The Bugatti Veyron redefines what's possible in a road car, but does it justify its eye-watering price?
What is it?
This is the new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport, an open-top version of the 987bhp supercar of which you are almost certainly already familiar.
Unsurprisingly that roof is the stand-out change from the ‘standard’ car – the transparent polycarbonate unit weighs 19kg and can be lifted on and off after pushing two release buttons, but cannot be stowed in the car. As a result, Bugatti has incorporated an emergency carbonfibre soft top that can be stowed in the boot and used at speeds of up to 99mph if it rains.
Beyond that, the bodywork has been modified to ensure the car remains stable at high speeds, safety standards are maintained and wind intrusion into the cabin is kept to a minimum.
For instance, the car has new A-pillars, door sills and a larger centre tunnel to improve strength, while the doors are made of carbonfibre rather than the aluminium of the coupe.
Beyond that, the Grand Sport retains much of the hard-topped car's eye-watering performance capabilities.
What’s it like?
Turn the key and wake the 987bhp, 16-cylinder, eight-litre engine and you are greeted with a smooth, deep sound. It’s not as loud as you might image, but rather distinguished – and perhaps even a bit shy.
That said, roof off, you do get to enjoy the engine note, and as a result you feel connected to the car in a way that never happens in the coupe.
Push the throttle and the smooth running engine changes its note. Suddenly, it’s alive, loud and screaming intent. Your body is nailed to the seat as the rear end wiggles momentarily, before the electronic systems take over and you are blown forward with an incredible force.
It’s exhilarating, but somehow also refined. You change gears via a paddleshift behind the steering wheel, but you don’t feel any load change as the car has a seven speed twin-clutch gearbox to take the strain.
The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport soars from 0-62mph in 2.7sec and on to a top speed of 253mph when the roof is in place. Take the roof off, and that top speed reduces to ‘just’ 223mph. Needless to say, it is sensational either way.
The hardest part of the driving experience is keeping up with what’s happening to the car in your mind, because you can push on without ever feeling like you are going to lose control. The steering is sharp, but not nervous, the handling subtle rather than brutal. Even if you drive clumsily, the traction control and ESP are ready to jump in.
It’s a good cruiser, too, Bugatti having opted for softer damper settings than on the coupe, reasoning that roadster customers will want a more comfortable ride.
Should I buy one?
Perhaps this question should be rephrased to, ‘Can you afford one?’ The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport costs a cool 1.4 million Euros (£1.2 million) – and even if you have that kind of cash, you’ll have a fight on your hands to get one. The first 40 cars are reserved for existing Bugatti customers, and just 150 in total are being built.
But if you have the readies and can jump the queue, why not consider what some people have already dubbed the fastest sun bed in the world?