Bugatti Veyron and McLaren F1: Comparing the incomparable

Interesting | June 28th, 2009 by 26
McLaren F1 BMW Engine

Most of you have already seen the previews for the next season of Top Gear so you have probably caught a glimpse of a thrilling …

Most of you have already seen the previews for the next season of Top Gear so you have probably caught a glimpse of a thrilling race between the legendary McLaren F1 and much discussed Bugatti Veyron.

As mentioned in one of our previous posts, the Top Gear crew has always had an obsession to test exotic and supercars, rather than mass market, affordable vehicles. When they finally got their hands on the hyped Bugatti Veyron, the whole crew was impressed by its stellar performance.
However, not all in the automotive world shared their enthusiasm.

When Volkswagen Group acquired the rights to the Bugatti name in 2000, then-chairman Ferdinand Piëch announced that Volkswagen will release a Bugatti branded supercar soon after. This attracted much attention as it was revealed that the car would be the fastest road car in history.

Bugatti Veyron and McLaren F1: Comparing the incomparable

After initial stability problems the car now known as Bugatti Veyron was finally released in 2005, priced at €1 million. As of today, the Veyron is the most expensive and with 407 km/h (249 mph) top speed is also the fastest road car available. Its W16 engine employs four turbochargers for exactly 1001 hp and 1250 Nm of torque.

Immediately, the car received praise among all journalists for its outrageous speed and engine power, and many claimed that it was a successor of another famous supercar, the McLaren F1.

That comparison was not well received by many racing enthusiasts, most notably Gordon Murray, the man behind the McLaren F1.
His creation was the fastest production car for almost a decade when it was surpassed by Bugatti Veyron, Koenigsegg CCR and SSC Ultimate Aero TT. However, unlike forced induction (turbo or supercharged) cars mentioned above, the F1 is still the fastest production car with a naturally aspirated engine
which was unsurprisingly made by BMW.

Murray insisted that the car had a naturally aspirated engine to increase reliability and driver control, so he asked from Honda a 550 hp engine with a maximum weight of 250 kg. Back then, the combination of Honda and McLaren dominated Formula 1 so the requested engine was supposed to be derived from the actual race car.

When Honda refused, Isuzu was interested to provide their brand new 3.5 V12 engine that was being tested on a Lotus chassis. Nevertheless, the designers rejected Isuzu’s project so in the end BMW decided to develop the engine.

Dubbed S70/2, the engine was 16 kg heavier than 250 kg Murray had in plan, but it was also 14% more powerful, producing 627 hp. Although BMW was given very little time for production, the engine employed several features that were still experimental at the time, but now are featured in almost all BMW modern cars. For instance, the engine block and head are completely made of aluminum alloy while cam carriers, covers, oil sump, dry sump, and housings for the camshaft control were made of magnesium.
Nowadays, almost all BMW engines feature similar aluminum-magnesium construction, making them the lightest and most fuel efficient in their power category.
BMW has also implemented their VANOS variable intake control which would later evolve to Valvetronic technology introduced in 2001.

Although the engine was custom made for “road use” McLaren F1, it was also fitted in the McLaren F1 GTR race car which won Le Mans in 1995. Three years after, BMW V12 LM debuted on the Le Mans track and won using the same engine.

The title of the world’s fastest car has been associated with the F1 for many years, which has much to do with the production and development of Bugatti Veyron but in apart from that, the two cars have very little in common.

Gordon Murray, McLaren and BMW wanted to produce a supercar that would be the last word in handling, performance, technology and speed, but without compromising safety and comfort, whereas the Veyron was built with top speed as the ultimate goal.
For instance, Veyron’s chassis/body structure is made of aluminum and carbon fibres where the all-carbon design of the F1 is far more advanced.
The F1 also features an automatic “air brake” which deploys if the sensors detect a certain combination of speed and deceleration which was the model for Veyron’s similar system. However, the F1 goes even further with automatic brake cooling and fan-assisted boundary control for the rear diffuser.

Even though Veyron produces much more power than the F1, it doesn’t make a it significant advantage for reaching its enormous top speed of 407 km/h:

“The Veyron because of its high CDA figure and huge cooling drag needs 1001 hp to go 12 mph faster than a McLaren F1 producing 627 hp. To help understand the problem of starting a car program from a weak point aerodynamically, we do some calculations: A turbocharged F1 producing 1001 hp would achieve 281 mph assuming the same drivetrain efficiency. Another way of looking at this equation is that an F1 would need “only” 740 hp to reach the Bugatti’s top speed. All this demonstrates just what an uphill struggle the Bugatti team faced to achieve their targets.”
Gordon Murray

A test conducted in 1998 shows that the engine is capable enough to employ a gearbox with seven gears (standard cars have six) which would increase official top speed of 386.7 km/h even further.

Even from the stylistic point of view, the Veyron cannot be compared with the F1, as the design of the F1 was made after all technical targets were made, while with the Veyron it was vice versa.

In the end, it is obvious that the Veyron and the F1 were built with different targets and even if both are exotic supercars, the F1 was (and still is) a masterpiece of design and engineering, while the Veyron is limited in many areas were the F1 excels, and its even not that superior in the only area it was supposed to be the best.

Now it is apparent that the Veyron was intended to be a showcase and a symbol of Volkswagen Group’s enormous profit, just like the infamous Volkswagen Phaeton.
However, their latest attempt received extremely positive reviews both from the press and enthusiasts. Volkswagen also surprised many by releasing their next supercar under the Audi brand name which had no associations with performance cars whatsoever.

BMW’s first and only mid-engined car was the M1 back in 1978 so we’re curios to see if the company will answer directly to upcoming Mercedes-Benz SLS and the already established Audi R8, or will keep their knowledge for special purposes only, like the epic McLaren F1.

  • Jordan

    That is one sick pic of that engine!! Horatiu is that THE McLaren F1 V12 engine??

    • Jordan

      Ah it is…. I clicked on the pic and saw McLaren on it.

  • ferrarifan

    sorry but it doesn’t mean that if the engine’s bmw, the car’s a bmw. it’s still a mclaren and mclaren’s responsible for that car and all its dynamics. until they produce one, i believe bmw can’t make a supercar like that of mclarens.. a good example would be a pagani zonda using AMGs. its doesnt make it a merc.

    • Stjepan

      Have you read the article at all? It doesn’t say that the F1 is a BMW, but a good engine is the quintessence of any supercar, so the idea was to emphasize BMWs brilliant engine engineering and the capability to be a part of something so spectacular. However, BMW could build a car that would compete with the SLS and R8, it’s just a matter of time and money.

  • http://www.mycarportal.net Njave

    The emphasis is that BMW shouldn’t in the whole product range, turn to turbo engines. It may be the case of ecology norms, the pressure from other manufacturers, but in the end, the high revving, powerful engines were what brought BMW to the general public, as a driving car, and a racing car, from the beginnings to the last years.

    And yes, this is only my opinion, it may not be right really :P

    • Jordan

      I really agree a lot with what you say. I love the high revving, powerful N/A engines and even reviewers of the Z4 with the 3L and the twin-turbo 3L say that you might just prefer the 3L because it doesn’t have the turbos. I personally feel more connected to a car without a turbo but then again, in typical BMW fashion, they sure do have some of the best turbo engines (including diesel).

  • Gord

    The Veyron may not be the best handling car, but on the Top Gear Track it can keep up the likes of the Ferrari F60 and Zonda. So they Veyron still handles well.

    I’ll have never driven a Veyron, but I bet it is a comfortable car. I think the Veyron is like a GT car.

  • Andrew

    It’s a big deal that a BMW V12 is powering the McLaren considering that it’s the heart and soul of the car. Originally, McLaren and Gordon Murray commissioned Honda to build the engine as they’d made some very successful race engines for McLaren’s F1 team. However, Honda couldn’t do it so BMW was brought in and M Division made a hugely successful engine – so yes, McLaren built the car but BMW made the heart of the car – how isn’t that relevant on a BMW site? The same base V12 was used for BMW Le Mans victories as well.

  • Alex

    “while the Veyron is limited in many areas were the F1 excels, and its even not that superior in the only area it was supposed to be the best.”

    That is a pretty lame statement sincerely, on what is that actually bassed, technical calculations that an hypotetichal McLaren F1 developing 740 hp would be better for a top speed race ? Well maybe it would but then again there isn’t one is there, so the Veyron actually does best what it was supposed to do top speed. The F1 and the Veyron are marvellous pieces of engineering with totally diferent purposes … no comparison should be tried unless for the entertainment value.

    More hp from the BMW N/A engine implies a form of supercharging wich in turn adds more weight and cooling drag… so your numbers might be a little off …

  • Corso

    I am agree about more hp using this engine, but What about reliability?
    http://www.cocheapunto.com

  • X5SoB

    Implying that it would be easy to turbocharge the F1 ignores the fact that the F1 was designed with very little extra space to spare. The logistics of locating the turbo equipment and cooling would yield very little benefit and add weight, compromising handling and drivability.
    I do agree that comparing the Veyron to the F1 is apples and oranges, and the F1 is superior in every way except top speed, which is a dubious honor at best.

  • Alex

    Top speed is purely a publicity and image enhancing stunt …

    Little to say the comparison is apples to oranges, it’s a shame the author doesn’t get the difference between the two cars. Pure-bred and designed racer Vs ostentatious GrandTourer easy to drive and easy to live with … it’s like comparing the F360 Challenge Stradale to the Bentely Continental GT and arguing the Ferrari would have a bigger top speed if turbocharged .. and then for good measure slamming the Continental GT for not being the track car it was never meant to be.

    The factual and insider info on the F1 was great in this article but the uniformed personal conjectures were disappointing.

    PS: English isn’t my first language, please ignore my spelling

    • Stjepan

      First of all, thank you all for your comments.

      However, it is advisable to read the text in depth before making a negative statement because there might be something that you have missed.

      Alex, I am completely aware of all differences between two cars, but obviously you haven’t got the point of the text. Even from the title you could have predicted the starting point of this post; to show that the F1 and Veyron are really incomparable.
      The question is, who had compared them at all in the first place? Well, I haven’t for sure, it was the automotive press and public. My intention was to prove that those two are indeed apples and oranges.
      Also, where do you see a suggestion that the F1 could or should be supercharged to be faster than Veyron?
      If you are referring to the bit of text starting with “The Veyron because of its high CDA figure…” -> those words were said by Gordon Murray himself. And he didn’t mention supercharging either.

      The only suggestion was to add a seventh gear because the engine could cope with it.

      Regarding my personal opinion; this site is obviously BMW oriented so it’s natural for the authors to be a bit biased towards BMW. Still, I am trying to give actual facts and just in the end (as a conclusion) my personal opinion with right words and expressions to distinguish it from the rest of the text.

  • The Lee

    I’m going to forgo discussing the comparison, as the Veyron vs F1 debate has been circulating for years. We’d might as well be putting the Mustang against the Camaro…

    As a car guy, I would love to see a new purely-BMW supercar. As a BMW fan, though, meh. I’m not overly excited about it. BMW ≠ Lamborghini. It’s not their role in the automotive world and anything they produce is likely to be “just another supercar”. It’s doubtful that it will be the technological marvel of the Veyron, the raw aggression of the Mercielago or the glamor (horrible interior) of the SLR. It will, most likely, be a compromise of these things but probably won’t do any one thing especially well. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather not see BMW waste their time/resources.

  • Frederico Silva

    I think the pic is the engine of the F1 BMW-Sauber

    • Jordan

      I don’t think so. You can clearly see McLaren on the opposite side of where BMW M Power is written.

  • Artmic

    I’d rather have a natural 300hp engine than the twin turbo 300hp engine… but… oh well, that is what they offer now, and probably will get even worse in the future with the Global Warming fanatics screaming stupid things on tv.

    • Jordan

      I totally agree with you. For the ultimate driving pleasure, N/A I believe is the way to go. They just need to make the cars lighter!

      • The Lee

        Fat chance with that.

        If you want a light-weight N/A car for carving up corners, buy an Elise/Exige. BMW doesn’t seem to have that market in mind.

        • Jordan

          And neither should they have the Lotus market in mind…. or the Ferrari, or the Geeley market in mind for that matter. The Lotus market is (excuse my bias) a market made for slightly above average income males between the height of 5’0 and 5’4 that like to take it out for fun on the track and not as a daily driver. That is the COMPLETE opposite of what BMW is. EVERY car BMW makes is a daily driver, comfortable, usable and fun. BMWs and Mercs for that matter, I’d have to say fit the widest range of ppl from very short to very tall. Especially if you are taller, your best bet is BMW or Merc, definitely not Lexus, and Cadillac would be the closest but I still think overall the European cars fit better. The new Z4 is a small 2 seat roadster and a 6’3 or 6’4 (can’t remember exactly) fit comfortably with “plenty of room”.

          Lotus has an excellent philosophy but to be a major player they need to expand their market which I believe they’ve started to realise when they made the Lotus Evora. Overall Lotus makes fantastic cars, but I can’t see it competing in any way with the market of any one of BMWs vehicles, and vice versa.

  • http://www.autocritical.com/blog AutoCritical

    For looks – they both look wild! but for me i’d have to say the SLR is my choice!

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  • http://www.tyrebayxpress.com Redditch tyres

    Really incomparable.Both Bugatti Veyron and McLaren F1 has their name in auto industry.For me,they have unique features that you can’t tell until you drive one of those.All i can say,both are great cars.

  • Frankie

    Cmmon, you are comparing a real legend McLaren F1, car of our childhood dreams (ye only dreams =) we will never have that car, i wrote to santa 15 years in the row, no sucess …. :P) with a car of our current dreams =)

    but its 15 years between them!!! back there when F1 was made, cars didn’t even have a CD player!!!

    WE LOVE EM BOTH !!

  • Aditya

    I agree that Mclaren f1 can pull a 7th gear but i would like to point out that engines made for some cars do wonders in some super cars. I respect BMW, especially the M3 E46 CSL but i am more of an AMG fan. AMG engines did wonders in the paganis, even in the rare supercar marquee “Isdera”. F1 is my favorite car, and I believe if porshe and nissan achieve wonders in acceleration with turbocharging, so does the mp4-12-C then why not turbocharge the engine in such a way that it doesn’t get spoiled but does wonders. Veyron couldn’t have achieved the top speed and the phenomenal acceleration if it wasn’t for its gearbox. The veyron transmission is better than f1 or any other car, except that, the car is just an expensive European branded american muscle car. Only fit for going in a straight line.

  • stavioneko@yahoo.com

    i respect every car but look at the best i mean bmw their is no car that is faster than bmw almost all cars helf of thier engine is bmw engine evey new car they have made has been a success bagatti helf of its engine is bmw engine people plz bmw is the best car thathas ever live the best machine that ever was born

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