Bugatti Chiron 2017 review
We review the Bugatti Chiron, a 1487bhp £2.5m masterpiece that’s set to become the world’s fastest production car
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 420kph, 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. “Be better than the Veyron in every respect,” it said.Which means that, when Bugatti goes back to the Volkswagen Group’s Ehra-Lessien test track with the Chiron next year, to tell us exactly how fast it’ll go, it’ll be a bigger number than that official figure. 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% faster, and with 50% 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.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. That they drop in and out helps to make a near-flat torque curve of 1180lb ft from 2000pm to 6000rpm, a number that seems no smaller no matter how many times you write it. It travels to all four wheels via a revised version of the Veyron’s Ricardo dual-clutch automatic transmission that uses heavier-duty clutches and lighter gears. Power goes mostly to the rear, but with a Haldex coupling pushing it to the front when the rears can’t cope. Which would be often. Wheel sizes are up by an inch each end over the Veyron, so 20in fronts and 21s at the rear, but tyres are wider at the front (285mm) and narrower at the back (355mm) than on a Veyron Super Sport, for a better handling balance. Yes, Bugatti cares about track times and handling: by its calculations, it would be among the fastest cars in the world around Le Mans, thanks largely to its performance along the Mulsanne Straight. Being a Volkswagen Group car, the Chiron must work all over the world, and 1479bhp and 1180lb ft wants an astonishing amount of cooling, so although the Chiron is low, at 1212mm, it is 2038mm wide.Other notable details? Literally hours of them. Turbos that look about 50% bigger than the Veyron’s, a carbonfibre intake manifold, conrods that can take half as much more strain as a Veyron’s but weigh no more, 420mm diameter carbon-ceramic brake discs, a steering wheel milled from a solid piece of aluminium, suspension bushes that contain three different rubber compounds to give different responses laterally, longitudinally and vertically, and the CFRP underbody, flat apart from Naca ducts, a few strakes by the front wheels and a deeper diffuser and constructed from a honeycomb-cored composite that, in thinner form and with a smarter finish, comprises the car’s body – a body whose weave is so exquisitely constructed that you can leave it bare if you like, or colour it mildly through the clearcoat. I could go on, and I will. The passenger cell is carbonfibre, naturally, but now so is the rear subframe/engine carrier. The engine is put in position at Bugatti’s Molsheim factory and the cell and carrier are assembled around it, joined by just 10 titanium bolts. It has, Bugatti says, a torsional rigidity of 50,000Nm per degree, so racing car levels of stiffness.The other numbers are equally astonishing: 0-62mph in 2.5sec, 0-124mph in 6.5sec, 0-186mph in 13.6sec. And, let’s say, 275mph. Never forget the 275mph.Oh, one more number: £2,518,000, at the exchange rate as I write. There will be only 500 Chirons made, and the truth of it is that £2.5m each is too cheap. Yes, Bugatti will make money on the project, Dürheimer tells me, but not so much that Volkswagen would necessarily have sanctioned it in the climate the company currently finds itself. But still, yes, too cheap: it’s £2m before taxes, so multiply that by the 500 and you have £1bn with which to design, engineer, produce and support an entirely new car that is homologated for sale the world over and which must meet the VW Group’s exacting standards for seemingly trivial but no doubt expensive things like keeping its interior cool when it’s hot and clearing the windscreen when it’s cold. It is, after all, just a car.
Source: Autocar Online