Bugatti Veyron: Benchmarked

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“Its 252-mph top speed makes it the fastest production car in the world…and with a price tag of about $1.5 million, it’s the world’s most expensive new car. For the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, everything is a superlative.” [1] Most people in the United States have heard of this car or seen it at a car show, but very few people know how it works. No one takes the time to understand why the vehicle is able to attain such high speeds because it is so unattainable. However, by dissecting the design and engineering of this record-breaking-beast, one will be able to understand why all cars are designed the way they are. By looking at the “superlative” sports cars exaggerated features, one will notice smaller versions of these features on their own cars and understand the functionality.


History:

Bugatti was founded in 1909 by Ettore Bugatti, who came from a family of furniture and jewelry designers. [2] It is said that Ettore, “brought his inherited aesthetical expertise to everything to do with his cars. Bugatti sports cars were known for their high performance but also the artistic way in which they were executed.” [2] Ettore made it clear in his vision for the brand that he wanted the cars to be as stunningly gorgeous as much as they were fast. This history of speed included countless wins in major European circuit races and even adding a business line of producing aircraft engines, beginning in World War I.

It seemed that Bugatti was unstoppable as an automotive force until 1947, when Etorre Bugatti passed away, following the death of his son, Jean Bugatti. “The death of Ettore Bugatti in 1947 proved to be the end for the marque (brand), as the company struggled financially after his death. It released one last model in the 1950s, before eventually being purchased for its airplane-parts business in the 1960s.” [3] It was during this period that Bugatti was forgotten by the public because by only producing engines, it was only seen by manufacturers before closing the hood. From the 1960s to the 1980s there were many attempts by car manufacturers to revive the sports car brand by merging their technologies and engines, but they all resulted in failure. It was not until 1998, when Volkswagen acquired the Bugatti brand and put a variety of skilled designers in charge of the vehicle, did it achieve success. By refocusing Bugatti back to its roots of design, Volkswagen was able to showcase four different concept cars by 1999 at auto shows around the world. From the four concept cars showcased, only the Bugatti Veyron was chosen for production. In Figure 1, one can see the concept car from 1999 (left) and the final production car (right), which were produced from 2005-2015.

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Design:

The Bugatti Veyron is one of the most uniquely styled vehicles on the road. The car took over seven years of conceptualizing before its production and involved designers from multiple disciplines to perfect the vehicles aesthetic. Ultimately, Jozef Kaban, a chief designer from Volkswagen, committed himself to the vehicle and finalized the car for production.

At first glance, the vehicle may seem “exaggerated” in its design because all elements of the car appear large and obnoxious, but it is important to understand that every piece of the cars body is shaped for optimal performance. One journalist, Ankit Sharma noted, “The large radiator grill in front, with the word Bugatti sprawled casually across it, and the broad headlights give it a little menacing look, but that all adds to the class.” [4] No other vehicle on the road has as pronounced and an in-your-face a logo as Bugatti does, with its bright red badge. However, Ankit is also highlighting how Bugatti is able to make the functional headlights and radiator grills add to the beauty of the vehicle. As one can see in Figure 2, the headlights of the vehicle appear long and inward across the front of the car.

200Along with providing the “menacing look”, these lights are large because of the extra wide body of the car as compared to an average street car. They are also inward on the face of the car as opposed to on the perimeter, to give it a subtle, but distinguishing look. In terms of the radiator grill, most cars on the road only have one small grill, but as visible in Figure 2, the Bugatti Veyron has three very large grills providing maximum airflow to the radiator and engine. The reason for this airflow is to cool down the engine because of how hot it gets at high speeds. Additionally, Figure 2 shows the air intakes all over the car, which provide the same functionality of cooling down the engine while also giving the car a one of a kind style.

The reason these air intakes are on the back of the car, rather than the front is because the Bugatti is a mid-engine vehicle as visible in Figure 3. Again, it is not a mid-engine for the aesthetics, but it is for the center of gravity for the vehicle. [4] If the engine were in the front of the car, like a normal street car, than the weight would be front-heavy and the car would not handle as well when at high speeds. But since the engine is in the middle of the car it is able to put the power to the rear-wheels more effectively and control is easier to maintain. “The heaviest component (engine) is placed nearer to the center of the vehicle which reduces the vehicle’s moment of inertia and hence makes it easy and fast to turn the vehicle in any direction. So stability increases.” [5] This not only makes the car more powerful from a performance standpoint, but also makes it safer.

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Figure 3 also shows us the rear of the vehicle, which is again completely unique. Ankit noted of the Bugatti’s rear, “The emblem has its own niche, the mirrored E with B, sits on the rear, containing with itself all the history and amazement which the car offers.” [4] Ankit is truly enamored with the beauty of the vehicle and feels as though it has done the perfect job of capturing the company’s history of both racing and design. The EB is in homage to the late creator of the brand, Ettore Bugatti.

Performance:

Although it is easy to be enamored with the beauty of the Veyron, it is important to understand that it is the performance of the vehicle, which has captured the attention of the world. The Bugatti has a “16 cylinder engine, two V8 (engines) arranged in W configuration, (which) gives it a whopping displacement of 7993cc. With a horsepower of 1001hp, it can go upto 6000 rpm. It can shoot from 0-60mph in just a mere 2.5 seconds, and reach a maximum speed of 407 kmph (252 mph). ” [4] These statistics may sound foreign, so for perspective, a majority of vehicles in the United States have 4-6 cylinder engines and most sports cars have just one V8 engine. As shown in Figure 4 for 400comparison, a 2009 Toyota Corolla has a 4 cylinder, 123hp engine and a 2009 Ferrari F430 has a V8, 490hp engine. [6, 7] This benchmark shows that the Veyron has more than double the power of renowned sports cars, and significantly more than an average vehicle. As for the “displacement of 7993cc”, this means, “the total air displaced by the pistons in all of an engine’s cylinders and is expressed in liters, cubic centimeters or cubic inches.” [8] The Toyota Corolla has displacement of 1800cc and the Ferrari F430 has 4300cc. [6, 7] In terms of performance, the Toyota Corolla goes from 0-60mph in 9.1 seconds with a top speed of 115mph compared to the Ferrari F430, which achieves 0-60mph in 4 seconds and a top speed of 202mph. [6, 7] With these statistics, it is clear that the Bugatti Veyron is not a sports car, but is a true super car.

As if this engine wasn’t enough, “the 4 turbo chargers provide all the juice that the car (Veyron) needs, and the brakes are 16” carbon ceramic disks, which can stop the car from 250 mph to 0 in just 10 seconds!” [4] The turbo chargers are able to harness the power generated in the car and release it systemically throughout the vehicle to apply extra power, propelling it to its maximum speed. In terms of the brakes, the carbon ceramic disks allow the Bugatti to come to a complete stop from 250mph in nearly the same amount of time it takes a 2009 Toyota Corolla to go from 0-60mph. [4, 6]

With all of this power it was essential for the Bugatti to have the appropriate gear box and stability control system for the car to control the power. This inspired the team to build a custom “7 speed DSG sequential gearbox” creating smooth shifts through high speeds. [9] This is important because when shifting gears at high speeds, it is easy for the car to lose traction and if it is not able to re-grip the road than the car would spin out of control. [9] Traction means the hold the tire has to the road, which becomes especially important when a car is traveling at high speeds. The 7 speed gearbox also allows the Bugatti to maximize its engines capability of RPM (revolutions per minute) for each gear and achieve its speed of 252 mph. Most cars have 4-5 gears and max out at lower RPM’s than 6000, which is one reason they are not able to perform as effectively as the Bugatti. In terms of stability control, “the ESP is safely hidden beneath the steering wheel, (and) it ensures the necessary flexibility and maneuvering which ensures the turning at fast speeds.” [4] If it was not for this system, than the Bugatti would have a very difficult time maintaining traction and would likely flip over if traveling fast around corners. Many people don’t realize that the engine is not the only impressive performance piece of the Bugatti, but that every supplementary system has to be built custom in order to handle the engine. One journalist, Mike Hanlon, went as far to state, “All hail the Bugatti Veyron – it would be injustice to just look at the top speed figure, as this car is an extraordinary feat of engineering”. [10]


Legacy:

Before the car was released many people were skeptical of Bugatti delivering on its promises of the cars performance. “Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson had once publicly ridiculed the Veyron and had said on record that it cannot be built.” [4] It was at this point that many car enthusiasts sided with Clarkson and assumed that Volkswagen would fall short on its creation. Until he was able to actually drive it himself and publically stated the Veyron was the, “best car ever made…utterly, stunningly, mind blowingly, jaw droppingly brilliant.” [4] It was during this time that the public realized what had been created and the Bugatti Veyron was re-categorized from a Frankenstein science experiment into Top Gear’s 2013 “greatest car of the past 20 years” after a 100,000 person vote. [11] Since then the vehicle has been featured on every car show around the world and has escalated from being not only the ultimate sports car, but also into a status symbol for the ultra-rich as a result of its $1.5 million price tag.

The original Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 originally released in 2005 has also gone through many changes over the years as Bugatti has released more luxurious and even higher performance models. Over 30 variations of the 16.4 have been released including fashion partnerships with Hermes and Bijan Pakzad to performance editions released like the 2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, which broke all of the previous Bugatti’s records. [12] However, on February 23, 2015 Bugatti announced that the very last Bugatti Veyron had been sold and that production of the Veyron had ended forever. The last vehicle was called, “La Finale”, and with it as the 450th model produced, the car will have left its final mark on history. [12]


Conclusion:

Everyday people drive their cars, pay to repair their cars and even buy new cars for tens of thousands of dollars. But even with such a significant cost associated with vehicles, it is something that people know very little about. Although it is boring to learn about the details of what differentiates one car from another, it is important to understand because everyone will have to make this decision at one point in their life.

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