What's left to say about the Bugatti Veyron? The world's fastest production car hasn't been short on admirers or critics over the years but, of the fortunate few who have been Veyron customers, some have been asking for a version that's harder-edged, more focussed and louder. And they've had their prayers answered in the form of the 16.4 Super Sport - the Veyron's last hurrah before production ceases at 300 examples, just one of which has made it to Ireland we believe.
Modifying such an engineering masterpiece cannot be undertaken lightly, so has Bugatti sullied the Veyron's reputation in search of a less cosseting, more thrilling drive?
In the Metal
Apart from the wheels, the mesh grilles and a few pieces of trim, there's no metal on the exterior of the Super Sport. Everything is exquisitely formed from carbon fibre and our test car has been treated to the same colour scheme as that on the version that smashed the world record for a production car's maximum speed in June this year: lacquered carbon with bright orange.
It's an assault on the eyes and brings a sense of outrage to the Veyron's slippery shape. Some cars don't photograph that well and the Veyron can look a bit dumpy from some angles, but see one for real and you're blown away by its presence. It's two metres wide, just over a metre high and looks brutal from any angle. To aid cooling, twin 'NACA' ducts are sculpted into the roof, doing away with the need for the two huge air ducts that used to sit above the Veyron's rear buttresses. This gives the Super Sport a cleaner, less fussy profile.
Inside the Super Sport it's carbon fibre central - an effect you either love or hate, and there's contrasting orange stitching on the black leather upholstery to match to paint colour scheme. Again, this might be a bit much for your palate but, when you're spending this much on a car, you can have it pretty much however you want.
What you get for your Money
For your €3 million or so you get a motoring legend. The Veyron was built to break the rules - a car that defies convention on every possible level, yet one that's easy for anyone to drive. Anyone who has seen the engineering beneath the skin of one of these cars is in no doubt as to why they cost so much. The quality of craftsmanship is breathtaking.
But if you're interested in lists of equipment, the Super Sport comes with a leather-lined cockpit; you can hook up your iPod, iPhone or BlackBerry; there are electric windows, mirrors, a reversing camera of sorts (an image is displayed within the driver's mirror); climate control; and electric seats. You have to manually adjust them for rake, however - even €3 million doesn't get you everything.
First, a few numbers: 1,200hp, 1,500Nm of torque, 16 cylinders, eight litres, seven gears, four driven wheels and three million Euros. Thankfully there's more to the Veyron than mere numbers. After all, Porsche 917 race cars were not far off the pace of a Veyron when they tore up Le Mans in the late Sixties. What makes this Bugatti so remarkable is that it's as reliable as a VW Polo - and as easy to drive.
The increased power (up 20 percent) and torque from its gargantuan W16 engine is thanks to its four turbos and intercoolers being larger than before. The chassis has been extensively redesigned to cope with this extra power, with new dampers and spring rates and there are external modifications, too, in aid of aerodynamic stability. As well as the aforementioned NACA cooling air ducts, the front air intakes have been reshaped and expanded, while at the rear there's a double diffuser and a new, central exhaust system.
Once seated, everything is readily to hand and easily seen. It's all beautiful to touch too, be it the leather of the seats or the action of various dials and switches. Turn the traditional key (remember those?) and press the Start button and you'd swear Armageddon had just started behind you. The Veyron never sounded like this before.
Reaching a long, arrow-straight stretch of deserted road, I drop into third using the paddle-shift and nervously squeeze the throttle. Before I can think about what's happening, the Bugatti simply destroys the road and in no more than a few seconds that tarmac has disappeared and a bend is looming ahead. Back off, on the brakes and knock back into third before the next straight - it's absolutely epic stuff. Everything in my body shifts each time I floor either the throttle or the brake pedal and this is accompanied by the strangest, most addictive noises you've ever heard from a car.
The steering is almost telepathic, the handling revelatory - in fact it feels more nimble and more agile than the Veyron of old. It's definitely rawer and more exciting and yet it's lost nothing in the way of ride comfort. It is, all things considered, a stunning achievement.
The physical sensation of any Veyron when its taps are opened could never leave you. Shock, horror and utter, life-affirming joy - it provides all these things at once; but the Super Sport delivers its ample hit straight to the jugular. It's the ultimate version of the ultimate car and we may not see the likes of it again.
Bugatti's Super Sport that reclaimed the title of World's Fastest Car on June 26achieved a speed about 16km/h north of what the production car is capable of (still a frankly ludicrous 415km/h), but tyre technology is unable to cope with the demands placed upon rubber by the Veyron. These tyres need to be capable of not only massive speed but to provide comfort and refinement, too - a tall order, even for Michelin. So the Super Sport has a limiter in place, not that you'd find a road on Earth where you could exploit any Veyron's top speed...
The Veyron is dismissed by many as an irrelevance - nothing more than the flashest boy's toy on the planet. Yet it is so much more than that, as anyone who's been privileged to drive one will attest. Only the unimaginably wealthy will be able to afford to buy and run one, but the Veyron Super Sport shows what mankind can achieve with four wheels and an engine.
Nobody needs a car like this, indeed it cannot be enjoyed to the full for more than a second or two, given enough space and fuel. Yet it exists because of sheer bloody mindedness - it proved the impossible was achievable. That it took another 200hp to liberate another 26km/h shows how close to physical limitations this car is operating.