Bugatti Regains Speed Record

When Bugatti S.A.S.’s inaugural 16-cylinder, quad-turbocharged Veyron appeared in 2005, enthusiasts were duly blown away by the car’s earth-shattering performance. Capable of 1,000 horsepower (an automotive equivalent to the runner’s elusive five-minute mile), the Veyron quickly set a world speed record for a production automobile. Three years later, an open-top Grand Sport scored on style points and driver experience, but like all convertibles, it suffered slightly on the performance end.

Like any foray in which only one victor can reign as king of the hill, it was just a matter of time before a hungry competitor dislodged the Veyron from its land speed supremacy. That car was the low-volume Koenigsegg CCR, which was eventually eclipsed by the SSC Ultimate Aero, a little-known niche supercar produced in the United States. Monitored by Guinness World Records, the Aero posted an average speed of 257 mph in October 2007, landing the Veyron in third place.

Bugatti’s opportunity to right the ship finally arrived on Saturday, July 3, when test driver Pierre Henri Raphanel took the wheel of the latest Veyron upgrade, the Super Sport. Now capable of 1,200 horsepower, the new Veyron averaged 268 mph in a test, a world record that was officially recognized by a representative from Guinness World Records.

The achievement can be credited to technical upgrades like larger turbochargers and intercoolers and a redesigned chassis. The car still employs VW’s lightning-quick seven-speed, dual clutch, paddle-actuated transmission, one of the best in the business. New cosmetic-yet-functional exterior cues include the revision of the roofline, which now partially covers the formerly exposed engine and incorporates two NACA ducts that feed the engine’s air intakes. Unfortunately, consumer drivers will only get a glimpse of the Super Sport’s power ceiling, as the car is limited by a computer chip to a measly top speed of 258 mph (purportedly to protect the tires from melting).

Anticipated production figures for the Super Sport have yet to be announced, but given that to date, Bugatti has sold 260 examples of the original Veyron and 35 Grand Sports, it’s fair to assume that the Super Sport will not be manufactured in a quantity of more than 100 examples. As impressive as the performance numbers are, only so much figurative mileage can be gained by upgrading and re-badging what is essentially the same car again and again. Eventually, Bugatti will have to deliver an all-new model, and while that doesn’t figure to happen anytime soon, the prospect does leave at least one member of the motoring press salivating with anticipation.