Bugatti's Heir to the Veyron

Sam Kessler (Online Editor)
Bugatti show that their braggadocio around the upcoming Chiron is far more than mere posturing

In 2005 the Bugatti Veyron was the best car in the world. For once, there’s no touch of hyperbole in that statement; leaving 0-100 well behind it in just 2.5 seconds with the roar of well over 1000 horsepower, there was nothing that could offer opposition.

Things haven’t changed all that much; even after a decade the Veyron is still at the top of the tree, with a few enhancements keeping it in shape to browbeat all competition. Yet even the grand dame of automotive superlatives can get tired. As other marques approach Bugatti’s raft of broken records, it’s time for a new generation of ultra-car. The Veyron’s reign is over; the Chiron is here.

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A speedometer maxing out at 310 mph (the near-mythical 500km/h) just hints at exactly what the Chiron can achieve. Granted there’s little chance you’ll ever push it to the far end; the new Bugatti’s staggering top speed is estimated at a grandiose 261 mph.

For those of you paying close attention to the various numbers, you’ll note that 261 mph isn’t all that much higher than the Veyron. 8 mph quicker than the standard model to be precise, and just 3 mph faster than the sport version. It really doesn’t seem that much of a boost considering the rest of the Chiron’s outstanding specs.

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But as anything, the better the performance gets, the harder it is to increase further; at this level, everything from air resistance to atmospheric pressure leans down on that top line. Those 3mph might not make a tangible difference, but it’s one that has been very, very hard to achieve.

Then there’s the fact that, for now, that’s artificially limited. In testing, the tyres disintegrated before maxing the car out, hence that 261 being an estimate. It’s the only number they can feasibly state; before at least the car gets equipped with the bespoke Michelin tyres it will use to set its record attempt. Let’s be honest, there’s not much question as to whether the Chiron will succeed there.

So what if there’s barely anywhere on Earth you’re going to be able to use all that speed? That level of potential is magnificent. The newly developed W16 engine boasts a 25% increase in performance over its predecessor, with 1,103 kW of power from its 8 litres of displacement.

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Even the turbochargers have been overhauled; rather than firing at once, the four turbochargers are staggered to keep a consistent level of breath-taking acceleration all the way up to 400 kmh. That’s enough force pushing you back to put an astronaut centrifuge to shame.

What’s possibly most interesting about the engine however is that it’s not a hybrid. Compare it to its nearest competitors; the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 all rely on a combination of electrical and petrol power to phenomenal results. The Chiron however manages to leave them in the dust solely with fossil fuel.

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While the odd environmentalist may complain, you don’t exactly expect any supercar to be emissions free, especially not one like a Bugatti. It does though make you wonder at the marques potential for innovation in that direction…

It’s not just the roaring soul of the car that’s spent a good amount of time in development; despite the Veyron being a modern icon of automotive design equal to any of Bugatti’s stunning vintage cars, the Chiron has been given an entire aesthetic – and aerodynamic - overhaul.

According to Bugatti, their designers adhered to the ethos that “Form follows Performance,” meaning that the beautifully curved lines, the generous surfaces and flowing, muscular chassis have all been created to push the car’s performance to new heights.

At the same time, there’s something of the exquisite vintage Type 57SC Atlantic in those curves, particularly at either end in the elegantly sloping rear and iconic grille. It’s an entirely new car – compared to the Type 57SC Atlantic and Veyron both – but one that’s unmistakably Bugatti.

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The same goes for the interiors. For a car with the Chiron’s level of performance, a sparse racing interior could be excused; it would be lighter and more fitting with the roar of that petrol behemoth under the hood. But that wouldn’t be Bugatti.

A combination of sumptuous leather upholstery, chrome and carbon fibre is lifted by subtle touches of Bugatti blue, especially from the electronic glow of the dashboard instruments. Cross-stitching on the enveloping seats add yet another luxurious flourish; the Chiron simply does not compromise, not in performance, not in comfort.

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That said, you can have it pretty much any way you want. Given that only 500 of the Chiron will ever be produced, Bugatti seem more than willing to make sure each one of them is completely different inside and out. While we’re particular fans of Bugatti’s trademark cerulean livery, the car looks particularly striking in red and silver and positively malevolent in a dark carbon fibre finish.

Over the coming months we’re expecting superlative after superlative to emerge from the Bugatti workshops as the Chiron gets closer to its 2017 launch, a flurry of bravado that has every appearance of hyperbole. The difference here is every hint, allusion or outright statement of the Chiron’s world-beating status is more than posturing; it’s fact. 

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