.
If you gave us £1.5m to buy a convertible supercar we’d probably buy a Ferrari Scuderia 16M and a 1955 Mercedes SL roadster before disappearing to a tropical Island with the leftovers rather than buy a Grand Sport. The fact is that there despite its monumental pace, other supercars are more exciting, more involving.
But this car isn’t built for the likes of you and me. It’s aimed at the mega rich, people who already have 20 other Ferraris, or could have them if they so desired. The Grand Sport is beautifully built, staggeringly fast and astonishingly easy to drive. And by incorporating such performance into a usable GT car rather than stripped-out racetrack refugee, Bugatti has done something genuinely new, something that manages to be incredibly tasteful despite the excess. That’s a trick many supercars fail to pull off. The Grand Sport is an event and there really is nothing like it.
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