- The Bugatti Chiron is the replacement for the Veyron.
- The Chiron starts at around $US3 million.
- It’s powered by a 1,500 horsepower, quad-turbo W16 engine.
- It’s the best car I’ve ever driven.
The arrival of a new Bugatti is a truly rare event. In fact, it’s occurred only three times in the last quarter century. In 2016, the successor to the game-changing Veyron arrived in the form of the new Bugatti Chiron.
Even though Business Insider got a sneak peek at Chiron a couple of weeks after it debuted at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, we had to wait until a few weeks ago before getting the chance to get behind the wheel of the magnificent beast.
On a sunny Saturday morning, I made my way up from Business Insider’s suburban New Jersey road test center to Miller Motor Cars in Greenwich, Connecticut where Bugatti stored its two Chiron prototypes.
(The Chiron is named after former Bugatti racing driver Louis Chiron. Fun fact, Bugatti also used the Chiron name in 1999 for its 18/3 concept car that would eventually evolve into the Veyron.)
As I pull up in my white VW wagon, the automotive paparazzi were already camped out in front of the Bugatti showroom waiting for the Chiron to emerge. It was obvious that they knew they were in the presence of automotive greatness.
Shortly after I arrive, I spot my Chiron, a truly resplendent vision with its rich blue exposed carbon fibre livery glistening in the early morning sunshine.
Even though the car technically belongs to VW Group, for that morning, it was all mine to drive.
Waiting for me along with the car was my chaperone for this endeavour, racing driver Jamie Morrow. Bugatti sent the affable Brit to make sure some idiot auto journalist (me) didn’t do harm to their priceless prototype.
However, the Chiron isn’t priceless, but it is insanely expensive with a starting price of around $US3 million. With options, our blue test car costs a whopping $US3.5 million. To put that into perspective, the options on this Chiron cost the same as a fully-loaded half million dollar Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.
Incredibly, that hasn’t stopped the world’s uber-wealthy from showing up at Bugatti’s front door with cash in hand.
Of the 500 cars the company plans to build over the next decade, more than half of them have already been sold. In fact, a large number of those orders were made before the customer could see the final design of the car.
So what makes the Bugatti so special that it could whip people into such a frenzy?
First off, the stats surrounding this car are stratospheric.
It can go from zero to 62 mph in less than 2.5 seconds and zero to 186 mph takes less than 13.6 seconds. And then there’s the 261 mph top speed. According to Bugatti, that figure has been artificially limited for road use. The company has yet to unleash the full potential of Chiron for an all-out world-production car speed record. That title is currently held by the Veyron Super Sports at 267.9 mph. When it does happen, expect that figure to be much closer to 300 mph than it is to 250 mph. And contrary to popular belief, the Chiron’s tires can handle 300mph.
At the heart of the Chiron is a 1,500 horsepower 8.0 litre, quad-turbocharged W16 engine. The power plant is an engineering marvel. Its turbos are 69% larger than the those found on the 1001 horsepower Veyron. They help pump more than 211 gallons of air through the engine every minute.
A total of 10 radiators are needed to cool the Chiron and its massive engine. At top speed, the W16 will drain its 26.4-gallon fuel tank in less than 10 minutes.
So what’s it like to drive?
As we get our test drive started, Jamie takes the wheel first and offers up a quick primer on the Chiron’s controls and what to look out for when I do get into the hot seat.
After a few minutes, it was my turn at the wheel. We pull over on the side of a suburban Connecticut road and switch places. The moment I’d waited for so long was upon us. I was driving a $US3.5 million Bugatti.
As the monstrous engine roars to life, the cabin Chiron’s sumptuous red leather lined cabin is filled with a rich soulful rumble.
Shift the car’s seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox in drive and the Chiron launches effortlessly. The first thing you notice is just how approachable and easy the Bugatti is to drive. For a 1,500 horsepower fire-breathing monster, it possesses the personality of an eager puppy.
And that’s what makes it so different from anything else on the road today. It’s not the speed the Chiron can achieve that makes it stand out, it’s how it achieves that speed that makes it special.
For the most part, supercars and their rarefied hypercar cousins are designed for one thing and only one thing: speed. Cars like the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, and Porsche 918 are effectively racing cars for the road. Passenger comfort was not all that high on the priority list when it came time to put these cars together.
That’s not the case with the Chiron. Certainly, the car has been painstakingly engineered to achieve its record-breaking performance, but so has luxury and docility. In essence, the Chiron is a true hyper grand tourer.
The Bugatti design director Achim Anscheidt, once told me that the Chiron should be no more difficult to drive at top speed than a VW Golf on the highway. After a few minutes behind the wheel, I can confidently say the motorcycle acrobat turned bow tie enthusiast turned car designer hit the mark perfectly.
With that said, the Chiron isn’t all bouncy puppies and fluffy kittens. Floor it on a highway on ramp and the Chiron’s beastly heart awakens. With 1,500 horses, all-wheel-drive, and a quick shifting transmission at your disposal, brutal acceleration ensues followed by an incredible amount of speed in a very short amount of time. And when it comes to bringing it all to a stop, the Chiron’s four 16-inch carbon ceramic brakes team up with an air brake to deliver whiplash inducing stopping power.
On the highway, the Chiron takes the term “passing power” into absurdist territory. The Chiron buttery-smooth torque curve and instant power delivery thanks to its innovative two-stage turbocharging setup, makes easy work of any passing situation with a mere tap of the gas pedal.
As an automotive journalist, I’ve had the privilege of driving my fair share of 500 horsepower, 600 horsepower, and even 700 horsepower supercars along with the latest and greatest from Tesla. They are some of the fastest and most powerful cars on the road. And in all honesty, I haven’t felt acceleration such this in a car before. In fact, the last time I encountered such brutal acceleration, I was inside an Embraer Lineage 500 private jet flying down the runway at Teterboro Airport.
In the corners, the Chiron delivers solid grip while its relatively hefty 4,300 lbs worth of mass is a constant reminder of how large of a vehicle it really is. In spite of the eye-popping straight line speed, these are GT cars that will never see a racetrack.
So what’s the verdict? Naturally, I absolutely loved the Bugatti Chiron. It is without the best car I’ve ever driven. However, it’s not because of its price tag, fancy interior, or insane performance. What truly impresses me is the engineering required to pull this whole package together. A supremely luxurious GT car is incredibly difficult to build. If you don’t believe me ask the folks at Aston Martin. On the other hand, a 260 mph hypercar is even more difficult. With the Chiron, Bugatti has melded both cars and their complications into one seamless package.
In doing so, Bugatti has moved the whole of the automotive industry forward.
While some future mobility evangelists will argue that the Chiron is an antiquated dinosaur because it isn’t electric, I strongly disagree. Certainly, the future of mobility is electric. However, there are plenty of other cars pushing the boundaries of electric powertrains. With the Chiron, Bugatti and the VW Group have taken the internal combustion powertrain to the extreme while pushing the industry forward in terms of material sciences, thermal management, and aerodynamics.
For now, at least, the Bugatti Chiron is the ultimate expression of automotive excellence.
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