2010 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 vs. 2010 BMW S 1000 RR
World's Fastest Car vs. World's Fastest Bike
By Simon Hargreaves, Contributor | Published Sep 24, 2010
First a few numbers.
2010 Bugatti Veyron 16.4: 1,001 horsepower, 253 mph.
2010 BMW S 1000 RR: 190 hp, 191 mph.
Oh, and then there are the price tags: $1.3 million for the Bugatti, a mere $14,295 for the BMW.
But at this moment, we're not worried about the numbers. All we can think about is the French supercar sitting behind us, buzzing like an impertinent bluebottle fly in the mirrors of the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR. And now it behooves us to unleash the BMW's inner demon and show this, this insect of a 2010 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 the true, grand order of nature.
That bikes are faster than cars.
This sinewy forest road in France is blessed with the unexpected switchbacks and rolling swoops where you'd expect a sport bike — any sport bike — to shrug off the attentions of a car — any car — with complete contempt. We've spent almost 20 years riding countless examples of ever-faster, more powerful and better-handling motorcycles, and no mere car has ever gotten within snarling distance of a 1,000cc race replica on the road.
Yes, a handful of exotic cars constructed at bewildering expense from space-age composites and fueled by the sweat of virgins will give a modern sport bike a run on the track, but only for about as long as it takes the millionaire's four-wheel toy to melt its brakes, vaporize its gearbox and delaminate its tires.
But on the road, with oncoming traffic, bumps, blind corners and suicidal camber? Yes, the motorcycle is king and the rider is god. Always has been, always will be.
So we lean into the BMW S 1000 RR, drop a gear and pin the throttle. See...you...later.
A familiar plaintive wail rises from the very trick Akrapovic exhaust system of the BMW S 1000 RR and pow! the bike is gone. Wide open, the quick-shift system popping in sync as each gear goes home. Move! Move! Go, go, go! The speedo rattles through numbers as the RR flits between the trees like the ghost of BMW Motorsport — flick left, pick it up, pull it right, on the gas, work the revs. Nothing can live with this. Nothing.
It's to be expected, because this is no ordinary motorcycle. The combination of 190 hp at 13,200 rpm from the BMW's 999cc DOHC inline-4 and MotoGP-style electronic stability control have changed the expectations of what's possible with two wheels and a headlight.
Of course, the car in our mirrors is no ordinary car. The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is finally reaching the end of its production run after 295 examples of the French-built (though Volkswagen-owned) supercar have been built since 2005. Even the most car-phobic motorcyclist knows about the quad-turbo 8.0-liter Bugatti W16 engine and its ability to deliver 1,001 hp and a top speed of 253 mph (a Veyron 16.4 Super Sport with its 1,183-hp engine recently set a top-speed mark of 268 mph).
In fact, this particular Bugatti Veyron 16.4 isn't being driven by a retired bus driver who has won the lottery but instead Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Bugatti's test-driver and a well-known shoe at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. (We wish we could afford his jet-set tan.)
Learning To Understand the Automobile
The Veyron isn't just a symbol of wanton excess; it's also a symbol of haute technology. Not only does it make more torque than the USS Enterprise (some 922 pound-feet of torque at 2,200 rpm, in fact), it uses sleek aerodynamics and aircraft-standard hardware, not to mention some fairly impressive electronics to keep it all glued to the road.
So as we flash down the road under a forest ceiling of green and blue, fighting the S 1000 RR as it wheelies and squirms under the argument those 190 hp are having with the pavement through a contact patch the same size as a Labrador retriever's nose, we see the Bugatti still in our mirrors.
If the Veyron had the same ratio of power-to-tire-contact-patch as the BMW, it would be delivering its stupendous power through only one of its massive rear tires. So while we're desperately trying to get the BMW upright and pointing between the trees so we can unload the engine's 83 lb-ft of torque at 9,750 rpm through the bike's 190/55ZR17 Metzeler Racetec rear tire, the Bugatti shooms around corners behind us, no sign of it even causing Raphanel a moment of sweat.
The Bugatti is indefatigable, inexhaustible and irrepressible.
On paper it's a close-run thing between the world's fastest car and the world's fastest street bike up to 140 mph.
In perfect conditions, BMW says the 455-pound S 1000 RR will get to 60 mph from a standstill in 3.0 seconds on the way to the quarter-mile in 10.2 seconds. You'll find that 100 mph comes up in 5.3 seconds while the speed is all over at 191 mph. Sure, bikes like the BMW K1300S and Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa might get to 60 mph quicker, but no street bike is faster in a straight line than the BMW S 1000 RR.
Matched against this, the 4,410-pound Veyron 16.4 puts its turbocharged W16 to good use with a quick-shifting, dual-clutch seven-speed automated manual transmission plus all-wheel drive, so it gets to 60 mph from a standstill in the same breathtaking 3.0 seconds and finds the quarter-mile in 10.2 seconds. The 100 mph mark is reached in 5.5 seconds and of course the car doesn't run out of steam until you get to 253 mph.
So in a straight line the car and bike are neck and neck off the start and up to around 140 mph, after which the Bugatti clears off into some netherworld of top speed where not even MotoGP bikes dare venture.
None of which is helping us much here on the road. The car is clinging on like the world's classiest limpet and there's nothing that the Fastest Bike in the World can do about it.
That is, right up to the moment we come up behind another car. It's moving fast, but nowhere near the speed we're at. The bike is around it without thinking or blinking, like you do when you're riding a sport bike. But the Veyron? Ohhh, no sir, not this time.
Pierre-Henri has yet to lose a Veyron to the scenery despite crossing off more than 3,000 test-drives and he isn't about to start now. The Bugatti has the best brakes in the world — 15.7-inch carbon-ceramic discs with eight-piston calipers at the front, not to mention a rear wing that turns into an airbrake in 0.4s and which generates more braking force on its own than a family hatchback does with its driver standing on the pedal. It all means the Veyron will stop from 250 mph in less than 10 seconds.
But despite this, you can still crash into things and the Veyron won't magically narrow itself to the width of a sport bike to let Raphanel slip past cars against oncoming traffic. So the car is the loser.
Let's Be Practical
At the top of the hill we come to a village and a 25-mph speed limit. Everyone hates speed humps, but that goes double for people who drive cars that don't have the ride height of an ant's quiff and a carbon-fiber ground-effect undertray worth more than a four-bedroom house. The Bugatti crawls over the bumps at 0.01 mph.
Then we stop for gasoline and the million-dollar Veyron is forced to drink from the same cup as the rest of us. In normal use it gets over 20 mpg, but this drops to below 5 mpg at full tilt. The best the BMW has done in our hands is 54 mpg; the worst, at a racetrack, is 25 mpg. The Bugatti drinks 26.4 gallons of unleaded and the Beemer takes 4.5 gallons.
The motorcycle also wins the competition when it comes to maintenance costs — changing tires, anyway. There are only two tire-changing machines in the world capable of removing the Veyron's epically proportioned 265/680R20 front and 365/710R21 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Pax run-flat tires. One is here at Molsheim; the other is in the U.S.. It costs $90,000 — no, really — to change four tires. And if you want to know what it costs to service the Veyron or change a windshield, don't ask.
Now we're back on the road again, and you have to hand it to the Bugatti — it's got a hell of a presence. Everyone stares at it. But it's all a fantasy — a flimsy veil draped over reality. Even if you can afford a 2010 Bugatti Veyron 16.4, you then need extraordinary circumstances to use it. It's no track car — even Pierre-Henri admits it only took a single demonstration lap at Le Mans to melt the Veyron's brakes.
Sure, the Bugatti might be able to live with the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR on a twisty road and even waste it on a straight one, but it never works out like that in the real world. One you chuck in traffic, road construction, speed bumps, curbs and even the length of gas stops, there's no way in which our bike can't beat his car.
And here's the thing. With a motorcycle, we get our performance kicks every morning on the way to work. And you, whoever you are in Veyron world, we bet you don't.
As we pack up at the end of the day and strap our luggage rack to the back of the BMW, we realize that the S 1000 RR even has more storage capacity than the Veyron 16.4. Ha! Bike wins again. Who'd have thought it?
Portions of this content have appeared in foreign print media and are reproduced with permission