Dec. 14, 2005 -- When your car costs more than $1.2 million, travels over 230 mph, and hits 62 mph in 2.5 seconds, you do not sit in a passenger cabin -- you sit in a "survival cell."
The "survival cell" is the heart of the Bugatti Veyron, billed as the world's fastest, most expensive and most exclusive factory-built car. It will arrive in the United States beginning early next year.
The Veyron is a short, curvy two-seater with massive power. Its 1,001 horsepower engine has four turbochargers. The car's features sound like those on a jet: diffuser flaps, air-intake scoops, a tail wing that acts like an airbrake and 1.7 miles of cable to power onboard electronics.
Bugatti, owned by Volkswagen, can only produce one Veyron per week in its newly built factory in France, and will only produce the two-tone vehicle when one is ordered. The company will also stop when it hits 300 orders.
Bugatti has sold 45 Veyrons so far, the majority in the United States, said Georges Keller, Bugatti's head of communications.
"Now that the car has become real as opposed to virtual, the interest has been absolutely tremendous," Keller said. Veyron took Bugatti seven years to build.
'Work of Art' on Wheels
"It's a work of art that's meant to be driven," said Richard Koppelman, president of Miller Motor Cars in Greenwich, Conn., one of six U.S. dealerships that have been selling the car since the fall. "It's like a race car that has a tremendous amount of torque but it gets you there comfortably. But also, you can drive it around town and pick up your dry cleaning."
Koppelman said he had sold six cars to high-end clients, including one to Michael Fux, an avid collector who test-drove the car during a trip to Pebble Beach in August.
Fux said he bought the car "because I love the way it looks and I love the drive. I test-drove it, and it's a magnificent automobile."
The editor in chief of Car and Driver, who broke 250 mph during his test drive, agrees. "It's a magical car to drive because it has so much power. You floor it at 180 and it shoves you into the seat harder than a standard car does in third gear at 20 mph," Csaba Csere says.
The seven-gear, all-wheel-drive Veyron is so fast that its designers customized three different suspension modes: a mode for "standard" driving below 136 mph; a "handling" mode engaged when the front diffuser flaps open, the body drops closer to the ground and the tail wing and spoilers are "deployed"; and a third "top speed" mode, used for speeds above 233 mph, that has to be manually activated with a separate key.
Bugatti admitted it won't make money off the Veyron, but Keller said that's due to the costs of re-establishing the brand -- including building a new multimillion-dollar factory for the first Bugatti in over 50 years.
The company is even sending two technicians to the United States to be on call for American Veyron owners. Regular tune-ups like oil changes will be done by the six local Bentley dealerships dealerships selling the car: three in California -- San Diego, Beverly Hills and Pasadena -- and three others in Miami, Greenwich and Troy, Mich., outside of Detroit.
As for how Fux will use his two-tone grey Veyron, he says he won't just keep it in his garage. "If I want a hamburger at McDonald's, I'll drive it through the drive-thru at McDonald's."