Soon after VW got the rights to the Bugatti name in 1998, they began showing concept cars and by 2003 had a roadworthy prototype of a new hypercar called the Veyron, named after Bugatti test driver Pierre Veyron. It was quite different in concept and appearance from anything the old Bugatti had made during its glory days in the 1920s and 1930s, but the Veyron did the name proud by being the fastest and most technically sophisticated production car around while still retaining a high degree of comfort and luxury.
The Veyron was so ahead of its time that it remained largely unchanged aside from a few special versions and never really got stale in its 10-year production run, during which just 450 cars were assembled by hand in Alsace, France. It had been the de facto king of cars for that whole time, but even so Bugatti had been developing a replacement for the Veyron for several years and at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show finally unveiled it to the public. Dubbed the Chiron, it’s named after racing driver Louis Chiron of Monaco and takes the performance benchmark set by the Veyron even higher. It’s a car that, according to the President of Bugatti, “is the result of our efforts to make the best even better. Bugatti has tested the limits of physics.” It will cost around $2.6 million.
The Chiron is not a radically different car from its predecessor. Much of the chassis is similar (albeit stiffer), the W-16 engine is largely the same, and they even look alike. That said, the differences are pronounced enough that the Chiron is a lot more car when it comes to performance. The reworked 8-liter engine now produces 1,479 hp and 1,180 lb-ft of torque, and maximum torque is available all the way from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm. All that power goes to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, which apparently features the largest clutch fitted to a passenger car.
As for straight-line speed, the Chiron is limited to 261 mph for “safety reasons”. Although an actual top speed hasn’t confirmed yet, it’s estimated to be around 288 mph. It will ride on specially developed Michelin tires that are wider than on the Veyron to cope with the extra power and will surely be a fortune to replace. Veyron tires are infamously expensive at $30,000 or more. Five driving modes selected from a dial on the steering wheel adjust things like the shocks, steering, ride height, aerodynamics and brakes to best suit different driving situations. To haul the 1,995 kg Chiron down from a high-speed run, the car has carbon silicon carbide brakes with eight calipers in front and six in rear, and they are a few mm larger and thicker than those on the Veyron. The electric spoiler also, just like on the Veyron, tilts forward to act as a very potent air brake.
As for the looks, the Chiron has a cleaner, edgier look to it than the Veyron even if the two cars do look similar. The two distinctive styling cues of the Chiron are the single thin taillight that spans the entire vehicle’s width and the huge C-shaped line that dominates the profile view of the car and houses the air intakes for the huge quad-turbo 16-cylinder engine in an example of what Bugatti calls “form follows performance”. Eight color options are currently available for the Chiron, including six that are two-tone like the signature blue and black as well as two solid paint schemes. On the inside, it’s not bare bones and carbon fiber everywhere but tons of leather, aluminum and, yes, some carbon fiber trim as well. Driving information is shown on three digital displays in front of the driver, and there’s a surprisingly ample 44 liters of storage space for luggage.
Bugatti under VW ownership has become known for over-engineering and excess. At full speed, the Chiron will supposedly use everything in its 100-liter fuel tank in eight or nine minutes, and its power figures alone are just ridiculous. Bugatti also lost loads of money on every Veyron they sold, and there’s no reason to expect it won’t be the same or worse with the Chiron. The good thing about being owned by a corporate giant like VW, though, is that they don’t have to worry about finances. The Bugattis of today are about showing what automotive engineering is capable of today. One unfortunate challenge to the Chiron, though, is the also recently introduced Koenigsegg Regera, which is lighter, more powerful and cheaper than the Chiron. The Chiron takes it in 0-60 and top speed, however, and they are two fairly different cars for different kinds of people despite their similarly outrageous speed. Bugatti is limiting Chiron production to 500 cars, many of which have already been sold, and deliveries start in the autumn.
By Andrew Newton
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