Bugatti Automobiles has existed in one form or another for over a century. The companyâs heritage includes some of the most dominant motorsports vehicles and the most ornate road cars of the 1900s. Yet despite its illustrious past, no one anticipated the impact of a new Bugatti supercar in 2005.
The 2005 Veyron (one of the most expensive cars in the world) didnât have competitive targets; it didnât adhere to budgetary constraints; it was built with the sole purpose of shattering the road car ceiling. In a breath, the Veyron far exceeded the McLaren F1âs 240.1-mph top speed (a record that had stood for seven years, also making it one of the fastest cars in the world), leapt hundreds of horsepower beyond modern-day outputs, dropped 0 to 60 mph acceleration well below 3.0 seconds, and demanded an unheard-of starting price of $1.48 million.
Itâs taken the automotive world more than a decade to catch its collective breath, and now that Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren, Koenigsegg, and other high-end manufacturers have rallied, Bugatti is back to break up the party. World: meet the bewildering Bugatti Chiron. Itâs a car so high-class that it has a matching yacht.
The Chiron is an opportunity for Bugatti to revisit the Veyronâs limitations, namely its handling and design. While the Veyron smoothed some of its rougher edges over its 10-year, 450-car production run, there were only so many tweaks that could be made to the original platform. Indeed, the Chiron makes gobs more power than even the hottest Veyron, but the most critical changes are to its driving dynamics and curb appeal.
In addition to a bottom-up engine rebuild, the Chiron has new wheels, tires, brakes, aerodynamics, steering mechanics, and transmission components. These mechanical upgrades complement a striking new exterior and interior design. Itâs safe to say the Chiron isnât stepping on the toes of Veyron owners.
TRIM LEVELS & FEATURES
The Chiron is a product of Bugattiâs âform follows performanceâ philosophy. Each of its most striking design properties, including the dramatic C-shape side pillar, is integral to its mind-bending velocity
At the front, eight-eye LED headlights with integrated air inlets ignite as you approach the car. Below them, split-level air dams cool the front brakes and apply much-needed downforce. Bugattiâs horseshoe grille begins a defined centerline that carries over the engine compartment to the rear, bringing to mind the Type 57SC Atlantic of the late 1930s.
In profile, the artful C-shape â a nod to Ettore Bugattiâs extravagant signature â separates an available duo-tone exterior and channels air into the mid-mounted engine. Restyled 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels sit snugly within the Chironâs pronounced fenders. In motion, the Chironâs cutaway rear end creates a negative pressure zone to extract heat from the engine. At rest, the hollow rump frames a piercing single-beam LED taillight set within a single piece of milled aluminum.
Monumental as it was, the Veyron never earned the right to be called beautiful. The Chiron, however, offers only a condescending glance at beautiful as it transcends ordinary appeal. Never have we experienced a vehicle with such binding presence.
Bugatti uses technology to facilitate its minimalist interior, but restrains innovation that would otherwise cramp the cabinâs style. A prime example is the instrument display, which arranges reconfigurable digital screens as bishops to a regal analog speedometer. âWe believe analog gauges are like watch faces,â remarks Achim Anscheidt, Bugatti Design Director. âAt one time, digital watches were in style, but now analog dials are more prized.â
Advanced technology may be restricted within the cockpit, but it is fully manifested for the sake of performance. Complementing a flat underbody is a pair of active flaps in front, which open to add downforce and seal to reduce drag. At the back, a large adjustable wing automatically raises and tilts to stabilize the rear. No fewer than 50 ECUs (engine control units) collaborate for daily driving functionality. And just so you understand how impressive that is, normally a car has one ECU that calculates and maintains its performance. Clearly, Bugattiâs latest has brains to match its beauty.
INTERIOR FIT & FINISH
As you might imagine, $3 million buys an incredible amount of interior refinement. To borrow another of Bugattiâs mantras, âwhat you see is what you get.â
In other words, if something looks like metal, itâs metal. Tactile dupery is commonplace in the automotive world, yet Bugatti honors every impression of quality â even at the expense of added weight.
An illuminated C-shape mold splits the elegant, symmetrical cabin. Symmetry is not to be confused with equality, however â the Chiron is unapologetically driver-oriented. Apart from four centralized digital monitors that sprout from within a single piece of aluminum, passenger entertainment is exclusively a product of the driverâs right foot. There are worse things.
Given Bugattiâs goal of daily driving comfort, it follows that headroom, legroom, and visibility are generous. Further, the quilted leather seats are both ergonomic and supportive, if a tad light on padding. Double-pane glass windows refuse passage for any ambient noise. In truth, the carry-on bag-sized trunk may be limiting, but the Chiron is otherwise supremely accommodating.
DRIVING PERFORMANCE & MPG
Itâs pointless to approach the Bugatti Chiron with a personal definition of fast. That one time when you hit 130 mph on the highway and âthought you were gonna die,â or when you sat shotgun in your friendâs M3 as he blasted along a canyon road â these sensations are like hopping off a three-foot ledge. Driving the Chiron is like base-jumping with holes in your suit (and drastically more repeatable).
First, some numbers: 8.0-liters of displacement, 16 cylinders arranged in a W configuration, four twin-stage turbochargers (each 60 percent larger than those in the Veyron), 1,500 horsepower, 1,180 pound-feet of torque, four driven wheels, 0 to 60 mph in 2.3 seconds, an electronically limited top speed of 261 mph. These figures may not blow minds in the same way the Veyronâs did all those years ago, but strange as it is to say, the Chiron isnât a numbers car.
With immense restraint, we ambled along the Pacific Coast Highway until a sufficient runway presents itself. Glimpsing an abandoned stretch, we dropped two gears and pin the accelerator.
Bugatti will tell you its first coupling of turbochargers has been spooling for such an occasion, offering maximum torque at just 2,000 rpm. But thatâs only the mechanical explanation for the game of musical chairs our organs were playing while driving. When we hit the gas, it felt like a massive, invisible hand loaded the Chiron into a sling, pulled back the tab, and fired 4,400 pounds into the horizon with such force that the cabin instantly drained of oxygen.
Only after the F1-derived carbon composite brakes work their magic did we begin to react. We couldnât help but erupt with joy. The Chironâs acceleration rendered us helpless five times more before we turned into full-out giggling kids. Meanwhile, the goliath powertrain behind our heads did its best impression of a snake, hissing with wastegate pressure and whining from its gears. Satisfied with our, very professional, straight-line tests, we began to explore the driving dynamics.
A single dial mounted on the lower left-hand side of the steering wheel has the power to transform the Chiron from a grand-touring masterpiece into a corner-carving sensation. By default, the Chiron rides smoothly, but never lazily. You can notch the dial into Autobahn mode for stable, high-speed travel. One more twist into Handling mode quickens throttle response, sharpens steering, and eases traction control. The final setting raises the nose at low speeds to avoid introducing carbon fiber to curbs.