Chiron sets a new benchmark for performance, capability and technology. Crucially it now adds driving enjoyment and engagement to the mix.
What can you use as a comparison when talking about the Bugatti Chiron? This is a car that develops 1102kW and 1600Nm of torque. It will accelerate from a standstill to 200kmh in less time than a Focus ST can hit 100kmh, and its top speed is (limited to!) 420kmh.
The obvious answer would be Bugatti’s previous effort, the Veyron. But even that monster pales in comparison with the Chiron. More power, more torque and more speed are of course expected, but Bugatti also promises improvements in other areas – namely, a much improved sense of connection and enjoyment. The Veyron was lacking in this department, so the promise of genuine tactility from the Chiron is an intruiging one – especially when combined with the greater refinement Bugatti claims. In short, it promises to rewrite the rules of the hyper-hypercar.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Chiron is propelled by a Veyron engine with the wick turned-up a bit. Yes, it’s an 8.0-litre W16 force-fed by a quartet of turbos, but most of the internals are all-new. To produce the power increase the turbos are much bigger than those fitted to the Veyron. Ordinarily this would mean increased turbo lag, but Bugatti engineers have mitigated this by blowing all the exhaust gasses through two of the turbos below 3800rpm, then feeding all four beyond that point. The crankshaft is stronger, but no heavier. The conrods are stronger and lighter. Everything has been subjected to painstaking scrutiny in order to strike a more efficient balance between strength and weight.
The resulting figures are 1102kW at 6700rpm and 1600Nm of torque between 2000 and 6000rpm, considerable increases on even the range-topping Veyron Super Sport. As you might imagine, the consequences of these numbers are rather impressive performance figures; 0-100kmh arrives in less than 2.5sec, 100kmg comes in 6.5, 300kmh in 13.6sec and rumours are that it’ll do the 0-400kmh sprint in around 30sec. The recent Chiron Super Sport 300+ took things further still, breaking the 482kmh barrier primarily through the use of new bodywork designed for outright speed.
Entire books could be written on the technology contained within the Chiron. The bodywork is super-thin, super-strong carbon fibre with the finest sliver of aluminium honeycomb sandwiched at its core. Likewise the carbon chassis uses the same technology to save weight and add strength. Torsional rigidity is 50,000Nm per degree, flexural rigidity approximately 0.25mm per tonne. That’s comparable to a current LMP1 car.
The Chiron features a fully adaptive chassis that optimises damping, ride height, aerodynamics, steering and powertrain to deliver the right blend of compliance, stability, agility and responsiveness across its unprecedented performance envelope.
Michelin has developed new tyres to cope with the demands of running at more than 415kmh. An aerospace rig was used to simulate the stresses. The carbon ceramic brakes are 20mm larger (now 420mm front and 400mm rear) and 2mm thicker. These are gripped by all-new forged aluminium calipers – eight-piston at the front, six-piston at the rear – and built to an asymmetrical design to help dissipate the incredible amount of energy generated when slowing the 2-ton Chiron from high speeds. A new design of heat shield guides air through the discs to further aid cooling.
Down to the nitty gritty, then. With the Veyron it was almost as though Bugatti skipped this all-important aspect, such was the focus on hitting those once-incredible power and performance benchmarks, and making sure it was reliable and drivable.
This time around Bugatti knew the Chiron had to back-up the numbers with more feeling and emotion. Pretty much straight away you sense the connection and detail through the steering. Of course there’s tons of grip and unshakable traction – anything less would be extremely negligent given the power and torque on-tap – but it’s the fact you now know how much you’re using and how much is left that marks the Chiron out as something special.
Its weight and that endless plateau of torque mean its not a flighty, fighty machine in the style of a P1 or LaFerrari, but it manages to feel both planted and calmly agile. The steering is extremely well-judged in terms of response, so you’re soon guiding the Chiron instinctively. Accurately, too, which is always a confidence booster. It feels a size smaller than it is.
The problem, if you can call it such, is the range and accessibility of the performance. A squeeze of the throttle sends you surging down the road with the insistence of an avalanche. Give it a proper push to the carpet and there’s the briefest sense of the W16 filling its lungs and then you simply punch from where you were to where you were looking, waaaaay down the straight. It’s more like matter transfer than conventional acceleration. Unfortunately it seems to leave your stomach and your senses somewhere in its wake, at least until your brain begins to recalibrate. Nothing in my experience connects the corners quite like this.
Thankfully the brakes are more than up to the task to stopping the thing. Those super-trick cooling fins without the disc shrouding work a treat, which combined with the airbrake mean you’re in seatbelt freefall when you brake from big speeds. All this stopping power comes with plenty of feel and finesse at lower speeds. Likewise the DSG transmission is super-smooth and virtually instantaneous. When left to shift by itself you’re always in the meat of the torque – hard not to be, truth be told – but it’s also satisfying to flip the paddles yourself.
There are four dynamic modes, plus the VMAX mode, which is accessed by a secondary key mounted on the driver’s side door sill. This preps the car for a full 420kmh charge, though it defaults back to 380kmh if you apply more than a few degrees of steering lock.
Rivals? In all honesty there aren’t any. Texan tuning legend John Hennessey is busy developing his Venom F5 – a 460km/h successor to the original Venom, which I drove and loved back in 2013. Knowing Hennessey he would be the first to say his cars are entirely different animals.
Quite simply nothing combines the Chiron’s civility and savagery. Nor its engineering integrity and impeccable quality. Its capabilities are mind-blowing, its potency almost unimaginable. And yes, its performance – though ridiculously accessible – is all-but unusable unless you’re on a de-restricted autobahn. Something tells me this doesn’t matter a jot to those who will own one. Nor should it to you or I. So let’s just celebrate it for what it is: the most extraordinary supercar the world has ever seen.