Bugatti Veyron 16.4, over 1,000 hp, a top speed of over 400 km/h and the ability to accelerate from 0 to 100 in under three seconds
Since its launch in 2005, the Bugatti Veyron has been regarded as a supercar of superlative quality. It was a real challenge for developers to fulfil the specifications that the new supercar was supposed to meet: over 1,000 hp, a top speed of over 400 km/h and the ability to accelerate from 0 to 100 in under three seconds. Even experts thought it was impossible to achieve these performance specs on the road. But that was not all.
Bugatti set the benchmark even higher with the plan of turning the supercar into a luxury road car suitable for everyday use. The development of the Veyron was one of the greatest technological challenges ever known in the automotive industry.
Barely any parts, components or systems could be taken from existing car concepts and used in the Veyron. Everything had to be developed from scratch in order to achieve the performance specs and then everything had to be implemented in the car. The process also drew on the experiences of other industries in which materials and systems are routinely subject to extreme speeds and forces, such as aviation and space travel. The Veyron is the first – and the only – supercar to be developed and constructed with a series configuration that can master any driving scenario at any time. Even ten years after its launch, the supercar is still setting benchmarks and inspiring emotion and enthusiasm across the globe.
The Veyron’s specs took automotive performance into a new dimension. It is the first – and the only – supercar to be developed and constructed with a series configuration that can master any driving scenario at any time.
While other supercars need to be specially prepared for the relevant scenario beforehand, the Veyron rapidly configures itself accordingly without the driver needing to do anything. Maximum acceleration on long straights, winding country roads or urban traffic – the Veyron is always perfectly configured and extremely comfortable to drive.
The heart and soul of the Veyron is the eight-litre W16 engine with four turbochargers, which initially generated 1,001 hp, and an incredible 1,200 hp in later models. The 16-cylinder mid-engine is 710 mm in length, no longer than a conventional V12 engine, and weighs just 490 kg due to its lightweight construction. The engine is fully capable of operating under a continuous full load, a feat that engines designed for use in motor racing, for example, cannot achieve. Its compact dimensions are due to the unique arrangement of its cylinder banks in a W configuration. Two VR8 blocks, each with a 15-degree bank angle, are joined in the crankcase to form one engine. Both eight-cylinder blocks are set at an angle of 90 degrees to each other and are aspirated by a total of four exhaust gas turbochargers.
The Veyron is equipped with a dual-clutch gearbox (DSG), which is the fastest gearbox in the world. Bugatti was the first manufacturer to use a seven-speed variant of the DSG. Designed specially for the new sports car, this gearbox has a job which any other road car gearbox would baulk at: to transfer engine torque of up to 1,500 Nm to the road surface.
At the time, the direct-shift gearbox used in the Veyron was a uniquely perfect combination of the dynamic advantages of a manual gearbox with the convenience of an automatic transmission. When it was developed, no other manufacturer had comparable technology.
Adaptive boost-pressure fuel injection
In a high-performance vehicle such as the Veyron, it is essential that the engine is always supplied with constant fuel pressure. This also required a new development, and so Bugatti invented AC injection pumps which, unlike conventional plus/minus polarised pumps, are able to supply the engine with the required amounts of fuel continuously at a constant pressure.
The fuel tank also had to be redesigned. Bugatti turned to the world of motorsport, but had to rebuild the conventional fuel tank used in racing, which is not permitted for road vehicles, to ensure that it would be approved. Bugatti consulted engineers in the aerospace industry, and the outcome was a fuel tank with an external Teflon coating which provides the fuel pumps with a constant supply of fuel in every situation, up to a residual capacity of three litres and maximum lateral acceleration of 1.4 G.
For the Veyron, Bugatti worked in partnership with Michelin to develop the world’s first mass-produced tyre that can withstand speeds in the region of 400 km/h. The production tyres can be used for all speed ranges, which means that the Veyron does not require a different set of tyres when being driven at maximum speed. This was an important criterion which the developers had to fulfil in order to ensure the vehicle’s suitability for everyday driving.
One exciting detail of tyre development is the new tyre pressure sensor that had to be developed for the Veyron. Centrifugal forces of up to 130 kg are generated at speeds in excess of 400 km/h. This required extensive tests on a test stand used for aircraft gas turbines in order to simulate the high speeds of the Veyron wheels. At the time, this kind of system was not available in the automotive industry.
Bugatti developed a high-performance braking system featuring many unique components in order to control the powerful forces effectively and bring the vehicle to a halt safely and quickly. Certain components were designed in conjunction with development partners from the aerospace industry.
Experiencing the Bugatti’s braking system in action is just as much of a thrill as the acceleration. Combined with the simultaneous application of the airbrake, an aerodynamic braking function integrated into the rear wing, the Veyron generates breathtaking deceleration values.
Bugatti chose carbon-ceramic as the preferred material for the brake discs, a Bugatti first, in order to achieve maximum braking performance and to withstand brake disc surface temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees. In addition, titanium was used for the brake disc hub instead of the usual stainless steel. As a result, the Veyron had by far the strongest braking performance in the automotive industry and motorsport at the time.
The Veyron’s design is an outstanding feature, which clearly sets the supercar apart from other high-performance vehicles. The shape and style of the Veyron are strongly based on the historical design DNA of the brand. The strict requirement to stick to the design of the car did not always make life easy for the developers, and this was also the case in relation to the aerodynamics, which are an essential element of a supercar.
The most important technical element on the Veyron in this regard is the rear wing. At speeds above 200 km/h it provides additional optimisation of braking performance. The wing flips up to an angle of 55 degrees in less than 0.4 seconds, with important consequences. Firstly, it increases the rear axle downforce, thereby improving the distribution of braking power between the front and rear axles. Secondly, it increases the air resistance, as when an aircraft is landing. At high speeds, the airbrake alone causes deceleration of up to 0.6 G. It is activated via the brake pressure. With standard tyres on appropriate road surfaces, the wheel brakes generate deceleration values of around 1.4 G.