Record-Setting Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse: The Art of Seduction
Art, form and technique synthesized from the ultimate marriage of precious metals, design and machinery have been manifested into one of the most glorious vehicles of this century. Make no mistake, this was an international move from the ingenious mind of the great Italian artisan Ettore Bugatti, who focused more on design than engineering. As seductive as Bugatti vehicles are today, they were equally salient as historical archetypes in the heyday of the roaring 1920s. Upscale, costly and much talked about, Bugatti won many races – nearly 2,000 in ten years. Decades later, we’re welcoming the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, which recently set the world speed record for convertible production vehicles at 254.04 mph.
Available since the Spring of 2012, the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse is presented in carbonfiber form and houses an 8-liter, W16 engine, which generates an obliterating 1200 horsepower. It’s the classic fable of beauty meets the beast, or simply put the world’s fastest convertible. A racing chassis, AWD and a speed-specific roof spoiler infuse the French roadster with the assets needed to maintain controlled, high-speed velocity.
History tells us that the Veyron bears the name of factory driver Pierre Veyron, who won Le Mans in 1939 in the T 57C Tank before World War II. Ironically, Veyron was chosen from all of the great Bugatti drivers only because his name sounds good in multiple languages and there were no problems registering it. Built intentionally to be an everyday driving vehicle first, a Grand Sport was an open top vehicle with a reinforced structure featuring one door. Naturally, it was the cream of the crop. Henceforth, parent company VW transformed the Veyron platform into a technical wonder. I can personally attest to the Grand Sport’s endorphin-producing technology, after piloting this model on several occasions. I’ve never felt acceleration that was so powerful, yet also liquid. Also, normally a supercar like this is frankly uncomfortable to drive – but words almost cannot describe the experience of driving the Grand Sport. The 29-year old Chinese driver Anthony Liu, who piloted the actual record-setting Vitesse, put it best; “This was a very exciting moment. In our training sessions we exceeded 400 km/h but the fact that I could surpass this unbelievable speed once again and even higher has made me very proud. The car is even at such high speeds incredibly comfortable and stable. With an open top, you can really experience the sound of the engine and yet even at higher speeds I did not get compromised by the wind at all.”
For eight lucky individuals with deep pockets, the World Record Car (WRC) Edition in black and orange will be obtainable for 1.99 million euros plus tax. Yet, I wonder how many of them will engage the Frenchman into orbit like Liu!
2014 Maserati Ghibli: Disciplined Advantage
We all know about the innovative Maserati brothers, who began in Bologna, Italy as racecar manufacturers in 1905. Their Trident-badged Italian models are graceful works of art, with alluring, curvaceous and flowing lines. Currently, the legendary automaker continues to employ the equally renowned Pininfarina Italian design house for the styling of their attractive vehicles.
Recently, Maserati has made great strides in creating more mainstream awareness in the world of high-end luxury sports cars. Their mission is not fixated on all-out acceleration or becoming a full-fledged sportscar; rather, they are honing the ability to go fast intelligently. Especially since Maseratis are not typically light vehicles. Yet, their weight distribution is perfectly balanced, and their reputation is honored with prestige and character. Once inside the cockpit there is no sense of urgency. Supple leathers, refined woods, interchangeable trims and contrast stitching offer title holders a key advantage, with its disciplined beauty and admirable performance. To expand upon this philosophy another member of the family has manifested in the form of a 4-door executive sports sedan titled Ghibli (shown in Bianco Alpi with a Rosso interior).
Maserati says the Ghibli will have a sportier character compared to the larger Quattroporte, and will help them achieve a growth plan of 50,000 cars per year. The vehicle will be available with two turbocharged 3-liter V6 engines, an 8-speed automatic transmission, and both RWD and an allwheel drive platform dubbed “Q4.” A V6 turbo-diesel will introduce itself as the first diesel in the company’s history.
Aesthetically, the body is alluring, with an aerodynamically-enhanced front end. We suspect it will feature LED lighting technology since Maserati actually made the first production vehicle (3200 GT ) with LEDs in 1998. This is the vehicle that began the renaissance for the Italian brand.
Ghibli is the reprise of a late 1960s Maserati coupé and convertible name, and refers to a Mediterranean wind. In fact, there are a number of classic Maseratis named after winds, such as the Bora and Mistral.
Rolls-Royce Wraith: Moment of Introspection
It’s standard for Rolls-Rolls to look backwards before moving forward when the time for contemplation of a new model begins. With their storied history — after all, its founder Charles Stewart Rolls was only 25-years old when he co-founded the company and, as a young pilot, became the first man to double cross the English Channel non-stop — and a reservoir of creativity at their disposal, the British automaker of bespoke innovations proudly staged the world debut of its dynamic new Wraith recently at the 83rd Geneva International Motor Show.
Wraith, titled after a mystical Scottish spirit, represents a potential new direction for Rolls-Royce. It extends their level of luxury, refinement and hand-craftsmanship, but also presents unique positioning defined by power, style and drama. Originally conceived in 1938, the rebirth of the current fastback and its perfectly engineered features and technical contour introduces a younger demographic to the Rolls-Royce brand. The sleek and vigorous Wraith is purely driver-oriented, with its Ghost-based 6.6-liter V12 that now outputs 624-horsepower (European spec), allowing it to reach 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds. With this in mind, the majestic gran turismo becomes the most powerful Rolls-Royce in the history of the company. Hallmark coach doors see their way into the Wraith to unmask its rich cabin, composed of Phantom-grade leathers and Canadel Panelling wood veneers. A bespoke touch of imagination is displayed by way of the lustrous night roof lining, created by the hand stitching of 1,340 fibre optic lamps. For enthusiastic owners who position themselves directly behind the wheel, innovative technology dubbed Satellite Aided Transmission applies GPS mapping algorithms to forecast the driver’s next move using current location-base and drive characteristics, and then magically preselects the most suitable gear from the 8-speed automatic ZF transmission appropriate for the impending topography ahead. Remarkable!
Expect deliveries by the end of the year to early 2014, with a current European price of €245K. Further pricing details for additional markets such as the U.S. will be revealed at a later date. It’s currently a moment of introspection for Rolls-Royce as they position themselves for supplementary growth, heightened levels of performance, and further expectations from their loyalists.
La Ferrari: Gentlemanly style, Super Sports performance
It was an exciting day when Ferrari put on their spectacle at the recent Geneva International Motor Show. Upon the unveiling of its latest motorsports prodigy, the LaFerrari, crowds of spectators gathered around the Italian grandstand to witness history in the making. In fact, tension never did subside, even after two full press days, because of the superior statement the Prancing Horse made to audiences globally.
With a 499-vehicle production run, the company’s attention to its passionate owners must be paramount and devoid of temerity, while also making sure that they have exclusive access. They should be Ferrari collectors and long-term devotees in order to represent the next generation of Ferrari super sports performance. “We chose to call this model LaFerrari,” declared Ferrari’s President, Luca di Montezemolo. “It is the maximum expression of what defines our company – excellence. Excellence in terms of technological innovation, performance, styling and the sheer thrill of driving. Aimed at our collectors, this is a truly extraordinary car which encompasses advanced solutions that, in the future, will find their way onto the rest of the range.”
Led by Flavio Manzoni, the design team instilled Ferrari F1 technology into the aerodynamic sculpting of the LaFerrari’s silhouette. Designers must be apt to separate emotional factors from objective ones for the vehicle to function at the level Ferrari decrees. Ferrari must be enormously proud because this model vehicle will communicate its superior technology down to the production level.
One such merit of success is their hybrid HY-KERS system that combines the 800-horsepower Ferrari V12 engine with a 7-speed DCT transmission, and a 120 Kw electric motor. Collectively the performance combination enables a top speed of over 218 mph, while 0 to 62 mph acceleration is achieved in under 3 seconds. HY-KERS is amazing because it allows sustained top performance through all speeds. The electric motor kicks in at lower rpms so power is constant, since electric torque is instantaneous.
In becoming Ferrari’s fastest road car in history, the LaFerrari is also the first to utilize the HY-KERS system, which encompasses two electric motors and a battery pack located on the floor of the carbon-fiber chassis. The battery’s energy can be regenerated from excess torque or by way of braking from the specialized Brembo package, which includes lightweight calipers and carbon-ceramic material (CCM ) discs.
The drive position of the race-themed cockpit was designed based on the experience and advice of Scuderia Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. With F1 single-seaters, a new steering wheel, more efficient shift controls, weight distribution biased 59% to the rear, a low center of gravity, a Kevlar underbody, increased rigidity (by 27%) and beam stiffness (by 22%), the LaFerrari is certainly well-equipped for the circuit.
The name of this vehicle was decided upon on the premise that it will become the core and future of the brand, and an example of what Ferrari is ultimately capable of in design, technology and aerodynamics. Production of the LaFerrari starts this summer and by the end of 2013 the first customers will receive their 1.3 million Euro car. Bellissimo!