FD Hot Issue: Nick Boulle’s $2.3 Million blur of a Bugatti

by | Automotive, Design

Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse. Photograph courtesy of Bugatti

A car so hot you can’t touch it

by NICK BOULLE | photographs by WILL GRAHAM

Editor’s note: Nick Boulle is the founder and CEO of digital marketing firm Wow!Birds. He has raced on amateur and professional circuits and is a driver coach. He drives in multiple car and kart races each year. During the Dallas Art Fair in April, Christie’s auction house hosted a tony art exhibition in partnership with Bugatti, which displayed a Bugatti Veyron inside the show. FD arranged for Boulle to drive a second Bugatti, also in town that week. This is his tale.

There is absolutely no way to prepare for a drive in a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse. (Other than rehearsing that long name out loud.) How could anyone know what to expect? No amount of time in a race car (copious, in my case) or in fabulous modern sports cars (ditto) will give you an experience that comes close. After a few hours on Dallas streets and highways in this exquisite machine, I can confirm that handling this car’s whopping 1,200 horsepower takes all of your concentration — and even more willpower to control a heavy right foot.

Imagine suddenly you are invisible and famous. Everyone wants a picture with you in the Bugatti, but they will never see your face. They only see the car. Pedestrians stand in your path to take photos. People jump out of nowhere and shriek with delight at the sight of this epic automobile. No matter where you are, cars follow closely. Other cars will weave and swerve in chase as they struggle to get dangerously close views of the car. Because of this, finding safe open roads to unleash the Veyron’s massive power is almost impossible.

But when the opportunity does arise, it is worth the wait.

The Veyron has become an icon in the world of automobiles. Released in 2005, the car is still planted firmly at the top of the speed-record books. In its 10-year run, there have been engineering tweaks and special versions, but the party is officially over. The last Veyron, built by hand in Molsheim, France, like its 449 brethren, was sold in February.

My first Bugatti experience would be with the final derivation, the Grand Sport Vitesse. I was first drawn to the car’s stunning and sport-driven interior before I noticed the way the car’s body is made entirely from carbon fiber. This thing is so precisely built that even the woven fibers in the disparate panels line up across the body’s gaps and seams. It’s hard not to smile when you see how this amazing craftsmanship blends the old-world ideas of luxury and quality with the pinnacle of automobile technology.

Despite the Bugatti’s amazingly detailed aesthetics and luxuries — an interior swathed in quilted leather, paired with magnesium, aluminum and carbon-fiber fittings — the car’s 16 cylinders and four turbochargers are there for a singular focus: speed. This surreal machine can catapult you from zero 0 to 60 miles per hour in a staggering 2.4 seconds, and will continue that blur until you reach its preposterous top speed of 255 miles per hour. Yes, it is the fastest production roadster, ever.

Unlike many supercars, though, it doesn’t require the driver to fiddle with rows of buttons, suspension settings and other gadgets. It is straightforward: Press the throttle and you are launched forward. But the Grand Sport Vitesse doesn’t just pin you back into your seat: It pulls you forward so quickly you might believe that gravity’s force has been altered. You feel as though the sun is suddenly much closer to Earth and that you are being dragged quickly towards it. You are only reminded that this is a road car when you roll off the throttle and hear the turbochargers release a buildup of pressure and hot air.

This celebrated automobile allows its driver to put almost every ounce of power to the ground with the aid of massive tires and — here’s where electronics do come into play — highly advanced suspension technology and a brilliant electronic all-wheel- drive system. Supercars with half the power of the Grand Sport Vitesse struggle to move forward without wheelspin, yet the Bugatti seems to scoff at the idea of wasted energy. I even expected the car’s massive amounts of torque to drag the steering wheel in different directions, but the car requires almost no correction. It delivers all of its power smoothly and predictably in an absolutely straight line.

So what? Bugatti has created a gentle giant that can intoxicate with its unbelievable performance, yet does so without any of the dangerous drama. There are no second guesses or sudden corrections required to keep pilot and passenger safe at speeds more generally acceptable for aircraft. Instead, I feel confident — I’m flying along at 100 miles per hour — and I have another 155 mph to explore.