Car And Driver’s Original Bugatti Veyron Review Is A Poetic Tale Of Hypercar Absurdity

Most car enthusiasts have specific car magazine stories that have been seared into their minds since the first read, whether they are a profile of an important figure, a review of a favorite car, or an oddball feature or culture story. Car and Driver’s Instagram account recently posted a throwback to what might be my favorite review of all time — John Phillips’ 2008 test of the Bugatti Veyron — and it’s still so damn good that I had to share it with y’all.

In the piece Phillips drove the Veyron to a Kruse Auction in Auburn, Indiana, recounting the reactions of auction-goers, bystanders and other drivers along the way. It perfectly captures what it’s like to drive a car like the Veyron, especially in an era where hypercars were still in their gestation period (the Veyron was the first, after all). As Phillips writes in his intro:

Driving a Bugatti Veyron is like carrying a 14.6-foot-long open wallet that is spewing 50-dollar bills. Drivers rush up from behind, tailgating before swerving into either of the Veyron’s rear-three-quarter blind spots, where they hang ape-like out of windows to snap photos with their cell phones. They won’t leave, either, because they know the Bugatti, averaging 11 mpg, can’t go far without refueling and that its driver will soon need to take a minute to compose himself. And when you open the Veyron’s door to exit—a gymnastic feat that requires grabbing one of your own ankles to drag it across that huge, hot sill—you will be greeted by 5 to 15 persons wielding cameras and asking questions. If you’re wearing shorts or a skirt, here’s a tip: Wear underwear.

Phillips does a fantastic job weaving in technical information about the Veyron with actual driving impressions and entertaining prose. As he says at the start of the story, “Describing hyperbole with hyperbole is not a useful pursuit. In the Veyron’s case, the facts are sufficient.” Bugatti began work on the Veyron in the late 1990s, but thanks to a fraught development cycle it didn’t reach customer hands until 2005. By that time we had gotten incredible cars like the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT, but still, no other car on the planet could touch the Bugatti. It was the first true hypercar, boasting absurd figures like a 1,001-horsepower engine and a $1-million pricetag, not to mention its McLaren F1–beating 253-mph top speed.

For a young kid like me, the Veyron was jaw-droppingly cool on a level that no other car had ever been, and that sentiment still rings true two decades later. It had that same impression on many of the people who came up to Phillips in his time with the Veyron:

We parked next to a racing-blue 1948 Talbot-Lago. A French car next to a French car. But the Bugatti killed all interest in the magnificent Talbot, making us feel sorry for its owner. So we parked in a line of a dozen Lamborghinis. This lasted 15 minutes before the Lambo salesman began looking ill. “We’re trying to sell here,” he pleaded. “You’re killing us.”

All persons who stumble upon a Veyron are moved to speak:
“I’ll bet that car has more moves than a monkey on 18 feet of grapevine,” said one.
“If that’s your car,” said a blonde, “I’ll marry you.”
“It’s like a good movie,” said another. “Contains violence, obscenity, possible nudity.” (We’re not sure what that meant.)
“I do believe this is the most beautiful car I have ever seen,” said a Southern belle who’d driven to Auburn in her Ford GT.

At the Kruse auction, the Bugatti caused knots of the 175,000 attendees to become overstimulated. “I’d buy one,” said a man in a Shelby T-shirt who shoved a child aside to get closer, “but it’s too big a hassle.”

“You should see this car on YouTube,” yelled a teen. “It goes to 60 in, like, 2.5 seconds.” We told him we’d performed the same test and had driven the car for five days. “No, really,” he insisted, “you can, watch a guy drive this car on YouTube.”

But it’s this encounter near the end of the review that most closely aligns with my reaction to seeing a Veyron, even now in 2024:

A 60-year-old woman became hysterical. “It looks like the devil,” she squealed. “I am going to buy one.” This was no idle threat. She showed us a photo of a Hispano-Suiza parked in her garage in Madrid.

In classic Car and Driver fashion, the Veyron was relegated to a tiny spot on the issue’s cover, which was almost completely taken up by a comparison test between three different C6 Corvette variants. There have been literal tons of Corvette reviews over the decades that all bleed together — it’s this Veyron story that I still think about all of the time. Seriously, give it a read.

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