The Bugatti Chiron is just a car. That’s the thing to remember. Just a car, like any other: four wheels, some seats and a tank of petrol. It’s just that the Bugatti Chiron happens to be a car that’s able to do…what, exactly?
Well, some numbers, if I may. The official figure says the Chiron is able to do 420km/h, or 261mph, but that’s misleading because it is both electronically limited and slower than the old Bugatti Veyron Super Sport was when that became the world’s fastest production car at 267.8mph. That had a mere 1183bhp. The new Chiron has 1479bhp to be getting on with. So it ought to go rather faster than the Veyron.
Especially given that the Chiron’s brief was very simple. The simplest that Bugatti boss Wolfgang Dürheimer – once head of Porsche R&D but, by dint of him being brilliant and several of his Volkswagen Group colleagues being suspect, now in charge of both Bugatti and Bentley – had encountered in his career.
Bigger than the Veyron Super Sport’s number, Dürheimer says, by a notable amount, although nobody at Bugatti yet cares to speculate how fast that might be. If it were 10 percent faster – and with 50 percent more power, that’s not unreasonable – that’d be 295mph.
But it won’t be that. The Chiron will go, by my reckoning, only as fast as its tyres will allow before they explode. So my guess is they’ll test some to destruction on an aerospace rolling road, instruct a driver to swallow some brave pills, strap in, hold on and ease off at a few miles per hour under the point of detonation. Let’s call it, for the sake of argument, 275mph (this is my number, not theirs, and if I’m out by 5mph either way, so be it, it’s a plenty big number).
But it’s important because everything else you read about the Chiron here has to be tempered by that fact. A car defined by massive numbers is at once constrained and liberated by that singular top speed. It dominates yet compromises its character. Yes, it’s just a car. But it’s one that’ll do 275mph, and that entirely defines what it is like.
Can the Chiron better the Bugatti Veyron?
It means, for a start, that when they tell you about it, you stand there and they begin to hand you parts and show you graphs. The pursuit of such a big number is so obsessive that it is easy to get lost in the details.
I would need hundreds of pages and minutes to tell you everything, but the short of it is this: the Chiron is a carbonfibre-tubbed two seater with conventionally opening doors. It has an 8.0-litre, 16-cylinder engine in a W configuration, which means four banks of four cylinders around a common crankshaft, the upper two banks with a 90deg V between them, and the lower two another 15deg each side of those. There are four turbos, two of which are blowing all the time and fed by eight exhausts apiece, to minimise what would otherwise be unimaginable lag. The other two are valved, to drop in and out depending on throttle position and rev range, and when they’re ‘on’, each of the four turbos is powered by four exhausts.