France is by and large not a country which springs to mind when supercars are concerned. For the most part, they deal with cars which range from cute to weird to downright deranged. But can you name any French supercars? That’s a resounding no.
And for those who said “Citroen SM”, no, that doesn’t really count.
In fact, the last car to have come out of France with the traditional supercar layout of mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, is the, erm, Renault Clio V6. Great car, yes, but it’s still a hot hatch, which means no matter how much performance it has – and believe me, it’s a lot – it’s still more Manchester High Street than Monte Carlo. So really, the message is clear – if you want something quirky and a bit eccentric, and overall different from equivalent Teutonic or Pacific rivals, buy a French car.
Which is why, up until you played GT2 for the first time and found them in West City, you’d almost certainly never heard of Venturi. Venturi are one of those tiny companies (I’m thinking the likes of Vector and Cizeta as other examples) that featured in Gran Turismo because PD couldn’t get hold of the licences for the more established and well-known supercar brands, e.g. Ferrari and Lamborghini. Actually, that’s a little unfair. These cars which come out of these tiny independent companies are the work of clever men in sheds, rather than accountants in Munich. Which means if you drove one in real life, it may generally break down within five miles and it may have an interior made out of melted down Army Men figures, but nine times out of ten it would be fast, and nine times out of ten you would step out of it with a massive grin on your face. And in the world of GT2, where interior quality and reliability matter not a jot, these cars are fantastic. Venturi are no different. Originally conceived in the mid-80s as ‘France’s answer to Ferrari’, they fit squarely into that bracket of tiny-company-with-barely-any-money-yet-still-makes-fantastic -sports-cars. Through the 80s and 90s they were often found racing – and winning – at Le Mans, and the 400GT is in fact a holmogation special for the mad 600LM, which you can find in the Special section of Venturi.
I must say, the 400GT is a handsome beast. If a TVR Speed 12 looks like a gurning thug with a broken bottle, all aggression and phlegm, then the 400GT is like looking at a dark-suited hitman – unassuming and wearing shades yet with enough muscle to crush a man’s head like a beer can. And, having seen photos of the interior on the interweb, I retract my previous interior comment in this case – it’s a handsome, if rather overly tanned-leather, place to sit.Under the bonnet, things threaten to deteriorate – it’s packing a 3-litre V6, which if we return to the hitman metaphor, is a bit like packing a BB gun as opposed to an Aston Martin’s V12 Desert Eagle, but don’t despair – it’s got TWO turbos on it to bring it right up to speed. The power figures reflect this – 405hp and 384ft. lbs. of torque.
That BB gun has suddenly been equipped with a full-automatic switch and a telescopic sight.
0-60 in 4.7 seconds. 0-100 takes just over 10. And top speed 180mph. Corvette, be very afraid. In fact, with these kind of figures, nearly everything else should be very afraid. Because, while these are very strong figures as standard, this is the world of GT2, where performance upgrades are just a few button-presses away. All of a sudden, splash a bit of cash and that BB gun is quickly looking like an Uzi, ready to gun down anything in it’s way in a hail of bullets.
For now though, let’s stick with that BB gun and focus on what we get straight out of the dealership. My comrade Parnelli Bone has already reviewed the 400GT’s sister car, the Atlantique 300, which is more a grand tourer than a supercar. He liked it, although it did have some glaring faults, some of which was down to Polyphony Digital’s famously stupid statspeople, which listed it as having a pathetic 213hp, as opposed to the real-life car’s 302hp. Fortunately, that problem appears to have eluded the 400GT. Aside from this, PB enjoyed the car’s noise and found that it had good maneuverability, though criticised it’s snap oversteer and steep pricetag. So how does the 400GT compare?
Well for starters, you’ll have to dig deep into your GT wallet – the price is cr.137,040, which is steep, however, not only is it a limited-run sports car, its a holmogation special – and whenever you hear those words, you know you’re in for something special.
Sadly, first impressions didn’t appear to be that great. The engine sounded good, but not great – but this is a Peugeot V6, so it’s hardly gonna sound like a Dodge Charger – but whenever it came to a corner, especially the high-banked and long Red Rock Valley ones, it suffered from the most dreaded word in driving, the one which makes all racers shiver. Deep breath now….understeer. There, I said the word of Satan. Even if I probed and prodded the throttle gently, it would still struggle to get round corners without trying to remove the paintwork from the front quarter panels. And no matter which way you spin it, understeer isn’t fast, and neither is it fun.
Oversteer, however, is. And to get it from this car, you must go against one of the commandments stated in the GT2 Driver’s Manual, and – (gasp!) – brake whilst turning into a corner.
On the really long corners, this doesn’t work, but it worked perfectly on the mid-length twists and turns of Special Stage Route 5, and in the space of a lap, my impression of this car changed – coming out of corners I was no longer gnashing my teeth as I bounced off the outside barrier, I was grinning from ear to ear as I came out sideways in a cloud of smoke.
But here’s the clincher. Once Id finished being 6 years old again, I applied a simple steering adjustment and the back end was back in line, and I was howling off towards the next bend, where I could shred the rear tyres – which were already crying for mercy after I’d simply gunned it away from the start – a little more. This was the case every single time. Not once did I feel out of control in the 400GT. The steering response was strong, and the messages I were recieving from the battered and bruised tyres were clear. The brakes were strong and firm, and are key to providing that beautiful oversteer. As such, then, despite this car’s horsepower and supercar aspirations, this is a really quite easy car to have fun in. You can, provided you’ve got enough decent turns, have a whale of a time in this car.
And no matter how sideways you get, I guarentee you will never be found wanting for power. At one point I was stranded down in 4,000rpm in 3rd, but before I could change down, it was already rising beyond 5,000, and the speedometer was climbing at an alarming rate. Sometimes, perhaps subconciously, I’d change down, thinking it was out of the power band, and the engine would punish me for being an eejit by screaming at me at 8,000rpm. Seriously, if this was a real car, I’m fairly sure I would have blown it up, simply by not realising just how potent the power band is. Try it for yourself – cruise along a straight in 3rd, at about 3,500rpm, then floor it – I guarentee you you will struggle to find any car which has such a broad power band. This also means it is ideally suited for road racing – whereas in other cars, you’re either struggling to hit the tiny power band right at the top of the RPM gauge or all out of ideas at some very low number, the 400GT just effortlessly belches power from nearly everywhere in the rev band. This all just adds to the feeling that this is an incredibly easy car to hoon around like a nutter in. Even PD’s numbskull AI seem to find driving it a breeze – I guarentee you will face this if you race in Arcade mode in an S-class car. Be warned – you’re in for a serious challenge.
I’d love to think that Venturi are still producing beauties like the 400GT now, but sadly, in the last round of “we’re broke please buy us” back in 2001, the two French billionaires who bought the company were obviously adverse to licking windows, because nowdays theyre found building just one car – the Fetish. The name is bad enough – do you think the Bugatti Veyron would have been quite so famous if it was called the Bugatti Dildo? Exactly. The fact that it’s powered by a lawnmower and looks like a child’s pedal car just adds to it. Even they themselves have no confidence in the thing, as they’ve only made 25. And who the hell would buy them? All I can think of are car collectors and fellow members of the window salivating society. This is a crying shame, because as we’ve seen here, when they put their minds to it Venturi can produce awesome cars. The 400GT was awarded the prize of being the fastest French production car ever, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it still held that record. It was also the first production car to be fitted with carbon brakes. Just think what they could be doing now – France’s answer to Ferrari? France’s replacement for Ferrari, more like.
As it stands, the three cars we get in GT2 will have to do. But at least what we have is very good. And whether the 400GT can top other supercars in GT2, such as the Vectors, I don’t know, but I’ll tell you now, I’m gonna have an absolute riot finding out.
Grin Factor: 90%
Engine: Twin Turbo V6
Power: 402.0 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 520.0 nm / 383.5 ft lbs @ 4500 rpm
Weight: 1150 kg / 2535 lbs
Wheelbase: 2500 mm / 98.4 in
Length: 4140 mm / 162.9 in
Width: 1990 mm / 78.3 in
Height: 1170 mm / 46.1 in
Top speed: 180.0mph
0 – 60 mph: 4.7 seconds
0 – 100 mph: 10.4 seconds