Above 200mph everything becomes a bit of a blur. We’d love to tell you what the crescendo of wind noise sounds like or how the steering wheel tugs from side to side, but the truth is you are concentrating so hard on staying straight that you forget to take it all in. What we can reveal, though, is that the new Bugatti Veyron Vitesse - the world’s fastest roadster - makes 200mph seem ridiculously easy.
Finding somewhere big enough to stretch the Vitesse’s legs is a challenge in itself. Our high-speed run was on a banked oval track with straights measuring 2km – but even when we had to back off the throttle at 205mph, the Vitesse still had so much more to give. With the roof removed top speed is limited to 233mph and with the panel in place that rises to 255mph. Keep the throttle pinned and the Vitesse will slurp 100-litres of super-unleaded in 10 minutes.
Based on the Grand Sport, it gets the more powerful 1,183bhp 8.0-litre W16 quad-turbo engine from the Super Sport coupe. But despite having 196bhp more the Grand Sport, it actually takes a tenth of a second longer from 0-62mph. That’s because it features four larger turbochargers that take a fraction longer to spool up and deliver their full force. When they do, though, the slug of acceleration takes your breath away.
Squeeze the throttle and there’s a slight pause before the turbos light up, the exhausts let out a Jurassic Park roar and you’re snapped back in your seat. Lift off the accelerator and there’s an almighty hiss as the waste gates release the built-up pressure – in terms of noise it’s the polar opposite to a highly-strung Ferrari V12.
Drag your attention away from the engine and you discover the Vitesse isn’t just about straight-line speed – there’s a delicacy to the way it drives. The steering is light and precise, but weights up nicely as you increase the steering angle, while new softer spring and dampers mean it rides well, even on poor surfaces. The DSG gearbox - made by British firm Ricardo - costs Bugatti 90,000 Euros each and work smoothly in auto and manual modes – quite an achievement when there’s 1,500Nm of torque to contain.
Pile into a corner too fast, which is all too easy to do, and there’s no hiding the Vitesse’s two-tonne weight. Employ the mammoth carbon-ceramic brakes early enough, though, and the car scythes through corners without a hint of roll. And with all that grip from the four-wheel-drive system, you can jump back on the throttle earlier than you think and catapult down the next straight.
In terms of engineering, the attention to detail beggars belief. Small scoops on the back of the wheel spokes saves 500 grams of weight per corner, the spoiler angle changes by four degrees when you remove the roof because of slight changes in aerodynamic behaviour, and if you want to make an attempt on that 255mph top speed you, need to insert and twist a separate key.
That drops the suspension by 50mm, retracts the rear wing and performs a series of safety checks on the car’s vital statistics. Even the airbag mechanism is mounted on a spring inside the steering wheel to damp any vibrations before they reach your fingertips.
The sticking point is the £1.6m asking price – that’s double what the Veyron cost when it first arrived in 2005. Is the Vitesse worth that amount? Of course not, but what makes it such a phenomenon is that it manages to harness such a monster power figure and make it just as useable for popping to the shops as it is blasting to 200mph and beyond.