On the evening of May 24, a select group of Los Angeles car connoisseurs and big spenders got a sneak peek at the fastest, most expensive production car on the market -- the 2006 Bugatti Veyron 16.4. How fast? At its top speed of 250 mph, the Veyron could whisk you from Manhattan to Miami in just five hours. But with a price tag of $1.3 million, the Veyron is the kind of luxury you won't find parked in Jon Q. Babyboomer's image-conscious driveway.
The car was displayed at an "Evening of Luxury" at the O'Gara Coach Company, a premium auto dealer in Beverly Hills. "The most anticipated supercar of the 21st century and the finest luxury items, all at your fingertips," says O'Gara Coach president and CEO Ehren Bragg.
O'Gara -- which also carries Aston Martins, Bentleys, Lamborghinis, and Spykers -- sells more of the 50 Veyrons produced every year than any other auto dealer on the planet. Even so, the retailer maintains no excess inventory. All Veyrons are built to order with a $400,000 deposit, and there is a one-year waiting list, which made the May event a rare opportunity to see the supercar up close.
RALPH LAUREN'S CHOICE
The Veyron, arguably the most exclusive sports car of all time, inherits the celebrated legacy of the Bugatti nameplate. Although Volkswagen now owns the rights to the brand, the Bugatti name became famous for limousines and racing cars produced in the early 20th century. Antique Bugattis are among the most sought-after models on the classic auction circuit. (Designer and car collector Ralph Lauren has a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Gangloff Drophead and a 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe, one of just three built.)
Bugatti was among the French auto makers that pioneered the streamlined, "goutte d'eau" or teardrop-shaped cars of the 1920s and 1930s. What started out as an exploration into aerodynamic forms that would allow for increased speed and fuel efficiency led to some of the most elegant cars ever designed.
The Veyron 16.4 is named for racing driver Pierre Veyron, who won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1939 while driving for Bugatti. (The 16.4 refers to its 16 cylinders and 4 turbochargers.) The car is Bugatti's attempt to shatter current acceleration and top-speed records for production automobiles, while still achieving the pinnacle of style and luxury.
NO EASY TASK
From a performance standpoint, the Veyron can't be evaluated by conventional standards; the power, speed, and technology (the seven-speed gearbox takes just 150 milliseconds to shift between gears) are unparalleled. Cranking out 987 horsepower, the Veyron needs just 2.5 seconds to reach 62 miles per hour, and will hit 250 mph flat-out in around 55 seconds. To put that power into perspective, the Veyron generates roughly as much horsepower as six potent Mini Cooper Ss combined.
Building the fastest production car on Earth is no easy task, and making it street legal, up to emissions code, luxurious, and dependable is near impossible. Such was the unique challenge of engineering this autobahn burner meets luxury touring coupe. Even consumers willing to drop $1.3 million on a car probably don't have a pit crew standing by for spare tires and on-the-fly tune-ups. Yet they have high standards for luxury.
The Veyron's interior is over-the-top: dove-skin upholstery, a lacquered bonsai shift lever topped by a solid-gold knob inlaid with narwhal horn. Options, such as a Swarovski crystal windshield, can drive the Veyron's seven-figure price even higher.
Despite the price tag, the Veyron is no cash cow for Bugatti. Company officials portray the car as an investment in the brand -- an offering so exclusive that it will rekindle excitement about the Bugatti name, and perhaps even earn Volkswagen engineering kudos that will rub off on the German auto maker's other luxury subsidiaries (Audi, Lamborghini, and Bentley). If the outrageous Veyron puts Bugatti back on the map, future models will be priced to sell in higher volumes. Though it will always be synonymous with luxury.