What's it like to drive a car so expensive, that even the wealthiest of individuals blink at price? How do people react? What do they say? Is it love at first sight, or does the blatant conspicuous consumption attract quiet ire or unvarnished anger?
AOL Autos found out when driving the new Bugatti Grand Sport, a vehicle that costs a stratospheric $2 million. Unlike any car that has ever graced the AOL Autos' fleet, the Grand Sport came with its own chaperone. A professional race car driver, Butch Leitzinger, rides shotgun in Bugattis with members of the press and potential buyers. During his drives, he's experienced some pretty wild reactions.Are You A God?
Butch said, "I was recently in Los Angeles, and as I pulled up to a traffic light, the girl in the car next to me leaned out and said, 'Are you a god?'" While Butch may not be deity, the Bugatti Grand Sport is certainly a chariot fit for the gods.
The exterior design connotes power, but in a way that's different from other super cars. While the Dodge Viper or Lamborghini Murcielago has a more outwardly aggressive stance, the Bugatti's is elegant, not intimidating. Looking inside, the Grand Sport's interior is meticulously covered in leather so pure of grain that a baby's behind is rough in comparison. Inquiring about the fine hides, we learned that Bugatti craftsmen source the suppleness from alpine herds grazed at altitudes so high that there are no flies or mosquitoes to bother the bovines, or mar their delicate skin.
Butch has acclimated to the attention he receives behind the wheel. He admitted, "It took a while to get used to people's reaction. The car is a magnet for cell phone cameras. I still remember my first experience. I saw another car's window go down and a guy's arm appeared with a black object in his hand. My first thought was it was a gun and I was about to be car-jacked. Of course, it was just a camera. I'm used to it now, so I just smile."
During our time driving around the beautiful suburbs north of metropolitan Detroit, we ended up on literally dozens of cell phone memory chips. At traffic lights, stop signs, or in parking lots, and even on the freeway, people reacted to the Grand Sport with pure excitement. Butch said, "How many sights can you think of that literally make people stop what they're doing? This car has that effect on people."
The Sampling Of Questions Included:
- How fast does that thing go?
- How much does it cost?
- Want to race?
- What's the speedometer go up to?
However, the most popular first question is, "What is it?"
The answer was often quickly followed a by a blank stare and a second question, "What's a Bugatti?" The quick answer is, "One of the most expensive, exclusive, and fastest production cars in the world."
The cost of the car you're ogling can hit 253 mph and costs about $2 million (depending on the exchange rate to dollars from 1.4 million Euros plus taxes and transportation charges).
Curiously, no one ever asked what kind of mileage the Grand Sport manages to achieve. Apparently, everyone instinctually knows that this car couldn't care less about its EPA economy numbers, which happen to be 8-mpg city, 14-mpg highway.What Is A Bugatti?
Frankly, this is a fair question. The original Bugatti automobile company was a French brand that began building cars in 1900. It then failed with the coming of World War II along with many other high-end marques of the time. Cars made by Bugatti were valued for their fashion and performance, and their Grand Prix racers dominated competitions throughout the first half of the 1900s.
Bugatti only recently resurfaced and is now owned by the Volkswagen Group, the third largest automobile manufacturer in the world. (Volkswagen Group also owns Volkswagen, Audi, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda, and Bentley.) The purpose of the new Bugatti is to be the Volkswagen Group's flagship brand and technological superstar.
The first modern Bugatti is the Veyron 16.4. Its massive 8-liter engine features 16 cylinders arranged in a W or double-V pattern. Each bank of four cylinders features its own turbocharger. Stated horsepower is 1001. Power from the mid-mounted engine drives all four wheels via a seven-speed automated manual Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission.
The Veyron, first introduced in 2005, captured the attention of the world's rich enthusiasts by achieving a repeatable top speed of 253 mph. In this class of car, speed rules because bragging rights are everything. If a driver could keep the Veyron's engine at full throttle, the car's 26-gallon fuel tank would empty in just 12 minutes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because at speeds over 250 mph, the tires will last only 15 minutes before disintegrating from friction and heat.What Is A Grand Sport?
The Grand Sport is a topless take on the Veyron, and many would agree that it is a superior driving experience. While the heavier Grand Sport may not be (technically) as quick to accelerate as the Veyron, the sprints are so brief as to make the numbers purely academic. Blasting off from a stop, the Grand Sport hits 62 mph (an even 100 kph) in 2.7 seconds. Continue for seven seconds and you'll pass 125 mph. If you were to stay on the throttle for as long as it takes an average car to rush through a quarter mile (16.7 seconds), the Grand Sport's analog speedometer would read 188 mph and its needle would still be rushing clockwise around its face.How Does the Grand Sport Drive?
While only the best drivers in the world can feel the difference between the Veyron and Grand Sport, any driver can hear the difference between how the two cars sound.
With the top off, the Grand Sport provides the driver with a level of auditory connection that is absent from the insulated cockpit of the fixed-roof version. Twin air intakes sit directly behind the driver's head, and the engine itself is open to the elements. This physical reality treats the driver to a mechanical symphony of sounds including the whoosh of the engine sucking in cubic liters of air, the hissing of the turbocharger waste gates bleeding off pressure, and the rumble of the V-16 (that sounds much like a throaty but refined V-8). These sounds are controlled by the driver's right foot, allowing the driver to become a conductor of sorts.
Beyond the sounds, the Grand Sport is nothing short of spectacular to drive. Incredibly, unleashing the car's full power isn't like the barely controlled atom-splitting explosion one might expect. The Grand Sport's sophisticated all-wheel drive system and enormous tires effortlessly transfer the V-16's rotational power into linear motion. (The rear tires are 14-inches wide.) Never once was I able to spin a tire, which is a good thing since they cost about $5,000. Apiece.
Nail the throttle and the car rockets forward with a level of thrust akin to a Saturn rocket. The acceleration is so powerful that you'll feel your internal organs shift toward the rear of your ribcage. Several times during a rush of acceleration I thought about looking down to see the reading on the horsepower gauge (yes, this car has a gauge for horsepower). I couldn't spare the time to glace away from the road as I hurtled toward the horizon, but Butch noted that during sustained bursts that begin at legal highway speeds generate 800-900 horsepower.
Getting the engine to produce its full power requires giving the engine a few moments to gather speed and get the four turbochargers spun up so that they can produce full boost for 1001 horsepower. In any other car, four or five seconds of full acceleration wouldn't be an issue on public roads, but in the Grand Sport, that long at full throttle would likely land the driver in jail for a very long time.
Driving around metro Detroit did not provide us the opportunity to explore even half of the Bugatti's speed potential, but our ride did reveal that this car is easy to drive -- even docile -- in normal driving. Visibility is good. The steering isn't heavy. The throttle and brake pedals don't have a hair trigger. The seven-speed transmission is an automatic, so there's no clutch. The only issue is with steep driveways. Those can cause the car's belly to scrape with an expensive sound that makes even easygoing people like Butch grimace.What Else Do People Say?
Parked outside of the Bentley showroom, two technicians from the adjoining HUMMER dealership walked out to drool over the Grand Sport. Shaking their heads in amazement, one said, "This is just so sick."
The other said, "Yeah, this is one bad car."
Only 150 Grand Sports will ever be produced, and each one is likely to elicit the same kind of positive response if ever it is seen in public. If you happen to see one, you won't have to ask what it is.
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