Priced at $1.2 mil, the Bugatti Veyron is one hot ride

Bugatti president Thomas Bscherhas begun production on the world’s fastest, most powerful and costliest car in history — the $1.2 million Veyron 16.4, with 1001 horsepower and a top speed of 252 mph.

Dream come true or prophet of doom? For Bugatti, it remains to be seen.

The company attemped the world’s ultimate luxury ride once before with the Royale; three were sold. An eight-cylinder, 300-horsepower jewel, it arrived just in time for the Great Depression.

Certainly, the Veyron is styled to evoke the era of Ettore Bugatti’s original dream car; even the floor is leather.

The interior is “almost Art Deco,” says Alistair Stewart, Bugatti’s head of sales and marketing. It’s being made in Molsheim, France, where the very first Bugatti was built in 1910.

However, unlike the Royale, Veyron is backed by Europe’s largest carmaker, and Volkswagen plans to sell just 300 over five years.

Of course, anyone willing to pay $1.2 million for a car isn’t paying much attention to prices at the pump. However, after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there may be social ramifications to driving a car that burns a staggering 1.3 gallons of gas per minute.

Says Stewart: “I cannot tell you it’s environmentally friendly.”

It’s with a similar flair for understatement that Bugatti’s press materials make the following claim: “The driver reaches the decision to take the Bugatti Veyron beyond 234 mph after making a thorough check of the safety situation.”

Well, no kidding, fella. A car that goes from zero to 60 in three seconds ain’t the one you learn on.

Bugatti is so concerned about leadfooted drivers that, in order to access its top speed of 252 mph, a driver must turn a second ignition key, located to the left of the driver’s seat. The words “Top Speed” then appear in the cockpit display. (Think twice about handing this key to valets at The Grill.)

A computer-controlled hydraulic system even regulates ground clearance. After reaching 137 mph, the car knows you probably need some help keeping it together and the chassis lowers automatically.

Bugatti’s engineers have given a fair amount of thought to stopping the car, too. Veyron’s features include an an aerofoil that’s deployed from the car’s derriere, not unlike a dragster’s parachute. However, it’s only employed after a certain brake pedal pressure has been exceeded — for example, when you notice the six or seven CHP officers behind you.

What could they want?

Over the top? Bugatti’s never heard of such a thing. No matter where you look, the Veyron is ready to exceed all expectations.

The Engine
Claim to fame: 8 liters, 16 cylinders, 64 valves, powered by four turbochargers; produces 1,250 Nm (922 ft-lbs.) of torque. A dry sump lubrication system stores oil outside the engine.
Compare to: Formula 1; Bugatti borrows the technology.

The Transmission
Claim to fame: Seven gears and a dual clutch. Computer-controlled clutch disks mean no clutch pedal or shift lever and it shifts gears in 0.2 seconds.
Compare to: Formula 1; the gearboxes are similar.

The Tires
Claim to fame: 9.5 inches wide at the front, 14.4 inches in the rear and can run flat for about 125 miles at 50 mph, which is why there’s no spare.
Compare to: None; they’re the widest ever produced for a passenger car.

The Body
Claim to fame: 79 inches wide, 179 inches long and 48 inches high
Compare to: A Hummer H2. It’s just two inches slimmer, but a full ton lighter thanks to carbon fiber.

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