2006 Bugatti 16/4 Veyron
Above Images ©Bugatti Automobiles SAS
September 3rd 2005, Monterey, California - After years of applause, celebration, doubt, then ridicule, the first production Bugatti Veyron has hit the road as the fastest available supercar. Bugatti has little to be embarrassed about since the 16/4 is very similar to the extreme proposals made in 1999.
The whole Veyron project was first launched in 1999 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Bugatti displayed a concept car called the EB 18/4 Veyron which outlined the basic shape for future versions. Unlike the production version, this featured a more radical W18 engine with three banks of six cylinders. In 2000, Ferdinand Piëch announced the Veyron would go into production at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show. At that show the Veyron had a W16 engine borrowed from the 1999 Bentley Hunaudieres. It was also described as the most expensive, most powerful and fastest production supercar.
These claims instantly set-up alarm bells, and much of press hastily criticized the project. Even before reaching production, Gordon Murray and Jeremy Clarkson unfairly criticized the design and both later retracted their comments in writing after actually driving the car.
Long Road to Production.
The first pre-production prototypes were launched at a great show called tArt de Bugatti in 2003 at Monaco. There, Bugatti assembled an impressive display of classic models to celebrate the new Veyron. Unknown to the media and prospective buyers, trouble with cooling and tires delayed the car much beyond Bugatti's initial deadlines. It would take over two more years before a definitive specification would be reached.
When Bernd Pischetsrieder became the chairman of VW, he was obviously unhappy with the progress at Bugatti. Being an engineer himself, Bernd wanted major revisions with the program before the car would go on sale. He placed Thomas Bscher as Bugatti's president in December 2003 and had chief engineer Wolfgang Schreiber alter development of the program. For the next two years, Schreiber worked on issues of cooling, aerodynamics and tires.
By 2005, several of the pre-production prototypes were regularly spotted around Molshiem. In May of that year, the factory's claim of 250 mph turned from an enthusiastic vision into reality. A pre-production car achieved a two-way average speed of 252.95mph at parent company Volkswagen's Ehra Lessien test track in Germany. Thus the Veyron prevailed over the Koenigsegg CCR's record of 240.8 mph set earlier in the year.
This exceptional speed was possible due to the car's adjustable spoiler, diffuser, and regulated ground clearance. In high-speed mode, the dampers can lower the car from 125mm to 65mm of ground clearance. This allows it to safely reach a speed of 250 mph. The feat has been repeated twice by both Car and Driver and Top Gear.
The production Veyron was first publicly displayed at the respectable 2006 Pebble Beach Concours on August 21st. After appearing at select private events, the first two production Veyrons preeminently adorned Pebble's concept car display in front of the Lodge. Earlier in the week, the first grey and blue Veyron - driven by Bugatti head Thomas Bscher - arrived late at the Monterey Jet Center Party and the Quail Motorsports Gathering. Wherever the Veyron was seen, crowd and media response was enthusiastic, allowing the car to steal the spotlight from the exclusive, no-cameras-allowed Ferrari FXX debut. This was followed up by an official European launch on September 3 at the Molsheim factory.
Bugatti officially opened what it called Atelier on September 3rd 2005. This is now the new plant dedicated to production of the Veyron in Molshiem, France. In 1910, Ettore Bugatti also produced his first car and later built some of the most successful race cars in the country at this location.
Within the Veyron, several propulsion systems synchronize in a tight space. Under the skin, a quad-turbo, sixteen cylinder engine delivers power to all four wheels through a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox. The most challenging aspect is to ensure proper aerodynamics and cooling of these systems. These two obstacles that have delayed production for nearly three years.
The engine has four banks of four cylinders, but is more similar to two narrow-angle V8 engines that share a common crank. To produce upwards up 1000 bhp, four small turbochargers are fitted. To cool this entire unit ten radiators are used are used in car-three for the engine coolant, two for the interior air conditioning and one each for the engine oil, transmission oil, differential oil, hydraulic oil and the air-to-liquid intercooler.
Power is sent from the engine to a central direct-shift transmission. This uses a dual-clutch system to change gears electronically in 150 ms. This seven speed gearbox is produced by Ricardo. It can be driven in fully automatic mode and is attached to Haldex Traction, electro-hydraulic, limited-slip clutch that can engage and disengage the front wheels. Standard power split sends 55% of the torque to the rear wheels.
When driven above 137 mph (220 kph), hydraulics lower the car and deploy a large rear wing. This mode is called handling mode and increases downforce to 770 pounds (3425 newtons). Using a Top Speed Key, the driver can configure the car to High Speed Mode. In this mode the car drops from 4.9 inches of ground clearance to just 2.6. The spoiler also retracts and the air diffusers close.
Braking is provided by carbon rotors with titanium calipers. During extreme deceleration the rear wing positions to 55-degrees and acts as an air brake.
After 47 years of production, a 50 year break and a revival from Volkswagen, Bugatti is back. The Veyron is the fastest accelerating (0-60 in 2.46 seconds), most consuming (5.82 mpg), most expensive (1,440,800 USD) and quickest (253 mph) production car available. These figures help it live up a rich tradition of superlative designs that include the Type 35 and Type 41 Royale.
Story by Richard Owen, edited by Janine Reitsma
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