Unmoved by the idea of a £20,000 fluid change? Step right this way, sir…
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, April 4, 2021 / Loading comments
- Available for £820,000
- 8.0-litre W16 petrol quad turbo, all-wheel drive
- Quite quick
- Handles okay
- Highish maintenance and running costs
- You can buy parts from a VW dealer
Search for a Bugatti Veyron here
What do Cristiano Ronaldo, Floyd Mayweather, Simon Cowell, Jay-Z and Tom Cruise all have in common? Yes, that’s right, they’re all stinking rich. But apart from that, they all own, or have owned, a Bugatti Veyron.
The car to end all cars was named after Pierre Veyron, Bugatti test driver and the winner of the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The Veyron was the first Bugatti to be built under the ownership of the Volkswagen group, which bought the rights to produce cars under the Bugatti name in 1998 for $50 million and officially incorporated the marque into the group in 2000.
It didn’t take Ferdinand Piech long to whip his minions into shape for a crack at the legacy project to top them all: nothing short of the redefinition of what was possible in a car. There was a sneak preview of what was to come in 1999 when Bentley revealed the Hunaudieres concept powered by the VW group’s 8.0-litre W16 engine. A year after that Audi built the Rosemeyer, a visually challenging one-off. Neither of these concepts made it to production, thankfully so in the Audi’s case, but the reaction among likely buyers of a car that promised the earth was positive enough to clear a path for the Veyron.
If the global financial crash had come three years earlier it’s doubtful that the car would have made it. Cleverer people than us would probably say that it wouldn’t have made it without the moneymaking that was going on prior to the crash. Whatever, it is here and so are we, so let’s have a look at the car that really reset the bar not just in supercars but in motoring generally.
Back in the day the Veyron was slated for being too heavy at nearly 1,888kg but it’s worth noting that today’s BMW M4 weighs 1,725kg. Whatever, the Bugatti’s outrageous performance and the deceptively casual way in which it blasted from zero to 62mph in 2.5sec while lighting up all four of its tyres told us that weight didn’t really matter as long as there was capitalised Power and Torque on tap.
Piech’s threat at various concept reveals at Detroit, Geneva and Paris in 2000 was that the Veyron would accelerate from 0-62mph in under three seconds and go on to 407km/h – 1km/h more than the Porsche 917 racer that he had worked on – while providing all the useability of a Golf. The Veyron made good on that threat with a hitherto unheard of 1,001PS and more than 900lb ft from just 2,500rpm, giving it a power to weight ratio of 523hp per tonne. More importantly it had the chassis and transmission not only to handle that level of thrunge but also to combine it with an impeccably refined and easygoing nature for those 25mph trundles along Rodeo Drive.
Let’s do a quick run-through of the various models that were released before the ten-year Veyron production run finally ended in 2015. By that point 450 cars had been built, at a total cost to Volkswagen of $1.62 billion. Of those 450 Veyrons, 252 were the regular 16.4s produced from project startup in 2005 to 2011. In 2009 the targa-topped Grand Sport appeared featuring chassis reinforcements and two temporary roofs, one of these being more of an umbrella than a roof. The top speed with the normal hardtop in place was the same as for the coupe, but with the top off the maximum was limited to 229mph. With the umbrella up you could risk 81mph. Grand Sport production was limited to 150 examples.
The Super Sport or SS of 2010 was the 200hp more powerful, 50kg lighter Veyron in which, for twenty minutes or so, James May held the world record for the fastest production car at Piech’s advertised 407km/h/253mph at VW’s Ehra-Lessien test track. That was 10mph more than May had gone in the standard Veyron. Bugatti’s own test driver then went out with the speed limiter tweaked and did 267mph. Thirty of these were made, plus five ‘World Record Edition’ cars with a black carbon body and orange for the wheels and lower body sections. A 1200PS, 233mph limited targa version of the Grand Sport, the Vitesse, was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva show. It was, and probably still is, the world’s fastest convertible.
There’s no arguing with Veyron performance numbers. One magazine pointed out that if a Veyron set off from a standing start 10 seconds after a McLaren F1, by which point the F1 would be moving at 130mph, the Bugatti would hit 200mph at exactly the same time as the F1. That, and a nought to 300km/h (186mph) figure of 16 seconds or so for the SS, is shifting to say the least. Hilariously, for maximum departure force you needed to give the SS a few more revs than the standard 16.4, but never has the phrase ‘it’s all relative’ been more appropriate. Both cars had face-ripping urge. When the standard 1000hp Veyron hooked up in second gear its acceleration has been described as physically painful. Add 200hp and an extra sensation of turbo effect to the equation and try to imagine what that might feel like. Chances are your imagination will be less dramatic than the SS reality. It cost over £1.6 million new, which in isolation sounded like a ridiculous amount, but even the doubters who got the chance to sample the extraordinary rush were deeply sobered by the experience and convinced that it was worth every penny.
We’re not covering any of the various special editions and one-offs that were built, as these routinely run to double or triple the price of a normal Veyron and we’re trying to keep this vaguely sensible. So, what’s a sensible price for a Veyron then? Well, when they were new they began at under a million pounds, and five years ago you could have picked one up for a mere £650,000, but at the time of writing this guide the lowest priced Veyron on sale in the UK was this early 2006 model with getting on for 20,000 miles (which is high for a Veyron) at £819,900.
There are plenty of mad numbers flying around in this piece, not just in terms of the Veyron’s outlandish performance but also in the equally other-worldly area of running costs. People with the sort of money needed to buy a Veyron won’t care a twopenny hoot about bills that make a mockery of the word astronomical: the typical Veyron owner also owned 83 other cars, a yacht, and not one but three private jets. So the sort of data that shocks us is largely irrelevant to this type of person, but for normally endowed folk it still makes for fun reading even now, more than 15 years after the Veyron first dropped our collective jaws.
A Veyron buyer’s guide is about as niche as you can get, but there will be some PHers for whom this Bugatti is a kind of goal or end point in their motoring journey. To them we say welcome, and we hope that our humble effort will be of some meagre assistance. The rest of us will have to make do with that lottery win dream.
SPECIFICATION | BUGATTI VEYRON (2005-2015)
Engine: 7,993cc W16 64v quad turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],200-5,500rpm
0-62mph: 2.5 secs
Top speed: 253mph
Tyres: 245/690 R520 (f), 365/710 R540 (r)
On sale: 2005 – 2015
Price new: £1.6m
Price now: from £820,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
In terms of design spec you could argue that the Veyron’s 8.0-litre W16’s internals weren’t especially complicated or ground-breaking. The engine was like two V8s put together, but not really because there was only one crank. The angle between each ‘V8’ was 90 degrees but the one between each of the pairs of cylinder banks was 15 degrees, just like the VR6 engine from which the W16 motor sprang. That angle was narrow enough to allow one pair of cams to open and close all 32 valves on each bank of eight cylinders. The sump was dry and the bore/stroke was perfectly square at 86 x 86mm.
The thing about the Veyron engine was that there was just so much of it. Sixteen cylinders. Sixteen pistons. Sixteen conrods. Sixty-four valves. That’s a lot of moving parts. In addition there were four turbochargers, one pair for each cylinder bank, running at 18psi via a pair of charge-cooling liquid-to-air intercoolers, with three heat exchangers. No conventional fuel injection system existed to keep the engine fuelled at the correct pressure, so Bugatti invented three-phase injection pumps to provide the adaptive boost pressure required.
There were ten radiators in all, three of them dedicated to drivetrain lubrication, with each one taking 15 hours to build. Extreme cooling measures were very necessary. The first time the Veyron’s engine was run at full throttle in 2001, the heat produced overwhelmed the test bay’s roof-mounted exhaust system and nearly torched the building. The seven-speed DSG twin-clutch transmission partnered with a Haldex permanent all-wheel drive system was built by British gearbox specialists Ricardo. At the time it was billed as the world’s fastest.
Not everyone was a fan of the W16 sound, which has been described as not special enough for such an expensive car. It is oddly lazy-sounding for such a massively potent unit, but you suspect that this might have been more of an issue for rubberneckers than it was owners. The soft bonging noise the Veyron emits when it hits its top whack has to be right up there in the list of most esoteric noises on the plane.
An annual service at a pukka Bugatti dealer would be anything between £10,000 and £20,000, but with Bugatti’s recommended annual fluid change costing over £20,000 on its own, with plenty of underbody parts needing to be removed before the sixteen drain plugs could be accessed, and many more parts including the back section of the body needing to be removed before the oil system could be refilled, bills for £100,000 have not been uncommon. The final figure would largely depend on the condition of the wheels and tyres, which we’ll get into in the Chassis section.
Nothing comes cheap in Veyronland, despite the fact that some of the everyday parts are standard VW group items. The Veyron uses the same boost pressure sensors as a Golf GTI, for example. You can get one anywhere for under £20. Same goes for the cam position sensor: that’s under a tenner. The big problem is that it takes time for technicians to get at stuff on a Veyron before they can do the work. As we know, time is money, but it’s very big money when ‘Bugatti’ appears on the invoice. Fitting that £20 boost sensor would cost £1,500, while moving the £10 cam position sensor from its box on the shelf to its right place in the engine would create a £5,000 bill. The price of two new turbochargers was around £10,000, but fitting them would add £8,000 to that. A new camshaft sounded almost reasonable at £700, but the cost of getting to the old one, swapping it for the new one and putting everything back in place was around £20,000.
If the 100-litre fuel tank needed to be replaced, you’d be looking at around £35,000, the majority of which would be for the labour involved in disassembling much of the rear bodywork. Why would you need to replace the fuel tank though, you may ask? That was the question asked by owners of seventy-two 2006-10 Veyrons and 2010-11 Grand Sports, whose fuel gauges weren’t telling the truth about the amount of petrol remaining. You definitely wouldn’t want to suddenly run out of fuel and stall at high speed in a Veyron. The factory fix was not just new software but also a new tank, thankfully covered under warranty.
Perhaps now would be the time to mention that, even if you’re doing the official combined fuel consumption figure of just under 12mpg, the £124 it would cost to fill that 22-gallon tank would need to be spent again after just 240 miles. YMMV of course. If you were driving at 248mph everywhere, as you might in parts of the Middle East, you would be getting 1.7mpg. Things are better now than they used to be, though. In the early days your Veyron had to go back to the factory in France for any repairs. Now there are local dealers around the world who are entrusted with the work, like H R Owen in London.
The Veyron’s passenger cell was a 110kg carbon fibre monocoque with a space for the saddle fuel tank and complex frames aluminium frames attached at either end. At the rear section of the monocoque were ‘bags’ which acted as top longitudinal supports and accommodated the the rear axle’s MacPherson struts. A carbon fibre crossbeam screwed onto the two longitudinal supports formed the rear edge of the frame structure, with a structural stainless steel frame underneath it holding (and dealing with the heat output of) the engine. Bugatti claimed that the result doubled the torsional rigidity that was then available in the stiffest contemporary series-built sports cars. The body control and handling were exemplary.
If you didn’t use the second key to unlock top speed mode, the Veyron had a normal maximum of 217mph. In either mode, the car would be hydraulically lowered at 137mph from its normal ground clearance of 4.9in to 3.5in and the rear wing and spoiler would be deployed to provide 770lb of downforce. That’s you in ‘handling mode’.
Using the second key throws up a checklist to make sure both you and the car are ready for speeds of up to 253mph. Selecting ‘yes’ retracts the rear spoiler, shuts the front air diffusers shut, and drops the ground clearance to 2.6in. These are low clearance figures (the front lift option box was routinely ticked), so order your butler to get on his knees and have a good look for damage because from an aero perspective at least underbody condition is extremely important on a car capable of such high speeds. In 2016 there was a recall on eighty-seven 2006-10 Veyrons, 2010-12 Grand Sports and 2011-13 Super Sports to rectify a corrosion issue with the jacking plates, which could fall off. Again, not something you’d want at healthy three-figure speeds.
The Veyron’s bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport PAX tyres were made from a special heat- and friction-resistant compound with polyurethane/rubber inserts to make them runflat-capable. They were glued to the Veyron’s Italian-made OZ Racing 12-spoke wheels. Whether you were driving the car or not, you were supposed to get this glue renewed every 18 months to make sure the seal was still good. Given that you were also supposed to change the tyres every two years, or at 2,500 miles, whichever came first, most owners would be inclined to change them every 18 months.
You were also required to replace the entire wheelset on the fourth tyre change, or every 10,000 miles. The bill for that originally come to £50,000, though it’s under £30,000 now. The price for a full set of tyres is around £25,000 today, which is another bargain as that used to be nearer to £40,000. Through its own testing Bugatti found that at a steady 248mph the tyres would be shot after 37 miles. If you took the top tyre cost estimate that would equate to £1,081 a mile just for rubber.
A couple of years ago someone put a complete wheel+tyre set up on US eBay. Used, with around 85 percent of the tread remaining, the price was £75k, which represented a saving of around £35k on a new set from the factory. Part-worn tyres do come up on US eBay today at around £2,000 each, but would Veyron owners stoop so low? Maybe, because even plutocrats have limits, as Bugatti tacitly acknowledged with the Chiron successor. This reverted to a standard mounting process with rims that came with a normal lifetime expectancy and regular(ish) Pilot Sport 2s – although Bugatti did reinforce those with extra metallic threads for their 300mph-plus test programme.
Veyron braking was, as you might expect, exotic: cross drilled, radially vented carbon fibre reinforced silicon carbide (C/SiC) composite discs with AP Racing aluminium alloy monobloc brake calipers and titanium pistons, eight at the front and six at the back, allowing the Veyron to generate a strap-hanging 1.3g under deceleration.
The rear wing operated as an airbrake at speeds above 200km/h (124mph), giving the same amount of braking force on its own as that of an everyday hatchback. The Veyron could come to a full stop from 400km/h (249mph) in under ten second. You’d have covered a third of a mile by that time, mind. As a failsafe, Bugatti even put an ABS system on the handbrake.
Do you like the Veyron’s style? It leaves some people cold. McLaren’s Ron Dennis famously called it ‘pig ugly’, and it’s true that it does photograph better from some angles than others, but it’s also one of those rare cars that exerts a strange influence when you see it in the flesh. Maybe that’s to do with the power of unspoken violence, or something. Ask your therapist about it.
The doors were aluminium sheets on an aluminium structure. Getting the door shapes right and the thicknesses uniform was a tough process involving liquid remodelling where the aluminium sheet would be laid over a shaping tool and then pressed from above by a hydraulic cushion.
You wouldn’t expect to find many cosmetic irregularities on a Veyron, inside or out, but if you did spot something, that could turn out to be a nice piece of luck because you could conceivably use it to chip a five-figure sum off the price. There’s nothing in this area that can’t be sorted by a decent specialist for a much smaller amount.
There was some grumbling about the choice of aluminium as the material for the front grille, and the damage caused by bird strikes at speed did nothing to quieten those complaints. For the Chiron Bugatti switched to titanium, which apparently allows small animals to bounce off at speeds of up to 250mph without damaging the grille. Not sure how they tested that. Er, where’s the works cat? We’re not sure if this next bit is true, but we think it might be: buyers of new Veyrons had to sign a contract with the factory agreeing to mandatory annual detailing at a cost of $10,000 (or equivalent) a year.
It’s important to remember that the Veyron wasn’t just a leader in performance. Pick any category and what you see will likely make your eyes pop and challenge the range of your vocabulary.
The quality and luxury of the cabin was off the scale. The standard car’s central aluminium console reputedly cost £17,000, so heaven only knows how much the carbon fibre and titanium item in the Grand Sport Vitesse was. A wide range of steering wheel adjustment made it easy to find a perfect driving position in the carbon-shelled, thickly-leathered seats, athough the lowness of it plus the thick pillars led to initially intimidating blind spots.
The instrumentation was downbeat almost to the point of humility, especially the speedo which was almost laughably small considering the amount of numbers it had to accommodate. The Burmester sound system was awesome but you could pretty much have whatever you wanted put into your new Veyron. All you had to do was ask. The nose boot wasn’t big by any standards but the cabin was surprisingly roomy and who wouldn’t like magnesium shift paddles?
When looking at your prospective used Veyron (ha ha, that sounds weird) make sure that all the extras it came with – high-speed key, tablet computer and a full set of documents and manuals – are included. There was a recall on faulty side airbags in relation to the assembly of a heat shield. The seats had to be removed to effect a repair. Finally, check the carpets for damp. Not because Veyrons are known for leaking, but because one owner drove his Veyron into a US saltwater lake, allegedly for the insurance.
That car was salvaged and offered at $300,000 to anybody brave enough to take on the rebuild, not an easy project as Bugatti wouldn’t have made parts or even a service manual available for it. If you had a lot of time and the patience of Job you could potentially get some parts by digging through VW part numbers and asking firms like Mansory about the bits they hadn’t used in creating their Veyron specials. Other items like wiring looms and engines would be as near to n/a as made no difference.
As far as we know nobody has yet been brave enough to take on the financial risks of the ‘lake Veyron’ rebuild. That car is probably destined for a life of being passed from one hopeful builder to another at (you would suspect) a slowly lowering price.
Independent research has suggested that VW lost over $6 million on every Veyron they built. Much of the outlay was on research and development, the Veyron having set out to be a mould-breaking car in just about every way you could break a mould. It totally succeeded in that goal.
It’s saying something about a car’s performance when it becomes clear in the first five minutes of ownership that the biggest frustration you’re going to face will be finding a road that’s up to the challenge. Ten seconds with your foot to the floor could result in the confiscation of your licence for ten years. That’s Veyron motoring. It’s on another plane. In fact it’s faster than many planes. It’s maybe not as involving as other hypercars, but the compensation for any shortfall in emotion is a staggeringly high level of competence.
But where is the market for used Veyrons? What sort of minted person would save money by buying an early car only to then face the possibility of spending more big chunks of cash on the remedial works that have been detailed in this story and that have generated a million clickbait stories worldwide? Wouldn’t they just buy a Chiron?
Of course, the answer is that ‘instead’ doesn’t figure in this buying environment. They would just have both. Still, even very rich people like to retain as much of their money as possible, so even they are likely to be careful in their Veyron searches. They might even buy warranties. We all complain about surveillance but Bugatti’s recording of pretty much everything that goes on with any Veyron is surely good news for the secondhand buyer – if they make that info available, anyway.
In the overview at the beginning we told you about an £820,000, 19,000-mile 2006 car on PH Classifieds. For £30k more (doesn’t sound so much if you say it quickly) you can snip one year and 8,000 miles off that with this two-tone violet and white £850k example which spent some of its earlier life in Switzerland and Dubai before moving to the UK.
There’s one more sub-£1 million Veyron in the PH Classifieds, and here it is, a 9,900 mile 2007 car in black and blue, which might end up being the colour of your face if you run out and mortgage the house without telling the other half.
Why are we sticking to cars under £1 million? Because there might be money to be made from cars in that bracket. In 2015 the first production Veyron – a two-tone 2006-registered car in red and black with under 800 miles on the clock – sold at Sotheby’s for $1.8 million including fees. Buy wisely and you won’t lose money.
Search for a Bugatti Veyron here
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