Leaving the 99.999 percent in its dust, the Chiron is a 1500-hp smackdown of every hypercar ever produced in the history of time. An 8.0-liter sixteen-cylinder engine utilizes four turbos to make 1500 hp and 1180 lb-ft of torque for what will surely be epic acceleration; Bugatti claims a top speed of 261 mph. A seven-speed automatic routes that power through all four wheels. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it—expect a price of around $2.6 million when it goes on sale this fall.
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With the Bugatti Veyron’s top-speed records, a price tag over $1 million, and distinctive melted-scoop-of-ice-cream styling, it was an instant rolling superlative when it debuted in 2005. Its successor, the new Chiron, is even more of a record- and headline-grabbing show pony. Is it faster? A 310-mph (500 km/h) speedometer and Bugatti’s claim that it’ll do 261 mph say it is.
Never mind that there are few places in the world where anyone could achieve 261 mph, and even fewer owners who will ever attempt the feat, what could hypercars such as the Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 918 Spyder, or McLaren P1 offer in retort? That their top speeds are lower, they’re less comfortable, or, critically, that they’re—gulp—cheaper? The Chiron’s game is to be so unattainable, so unimaginable, so magical as to reestablish Bugatti as the ultimate automotive accouterment for those who measure their cash reserves not by face value but with a yardstick.
Make Bugatti Great Again
Bugatti says the 4400-pound Chiron is “the world’s first production sports car with 1500 hp.” It’s best to simply shelve any expectations of modesty on Bugatti’s part. After all, when the car you’re replacing produced 1200 horsepower, hit 258 mph, and cost more than $2 million, adding an extra 300 horsepower, 3 mph of governed top speed, and half a million to the window sticker matters. Oh, and just 500 will be made, because nobody wants a mass-produced $2.6-million car.
Between Bugatti’s braggadocio and posturing, there are real improvements to the Veyron’s formula. Does it matter that, if every strand of carbon fiber in its new central tub were laid end to end, they’d “stretch nine times the distance between the earth and the moon”? No, and we pity the Bugatti employee charged with checking the arithmetic on that factoid. But it is indicative of a real effort to reduce—or at least hold the line on—the Chiron’s weight relative to that of the somewhat pudgy Veyron. All of that carbon fiber—the body panels also are made of the stuff—helps keep the Chiron right around the same weight as the 4486-pound Veyron
, despite being 3.2 inches longer, 1.6 inches wider, and 0.3 inch taller. Bugatti further claims that the Chiron’s structure is as stiff as those underpinning LMP1 racing prototypes.
At the risk of sounding beguiled, the styling of the Chiron is notably more fetching than that of the Veyron. The C-shaped curve carved into each side of the body recalls Bugatti’s 1930s-era art-deco masterpieces, the Type 57 Atlantic and Atalante, as does the spear running down the car’s spine. The all-mesh tail appears to belong to a different car, but the surfaces bending and flowing beyond it are nearly beautiful. Up front, Bugatti’s horseshoe-shaped grille remains—stamped with a badge rendered from five ounces of silver—and is flanked by quad-LED headlights. Moving aerodynamic elements range from a hydraulically operated diffuser, front splitters, and a four-position rear spoiler/wing that can sit flush with the rear bodywork, extend slightly (the setting for top-speed runs), fully extend, or fully extend and tilt in its air-brake setting. The underbody is totally smooth save for NACA ducts that gulp air for cooling the engine, the transaxle, and the rear brakes.
What’s an Extra 3 mph?When chasing top-speed honors, horsepower matters. Even so, there are diminishing returns in the fight against the atmosphere at higher speeds. The Chiron’s redesigned 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W-16 engine produces 1500 horsepower, 300 more than the outgoing Veyron Super Sport—and yet it tacks only another 3 mph onto that car’s top speed, and only eight more atop the 1001-hp Veyron 16.4’s 253-mph max. Bugatti has tuned the Chiron’s four turbochargers to work sequentially, with two operating at low engine speeds for better response before the other two take over above roughly 3800 rpm for maximum power. Down the line, there no doubt will be additional variations on the Chiron theme that add precious miles per hour to the top speed.
Exhaust is routed from the turbos to a new titanium exhaust that Bugatti claims weighs 44 pounds, which is “extremely light compared with similar [16-cylinder] units.” Perhaps the automaker is referring to the chrome stacks on semi trucks, because it also proudly describes two of the catalytic converters as being “six times as large as [those] fitted to a medium-sized car” and boasts that the total exhaust-scrubbing area of all six catalytic converters is greater than that of 30 soccer fields. This should give you some idea of the level of emissions produced by an 8.0-liter 16-cylinder engine.
As in the Veyron, torque is routed to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Bugatti claims the clutches are the “largest, highest-performing” such components ever fitted to a car. They’d better be if they’re going to stand up to the 8.0-liter’s 1180 lb-ft of torque during sub-2.5-second rips to 62 mph. Also like the Veyron, the Chiron is a rolling heat-exchanger farm, with more than 13 gallons of coolant circulating through two separate cooling loops. The first loop holds 3.2 gallons of liquid and cools the turbochargers’ intercoolers; the larger loop services the engine and pumps 9.8 gallons of coolant through its veins into three radiators. There also are heat exchangers for the engine, transmission, rear-differential, and hydraulic oils, as well as those needed for cabin heat and air conditioning.
Bugatti has expanded the number of drive modes to five. There is a standard “EB” automatic mode, as well as Lift (for speed bumps and driveway entrances), Autobahn, Handling, and Top Speed. Moving among the settings alters the dampers, the ride-height actuators, the electrically assisted power-steering calibration, the electronically controlled rear differential, the active aerodynamics, and the stability control. The driver can select Lift, EB, Autobahn, and Handling modes using a dial on the steering wheel, but, as on the Veyron, Top Speed requires a separate “Speed Key” and unlocks the Chiron’s Vmax potential. The other drive modes limit top speed to 236 mph (Lift mode cancels out at 31 mph), still more than enough to get valet attendants in trouble. Anything past 112 mph automatically activates Autobahn mode, while in the Handling setting, the Chiron lowers itself, raises its rear wing to its highest position, and stiffens the dampers.
Bugatti claims the Chiron can pull 1.50 g’s in lateral acceleration; this probably has more to do with the car’s massive 20-inch 285/30 front and 21-inch 355/25 rear bespoke Michelin tires than outstanding chassis tuning or light weight. Those tires, by the way, also are said to boast a larger contact patch than the Veyron’s and will apparently be “easier to install and allow lower operating expenses.” Considering how the Veyron Super Sport’s tires cost $42,000 per set and required the replacement of all four wheels after three tire swaps ($69K), the change is welcome. Because the rear air brake alone won’t quickly shave big speed, the Chiron uses carbon-ceramic brake rotors that are all 0.8-inch larger in diameter and 0.1-inch thicker; the front rotors are 16.5 inches across and the rears are 15.7. The front brake calipers employ eight pistons, while the rears have six.
The Chiron’s interior has been completely redesigned and seems to have been given nearly as much thought as figuring out how to make a 4400-pound chunk of carbon fiber and metal hurtle through the atmosphere at more than 200 mph. The aesthetic is spare yet clearly upscale. A glowing rib echoing the external “spine” sweeps down the middle of the cabin and is said to be “the longest light conductor used in the automobile industry.” A waterfall of simple aluminum dials for the climate system pours down a gleaming aluminum strip supported by carbon-fiber ribbing, while infotainment and navigation duties are handled by a pair of screens flanking the analog speedometer. The entire gauge pod, in fact, is an incredible piece of sculpture that is milled from billet aluminum.
Whatever isn’t slathered in leather or hewn from aluminum is covered in carbon fiber. The audio system is provided by Accuton, and it can be tuned to account for any of the 31 different leather choices and eight microsuede options for the interior. (Have you ever heard the reverb produced by soft Corinthian leather? Ask Ricardo Montalban.) And whether or not Bugatti is lobbing a pun when it says that the one-carat diamond membrane in each of the four tweeters deliver “crystal-clear sound,” we’re pretty sure the point is that there are diamonds in the speakers. For Chiron customers with Louis Vuitton–brand tinfoil hats, Bugatti says the car has “an extremely high level of electromagnetic compatibility” borne out by tests of an unspecified military standard.
Awestruck yet? There’s little doubt that the Chiron trumps even the mighty Veyron in the jaw-slackening department. The Chiron is undoubtedly an engineering triumph and the pinnacle of immoderation; the masses should be properly enthralled. Most critically, so should those with the considerable means to purchase one.