With the debut of the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse in 2012, Bugatti set new records for power and performance in a roadster. A year later, the exceptional super sports car solidified its one-of-a-kind reputation in the automotive world by reaching 408.84 km/h, establishing itself as the world’s most powerful and fastest production roadster – a record for open-top cars that still holds today.
Christophe Piochon, President of Bugatti Automobiles, recalls how, after the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport coupé introduced the world to the 1,200 PS W16 engine, buyers voiced a desire for an open-top version with the same inconceivably high power output. The engineers worked for months to perfect the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse.
The most difficult problem for the new roadster was attaining adequate driving stability while also redefining the rollover protection and detachable top of the previous Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport. The structural design of the Veyron needs to be enhanced significantly. To accomplish this, a detachable roof module composed of lightweight polycarbonate was constructed, allowing for open-top driving in only a few manual steps.
What appears to be a simple design was everything but – in the coupé, the roof is an important element of the monocoque structure that contributes to the car’s exceptional stability. To satisfy the required stiffness and safety regulations, reinforcements with extraordinarily high torsional rigidity of 22,000 Nm per degree along estimated load lines had to be installed to the roadster.
The exceptionally strong and light passenger compartment requires an optimal blend of body stiffness and lightweight construction in the monocoque design. If a structural component, like as the roof, is removed, the load routes must be reconfigured in order to preserve the vehicle’s high stiffness and crash safety, which includes side impact and rollover protection.
As a result, the monocoque was strengthened around the side skirts and transmission tunnel, and the B pillars were stiffened laterally by a carbon fiber support. A central carbon plate beneath the transmission tunnel ensured that the vehicle flexed less than any other roadster. Furthermore, the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse’s side doors are composed of carbon fiber and conceal an integrated longitudinal support with pins that transfers the load from the A pillar to the B pillar in the case of an accident, minimizing impact force.
The 8.0-liter W16 engine produces 1,200 PS and propels the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse to 410 km/h. In 2013, Chinese businessman and race car driver Anthony Liu set a record-breaking drive with the top down, reaching 408.84 km/h.
“Minus the roof, the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse demonstrates just how unparalleled Bugatti’s engineering expertise is. Although the weight distribution is completely different when the roof is down, the vehicle remains stable and accelerates just as impressively as it does with the roof closed,” explains Christophe Piochon. “With the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, Bugatti proved it was possible to build an open-top hyper sports car with very high performance and power output that drives extremely dynamically and very comfortably.”
The Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse’s predecessor, the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport with 1,001 PS, had already allowed customers to experience phenomenal power with top-down driving, but the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse amplified the experience even further, living up to its name — Vitesse — which translates to speed. The 199 PS improvement over the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport was accomplished primarily via the use of four bigger turbochargers and redesigned intercoolers.
The car’s design was also revamped; the front of the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse includes the same broad air intakes as the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport. The bottom air hole continues sideways into the wheel well, giving the roadster a strong presence. A new front spoiler is located just beneath the air intake. A double diffuser, a central twin-pipe exhaust system, and a roof edge spoiler all work together to create a very eye-catching look for the car’s rear. Unlike the coupé, the roadster’s skin is entirely constructed of carbon. As a result, Bugatti now provides the option of transparent, visible carbon painting.
The Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, like all previous Veyron variants, features two air scoops on each side of the engine cover, unlike the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport. These perform two functions in the roadster: first, they suck in air for the 16-cylinder engine, and second, they are an ingeniously integrated element of the rollover protection.
Bugatti also reinforced the whole powertrain, including the gearing of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DSG). The engine is supplied with fuel using a fuel system derived from the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, which includes a four-pump tank. Bugatti retuned the chassis, including ESP, tires, and brakes, to reliably and pleasantly put the power on the road, reducing roll and pitch to virtually undetectable levels.
The preceding model, the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport with 1,001 PS, reached 407 km/h with the roof closed, matching the coupé. Bugatti electrically limits the speed to 360 km/h when the roof is down. Not only is the power output higher in the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, but so is the top speed. The Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse accelerates at 410 km/h with its 1,200 PS while the roof is closed, but only 375 km/h when the top is down.
“The internal noise and turbulence are reduced to a minimum thanks to the roof edge spoiler and an elaborately designed wind deflector. Even at top speeds of over 200 km/h, the passengers can still hold a conversation with the top down,” relates Christophe Piochon. “This was us catering to a fundamental customer wish.” In addition to carbon, aluminum, and magnesium, Bugatti included a special moisture-resistant leather with fine backstitching in the interior.
The Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse was to be the final model in the Veyron series, with the 2013 version being part of the Les Légendes de Bugatti collection. Les Légendes de Bugatti honored not just six famous Bugatti figures — Jean-Pierre Wimille, Jean Bugatti, Meo Costantini, Rembrandt Bugatti, Black Bess, and Ettore Bugatti — but also Bugatti’s distinctive ingenuity and workmanship. To that purpose, the designers of the Les Légendes de Bugatti version of the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse utilised finishing processes and materials never previously seen in a vehicle. All of the Légendes models, which were restricted to only three vehicles apiece, were completely sold out.