Driven: Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

There is no other experience available on this earth that can prepare you for what it feels like to put your foot down in a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, and then hold it there for a few seconds, flat out against the floorboards. Even if you're lucky enough to be employed to drive a Formula One car every other weekend between March and November, the Veyron SS can, in its way, deliver an even bigger burst of acceleration where it counts.

And so if, say, you find yourself in this car and the road ahead is clear, empty and dry, just how fast does it actually accelerate? And what does it feel like to be behind the wheel?

Assuming you are on a flat and level surface, and there is sufficient grip to enable the 365 section rear tyres to generate full traction alongside the 265 tyres fitted at the front axle, the Veyron Super Sport will reach 62mph from rest in a mere 2.5sec. By then, though, it hasn't really got into its stride. By then, in fact, it has only just got going thanks to the combined machinations of its 1184bhp, 1105lb ft W16 quad turbo engine and the battle that unfolds between this lot and its complex ESP system.

It's not until you are well into second gear that the yellow light stops flashing on the dash and the engine, finally, can release its fury without being tethered by electronic intervention. And at that point the Veyron Super Sport feels like it goes into hyperspace.

There's no sudden extra kick of acceleration, instead the torque - all 1500Nm of it - swells to a point where it feels as if you are being sucked towards the horizon by A Higher Force. It's such a potent experience, you do wonder for a moment if your heart and mind are capable of taking it. You wonder, in fact, if you might actually pass out if the experience becomes any more intense than it already is.

And then at around 245mph the sense of acceleration finally starts to fade, by all accounts. No longer does it feel like you are being thrown towards your destiny at an exponential rate. Finally the Super Sport begins to run out of puff, at which point the needle within its elegant speedometer no longer moves like the one within the rev counter. There is even a sense of calm that descends upon the car, apparently, as its rate of acceleration tails away and the speed rises gracefully until the limiter intervenes at 257mph.

I say apparently because I never got to sample the Veyron SS much beyond 180mph - and at that point it still felt savagely accelerative, piling on the speed like a Porsche 911 Turbo does between 40-60mph. Hence the reason it takes an astonishing 6.7sec to reach 200kmh, and just 14.6sec to hit 186mph (300kmh).

It's that last figure - 14.6sec to 300kmh - that is arguably the most mind-boggling of all, because it means the Super Sport is nearly four seconds faster to the same speed than the regular Veyron. And the regular Veyron, as you'll know, is not exactly a slow coach compared with most other fast cars.

What's perhaps most amazing of all about this most amazing of cars, however, is that despite its cataclysmic performance, it's also an extremely refined machine to drive. When you put your foot down and feel your internal organs squeezed towards the back of your torso under the sheer g-force, there's also the unique sensation of being in complete luxury while doing so.

When Bugatti decided to build this car it went to its customers and asked them how they might want a faster version of the Veyron to feel. And the customers said they wanted all the comfort, luxury and refinement of the standard car with an extra dose of performance to go with it. Not an extreme version that makes more noise and is more "challenging" to drive, in other words, but merely a quicker version of the car they already owned.

And that's precisely what Bugatti delivered. Which is why, in the end, it's the Super Sport's breadth of ability that separates it so completely from the rest of the world - the fact that it can throw you at the horizon with sufficient force to make you feel physically uncomfortable, while at the same time providing you with the sights, sounds and smells of the most luxuriant car money can buy.

There will be just 30 Super Sports in total, each one hand made at Bugatti's small factory in Molsheim, at the foothills near the woods of Alsace. Think of it as the last and final version - the best version, no less - of the world's best car.

How much does it cost? They say that if you have to ask with a car like this, then you almost certainly cannot afford it. For the record, though, the 'entry point' for Super Sport ownership is 1.65m Euros pus local taxes. If you then go for the part-carbon exterior finish the price rises to 1.75m. Go for the full carbon finish and you'll be relieved of 1.85m. And if you want your Super Sport in world record-breaking orange and black colours then it's 1.95m. Or at least it would be had the five versions featuring this unique colour scheme not already sold out.

Although it seems like a crazy idea to describe the Super Sport as a normal Veyron plus 15 per cent, in essence that's exactly what it is. By fitting bigger turbos, bigger intercoolers and improving the way it breathes, Bugatti was able to generate the extra power and torque required without having to try too hard. What needed much more time and re-engineering skill was making sure the powertrain remained cool when under load - as did the retuning of the chassis, suspension, braking and steering systems. And the aerodynamic package as well.

Because the Super Sport accelerates that much faster than the regular Veyron, the speed and angle at which it deploys its huge rear wing had to be completely recalibrated - otherwise the car would have become unstable before it got near its top speed. So now the bi-plane wing emerges from the rear bodywork at 180kmh whereas it doesn't appear until 220kmh in the standard Veyron. You can feel the difference on the move that the wing makes.

Although there's more performance than ever available, there is also more stability as well. The car feels even more rooted to the ground at high cornering speeds, and it has a level of agility that is superior to the standard Veyron. And if you really start to throw it around it understeers slightly less, too, even though there is still some push engineered into the front end, mainly for safety reasons on or near the limit. Veyron owners don't want a car that's twitchy at the back end, after all, the inevitable consequence of which is that the SS, if pushed hard, tends to run wide at the front. And there's not a lot you can do to alter this other than back off and enter corners a little slower.

Even so, this is still a car that would appear to be able to defy the laws of physics in most areas. Despite weighing 1838kg - 50kg less than the standard car - it will still go around corners faster than most of us would believe possible, hence the reason it can pull 1.4g laterally. It will also stop as quickly as cars that weigh half as little, as the incredible 12.5sec 0-200-0kmh time shows.

And that's before you even mention its gearbox, which remains the single most extraordinary aspect of this most extraordinary car. The speed and smoothness with which the Super Sport shifts gears is unprecedented in a car of this kind; and the fact that it has 1105lb ft to deal with while doing so is almost beyond comprehension.

Much like the rest of the car, come to think of it. Having driven the Super Sport for a day it seems tragic that just 30 such examples will ever get to see the light of day. And it would be more tragic still were Bugatti to cease at this point in time - to not carry on making cars that push so keenly at the boundaries of possibility. As it stands, the jury is out on that subject within the corridors of power at Molsheim and, more to the point, at VW's uber-HQ in Wolfsburg.

Mind you, as parting shots go the Veyron Super Sport would be some swansong. Let's hope there will be more Bugattis to accompany it in the months and years to come. And if not, let's get one thing clear for the record books here and now; the Veyron Super Sport is the best car in the world. There may never be anything else quite like it ever again.

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport - the stats:

Price: 1.65m Euros, plus local taxes
0-62mph: 2.5sec (claimed)
Top speed: 268mph
Economy: 12.2 (combined)
CO2 emissions: 539g/km
Kerb weight: 1838kg

Engine layout: W16, 7993cc, petrol, turbocharged
Installation: mid, longitudinal, four wheel-drive
Power: 1184bhp/6400rpm
Torque: 1105lb ft/3000-5000rpm
Power to weight: 644bhp/tonne
Specific output: 148bhp/litre
Compression ratio: 8.3:1
Gearbox: 7-speed paddle shift dual-clutch

Length: 4462mm
Width: 1998mm (ex mirrors)
Height: 1190mm
Wheelbase: 2710mm
Fuel tank: 100 litres
Range: 268miles
Boot: n/a

Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs. anti-roll bar
Brakes: 400mm carbon ceramic discs (front); 380mm carbon ceramic discs (rear)
Wheels: 20in magnesium alloy, front and rear
Tyres: 265/35 front, 365/30 rear

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (236) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Beyond Rational 27 Oct 2010

    Fastest? - Yes. Best? Open to discussion.

  • Garlick 27 Oct 2010

    Beyond Rational said:
    Fastest? - Yes. Best? Open to discussion.
    Agreed yes

    Impressive for sure, but not the best (imo)

  • RudeDog 27 Oct 2010

    Great piece of engineering but why did they make the SuperSport look like a chav'ed up version of what was previously a fantastic looking car? (OK, the Veyron might not be everyone's cup of tea style-wise but few can doubt that it was a "quality" looking machine)

  • TonyHetherington 27 Oct 2010

    Best is a very subjective term - but I agree it is the "mostest" of a lot of things car in the world. Be that speed, price, power etc. All of which combine to make a truly amazing car. It's just that not everyone thinks it's the best - and that's quite ok.

  • hornetrider 27 Oct 2010

    Crikey, which on the PH staff got to drive it and write this report? Did you draw straws?!

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