"Wanna race?" shouted the smiling old lady in the minivan two lanes over at the intersection of Elm and Main in Stamford, CT. Her grandson—I presume—grinned as he gawked over her shoulder. We laughed. Butch, the genial pro racer sitting in the passenger seat of the new $2.2 million Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, had been guiding me around the countryside all morning, and I finally felt like I was getting the hang of the fastest open-topped roadster ever built. I revved the 1200 horsepower engine, which rumbled like a kaiju Godzilla monster from Pacific Rim.
The Vitesse can go from 0-60 in 2.6 seconds—for the record, that's more than twice as fast as a Porsche 911..
Everything on this year's model, from the four larger turbochargers with new intercoolers to the 3-D effect of the "visible carbon" paint job, is made in-house at the Bugatti factory in Molsheim, France.
Unless you're Ace Hood (see video, below), you're probably not familiar with the inside of a Bugatti, so here you go. It's surprisingly spare: There are no buttons on the steering wheel, no cruise control. No cup holders in the console either—the G-force during acceleration would send your 72-ounce Big Gulp flying into the backseat, if there were a backseat—just a shallow groove small enough for a smartphone and a button that says Start. The console itself has quaintly analog features like a clock with real hour and minute hands, a knob for the A/C flanked by Art Deco-inspired vents, and stereo controls. Not that you'll need it: The real entertainment is watching the speedometer and tachometer behind the steering wheel.
Because it was a nice day, Butch and I had taken the hard top off and driven some back roads over to I-287, where we started accelerating in little bursts: Downshifting to 2nd gear at 50 mph then mashing the accelerator through 3rd, 4th, and 5th gears, the torque pushing on your rib cage like a giant's foot stepping on your torso. It'll go 255 miles per hour but I only got it to 110 before hitting the brakes.
We began to look for things that cost as much as our ride—a Jeff Koons sculpture at the Brant Foundation, the boats at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club—the Taco Bell on Putnam Avenue (I'll never look at drive-thrus the same way again).
As we turned at an intersection, there were some whistles and catcalls. It took me a second to realize that they were hooting at me. Is this what a beautiful woman feels like all the time? Up at the next light, a bearded fellow emerged from a locksmith's shop like a mole blinking in the sunlight. "What kind of car is that?" he asked. "A Bugatti," Butch called back. "Whoa-ho-ho" he said, dancing a little jig as he rubbed his knuckles against his lapels, the way people do when they see something fancy. Acting filthy rich never felt so good. The light turned green, and we waved goodbye.
—Details senior editor, James Gaddy. Photos by Melodie Jeng.