Bye, Bye, Bugatti Veyron
No supercar is fabulous enough to justify forking over $1 million. Pro or con?
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Pro: Settle for a Porsche
Let me preface this argument by noting that like most red-blooded males, I find so-called supercars—exotic vehicles with superlative performance, audacious bodywork, and six-figure price tags—a perennial source of excitement and fascination. But here’s why no car, super or otherwise, is worth $1 million.
With mileage in the single digits, such vehicles typically burn more oil than a refinery fire, consuming an unseemly amount of fuel even by the ultra-wealthy’s standards. At full bore, the vaunted Veyron goes through an entire tank of gas in just 12 minutes. Where exactly is the kick in squandering natural resources and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere as fast as possible?
These cars are also dangerous. In the largest car market in the world, California, accidents involving Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses, and Maseratis rose to 141 last year, an 81% increase from 2002, while crashes of more pedestrian makes dropped, according to the state’s highway patrol. It’s no coincidence that Web sites like WreckedExotics.com, which hosts hundreds of pictures of totaled dream machines, have experienced a surge in submissions.
The best supercars may have a knack for filling us with pride and lust, glee and envy, but in practice, few deliver much more than an overly steroidal driving experience. Most are plagued by excessively harsh rides and deafening engine noise, often making them literally exhausting to drive. In addition, their penchant for being mechanically temperamental nixes day-to-day driving.
Ultimately, the real thrill of driving is the result of a vehicle’s balance, not excessive power. That’s what makes cars like the Porsche (PSHG_P.DE) 911 Turbo a much better choice. At $126,200, the iconic sports car isn’t exactly an economy ride. It rockets from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, but still manages to return highway mileage around 25 mpg. Cars like this are safer, more reliable, and, yes, more fun to drive.
Con: Respect the Sublime
Yes, exotic supercars like the 1001 hp, 253-mph Bugatti Veyron are utterly indulgent machines offering gratuitous levels of speed, but why is that any different from a four-person family moving into a 30-room mansion? Everybody spends money and time differently. These are emotional, not rational, purchases. Who are we to judge?
For all the talk about eco-friendly vehicles and tree-hugging consumers, a lot of fuel-sucking supercars sure are entering the market. Sales for Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin are all up through the first eight months of 2007, according to the Automotive News data center. At this month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Bugatti and Lamborghini unveiled special edition models priced around $1.4 million.
A special five-car production run of the Veyron, called the Pur Sang (pure blood), offers reduced curb weight thanks to slick-looking carbon fiber and aluminum bodywork. The Pur Sang Veyron cost $1.9 million (before tax and delivery charges), and the production run sold out in 24 hours. These über-Veyrons add to the 100 "base" Veyrons that Bugatti has already sold to date. And despite all the rumors, a Bugatti spokesman assures me that the company is making money on the Veyron project (BusinessWeek, 9/17/07).
And Lamborghini just pulled the wraps off of the Reventon, a fighter-jet-inspired version of its flagship LP640. Only 20 of these more powerful, specially bodied supercars will be produced. The price tag is $1 million, and all 20 have already been sold.
Power, speed, exclusivity, and yes, high price tags, sell. If your pockets are deep and your automotive exuberance high, it is a good time to be in the market for an exotic vehicle.
Most important, cars like the Bugatti Veyron are not just showpieces for hedge fund managers to impress the neighbors. They are the stuff that childhood dreams are made of. They are the posters cluttering your kids’ school lockers. And the innovation and technology harnessed during supercar development is very often passed down to higher-volume production cars made under the company umbrella. In Bugatti’s case, its parent company, Volkswagen, can pass insights down to one of its many subsidiaries, such as Audi.
The Verdict: Reserve judgment until you experience 0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds.