Bugatti Chiron

Debut: 2017
Maker: Bugatti
Predecessor: Veyron (2005)

 Published on 20 Jun 2017 All rights reserved. 

When will supercar makers stop chasing higher top speed? To Bugatti, the answer is probably never.

12 years ago, the ambition of Ferdinand Piech and the power of Volkswagen empire created by far the most powerful and the fastest road car in the world, Bugatti Veyron EB16.4. It was good for 1001 horsepower and 253 mph. 5 years later, the Super Sport version of the car lifted the bar further to 1200 hp and 268 mph. Crazy. It goes without saying such a level of performance is inaccessible even on the world’s fastest roads or race tracks (not even the Nardo bowl). It takes a straight test track like Volkswagen’s Ehra-Leissen, and even so it needs extensive preparation and probably a bit of luck to avoid exploding its Michelin PAX tires, because even the smallest stone on the tarmac could result in tragedy. Yes, the world’s fastest supercars have evolved to a state this ridiculous. It makes us wonder: how fast is enough? When will supercar makers stop chasing higher top speed?

To Bugatti, the answer is probably never. Since it was resurrected from people’s memory by Volkswagen in 1998, Bugatti has been all about absurd numbers. Yes, it still appreciates the craftsmanship and design that made Ettore Bugatti’s cars famous, but it knows the world’s wealthiest people buy it mainly because it is the world’s fastest and the most powerful car. So to speak it is a collector’s must-have. Not necessarily the most thrilling or the best driving machine out there. In fact, the Veyron was criticized for a bit dull to drive, blame to its weight and lack of communication. It made the much lighter Porsche 918 Spyder, Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren P1 better supercars to drive in the real world.

Like Louis Chiron, it is not the fastest on track, but definitely has the biggest numbers.

However, that is not going to stop Bugatti from making the successor of Veyron. You know, Volkswagen group invested too much money into the development of Veyron, from its mega quad-turbo W16 engine to the world’s strongest twin-clutch gearbox, from the heaviest duty Haldex 4WD system, active aerodynamics, self-leveling suspension to the industry’s stiffest carbon-fiber chassis. Although the prosperity of supercar market in the past decade helped Bugatti to shift more cars than expected (450 cars in total), the project could be hardly called profitable. To make the best of the investment, a Veyron 2.0 is the logical answer. Of course, it needs a new name and new styling to cover the evolution of mechanical package. Bugatti chose a strange name, Chiron. Louis Chiron was not very famous even in his hey days. He served Bugatti as its racing driver in the 1920s and 30s. Throughout his winless career in Formula One, he would be remembered only as the oldest F1 driver, when he raced Monaco GP at the age of 55. Ironically, Bugatti Chiron sounds just like him – not the fastest on track, but definitely has the biggest numbers.

To make sure the project really profitable, Bugatti plans to build 500 cars this time around, and the price of each has doubled to €2.4 million before tax, or £2.5 million after tax, or $3 million in the USA. Moreover, derivatives like Supersport and Gransport could follow afterwards.

Who would buy it? Plenty of rich guys. Bugatti said 250 already ordered, many of whom also own the Veyron. In fact, an internal statistic found these VIPs own 47 cars, 3 jets, 3 helicopters and a large yacht on average, although I suspect the Sultan of Brunei alone might have a significant impact to the statistics.

An average buyer owns 47 cars, 3 jets, 3 helicopters and a large yacht, although I suspect the Sultan of Brunei alone might have a significant impact to the statistics.

The styling of the new car is clearly evolved from its predecessor. It keeps the trademark horseshoe front grille and the cockroach shape, but the details have been updated and improved. Up front, there are wider and slimmer quad-LED headlamps which simply make the car looking cooler. At each side, there is a huge chromed arc bridging the roof and skirt smoothly, forming a distinctive graphical signature behind the door, especially when the arc is also where the two-tone paint separates. It also hides the huge air intake which draws cold air towards the big engine. This elegant feature not only combines both form and function, it also gives some visual clues to the classic Type 57SC. At the back, the tail of the new car trades the round theme of its predecessor for a sportier kamm-style tail. A full-width LED stripe acts as taillights and adds a lot to style. Overall, the Chiron appears to be slimmer and sleeker than Veyron, even though it is actually a bit larger. Measuring 4544 mm long, 2038 mm wide and 1212 mm tall, it eclipses the old car by 79 mm, 38 mm and 7 mm respectively. The wheelbase is unchanged at 2710 mm.

As before, the monocoque chassis is made of carbon-fiber. Its torsional rigidity is said to be 50,000 Nm per degree, 10,000 Nm/degree lower than the old car but is still a staggering figure. As before, fore of the monocoque is an aluminum subframe which supports the front suspensions. At the back, the aluminum engine cradle has been replaced with one made of carbon-fiber, like Porsche Carrera GT. This should help offsetting the weight gain of the engine, which is mounted on the cradle through 10 titanium bolts. The underbody of the rear structure is made of carbon-fiber with aluminum honeycomb sandwiched at its core, so it is lighter and stronger still. Outside, all body panels are made of carbon-fiber, finished beautifully with 6 layers of clear resin coating.

The signature huge arc at its side combines form and function...

The engine remains that 8.0-liter W16 with quad-turbo, but its output has been boosted from an already staggering 1200 hp at 6400 rpm to an even more astonishing level of 1500 hp at 6750 rpm, strong enough to match an M1 tank! Peak torque is lifted slightly from 1106 to 1180 lbft, but it is now available across a wider band, i.e. 2000-6000 rpm, compared with the previous 3000-5000 rpm. More hp per liter yet wider spread of torque, how is this achievable? The answer is the use of a 2-stage sequential turbocharging system. The turbos themselves are 69 percent larger than before so that they can pump out a maximum boost pressure of 1.85 bar, a night and day difference from the 1.5 bar on Veyron SS. That would have led to serious turbo lag, so the turbos are arranged to work sequentially. At low rpm, all exhaust gases are directed to spin 2 of the turbos, whereas the other 2 join from 3800 rpm to provide full boost. As expected, the higher power engine needs stronger con-rods and crankshaft (both are no heavier than before), upgraded cooling and lubrication systems. The fuel injection is upgraded to dual-injection, with a port injector and a direct injector in each cylinder. The high-flow intake manifold is constructed in carbon-fiber. 6 huge catalytic converters and a titanium exhaust ensure lower back pressure and lightweight.

The Ricardo-built 7-speed twin-clutch transmission is unchanged except slightly larger clutches and lighter gears, unsurprisingly as the maximum torque is increased slightly. As before it sits fore of the engine within the wide transmission tunnel to improve weight distribution. The active 4WD system is much the same as before, too. It features a Haldex electrohydraulic multi-plate clutch to split torque between front and rear. The front axle has a mechanical LSD, while the rear axle gets a new active differential to enable torque vectoring. Hopefully it could silence those criticizing the old car's handling too dull.

Boost pressure is lifted to an unprecedented 1.85 bar, but lag is managed by 2-stage turbocharging.

The all-round double-wishbone suspension continues to offer adaptive dampers and adjustable ride height, both react to driving mode and speed. Braking is provided by Brembo carbon-ceramic discs and AP Racing calipers, with 420 mm discs and 8-piston calipers up front, 400 mm discs and 6-piston calipers at the rear. All discs are 20 mm larger and 2mm thicker than before. They need so, because the Chiron is not only faster but also around 100 kg heavier than the SS, now tipping the scale at 1995 kg.

Michelin continues to supply the Bugatti with special tires, but it is now a version of its Pilot Sport Cup 2 instead of the exclusive PAX. This means a set will cost only half as much as before, although the owners might not care. In order to reduce understeer, the front tires are widened from 265 to 285mm, while the rear tires are narrowed from 365 to 355mm, but they are an inch taller. This means the rear contact patch area is actually 12 percent larger, while the front is 14 percent larger. More contact with the ground means more grip and traction, and more ability to transform the power to speed.

The decisions of these changes are made by its test driving guru Loris Bicocchi. Bicocchi is the Italian equivalent of Roger Becker. He has been responsible for the handling and ride tuning of many supercars, e.g. Bugatti EB110, Dauer 962LM, Edonis, Pagani Zonda, Koenigsegg CC8S / CCX and KTM X-Bow. Can he work out a magic to the Chiron? We shall see soon.

The speedo shows 500km/h or 310 mph, but how high is its limit? No one knows until now. Let's say 280-290 mph if its tires allow...

Naturally, aerodynamics is extremely important to the world’s fastest car. The Chiron employs flat underbody tray and some active aero devices. Under the front floor, there are a couple of flaps whose pitch is adjustable to alter the front downforce. At the back, the huge rear wing can be set at 4 positions – fully retracted (at low speed), fully extended (at higher speed), slightly extended (when attacking top speed) and tilted forward at 49 degrees (under braking, to act as “air brake”, a la McLaren). When it is fully extended, its angle varies automatically according to downforce need.

The car offers 5 driving modes: 1) EB mode is the normal mode; 2) Lift mode raises ground clearance by 10mm to avoid bumps; 3) Autobahn mode drops the front axle by 20mm to increase downforce. Meanwhile, the rear wing is extended and the steering gains weight. 4) Handling mode stiffens the dampers, weighs up the steering and tilts the extended rear wing to add more downforce. 5) Top Speed mode has to be activated by a separate key to make sure you know the risks. It drops the ride height by 15mm and 30mm front and rear respectively and lower the rear wing to reduce drag. This is when you can have the electronic speed regulation lifted from 236 to 261 mph, yet it is not the limit of the Chiron. Volkswagen has yet to demonstrate its maximum potential. It is likely to be limited by the capability of the tires. Michelin said it tested the tires to 279 mph with aircraft rigs, but for road use it is another matter. Otherwise, the Chiron should be good for at least 280 mph, or even 290 mph. Considering it offers an extra 300 horsepower over the 268 mph Veyron SS, I think that is possible.

What about Nurburgring time? Sorry, it is more Mulsanne straight than Nurburgring kind of car. The Veyron had never pursued Nurburgring lap record (think of its weight!), so the Chiron is the same.

This is easily the roomiest carbon-fiber passenger cell, and the easiest to entry as well. No wonder billionaires like Bugatti.

The cabin is both comfortable and elegant. This is easily the roomiest carbon-fiber passenger cell, and the easiest to entry as well. No wonder billionaires like Bugatti. The chairs are supportive yet wide enough to be comfortable for everyday drives. The flawless driving position is electrically adjustable (though steering wheel is manual). Visibility is okay, but poor at rear and over the rear shoulders. Build quality matches your expectation for a million-dollar car. The steering wheel is milled from a solid block of aluminum. Every surface is covered with leather, metal or carbon-fiber, without a single piece of plastic. The center console is machined from another big piece of aluminum. Thanks God, Bugatti sidelines digital instruments and keeps elegant analogue gauges. Sometimes I think too much technology ruins art. Speaking of art, the huge arc of LED light bar separating between the occupants makes an impressive statement of art, although some might find it flamboyant. Anyway, if Ettore Bugatti was still alive, I think he would have liked this, definitely more than the Veyron.

On the Road

If you read a lot about Veyron, you will be easy to understand Chiron, because it is not fundamentally different from its predecessor. Yes, it is very fast, but does it feel quicker than any of the hybrid supercar trio? That depends on the speed at which you concern. At lower down the rev, the quad-turbo W16 does show some turbo lag, although less so than the Veyron. Once it is on full boost, the stream of head-pressing g-force is unstoppable, but you might say the same to a P1 or LaFerrari as well. Only by 124 mph (200km/h) it is 0.3 or 0.4s ahead of those rivals. As the race develops into higher speeds, the Bugatti uses its superior output to widen the gap. If you believe manufacturer’s quotes, by 186 mph (300km/h) it is about 1.3s quicker than LaFerrari. Even Koenigsegg One:1, a car possessing a higher power-to-weight ratio, has to trail the Bugatti by 0.7s. Having said that, these differences are too slim to be felt in the real world. Subjectively, the Chiron is probably too refined to feel fast. It is also not quite as emotional as some rivals. The exhaust noise of its 16 cylinders is not half as exciting as the 12 cylinders of Ferrari. The lack of torque-fill at the moment you plant throttle pedal means the acceleration doesn’t feel quite as responsive as its hybrid rivals, too. In the end, you need an airfield or at least a clean stretch of Autobahn to feel the superiority of it. Tell me, when was your last time finding a clean stretch of Autobahn?

You need an airfield or at least a clean stretch of Autobahn to feel the superiority of it.

The Chiron is refined, impossibly refined for a 280mph machine. Its ride is firm but in EB mode comfortable enough for commuting in town. The steering is light enough at low speed. It is also quieter than the Veyron inside, with less tire roar and less unpleasant engine noise. The heavy-duty gearbox is incredibly smooth and obedient. Most impressive is how stable it feels at 200 mph. It tracks straight and feels rock steady. The steering feels just as calm as at half the speed. The brakes are powerful and dependable, even deliver good pedal feel at low speed.

The big Chiron controls its movement in corners very well, too, although hopeless to match the lighter supercars in modern format. Compared with Veyron, you will find its electrical power steering more responsive (thanks to tightening its ratio by 9 percent) and more communicative, if still too heavy in Handling mode to feel truly informative. While it is not exactly agile, it feels planted and extremely stable in corner. Its tires produce bags of traction and grip, and understeer is reduced. Back off mid-corner and you will even find its nose tuck in a little and the rear edge out. This is definitely a more interesting car to drive than the Veyron.

So the Chiron has kept the Veyron’s luxury and easy going manner while pushing its performance envelop to another level. It has the handling and driver engagement improved, if still hard to match most of its rivals. The styling is more artistic, and build quality is second to none. However, all these are just what we have expected to see. Bugatti has delivered its promises, but Chiron is no longer a milestone in automotive history like its predecessor did 12 years ago. In fact, it feels a bit old-school by now.


Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout
Suspension features


Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
0-124 mph (sec)
0-150 mph (sec)
0-186 mph (sec)
Mid-engined, 4WD
Carbon-fiber monocoque, Al front subframes, CF rear subframe.
Carbon-fiber, aluminum
4544 / 2038 / 1212 mm
2710 mm
7993 cc
DOHC 64 valves, DVVT
Sequential quad-turbo
1500 hp / 6750 rpm
1180 lbft / 2000-6000 rpm
7-speed twin-clutch
All: double-wishbones
Adaptive dampers, adjustable ride height.
F: 285/30ZR20
R: 355/25ZR21
1995 kg
261 mph (limited) / 280 mph (est)
2.4 (c) / 2.4*
6.5 (c) / 6.1*
13.6 (c) / 13.1*

Performance tested by: *Bugatti

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