Let’s get ridicu­lous

There’s fast. Then there’s the Ch­i­ron

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - LIFE - Jeremy Clark­son

Sev­eral years ago I re­viewed the Bu­gatti Vey­ron and was a bit gush­ing. I talked about the en­gi­neer­ing chal­lenge of mak­ing a car feel poised and sta­ble when it was travelling at 380km/h; I reck­oned that, be­cause of the war on speed, we’d never see its like again. But now Bu­gatti has come up with the Ch­i­ron, which is even faster. Its top speed is 420km/h. You know the Apache he­li­copter gun­ship? It’s faster than that.

The 8-litre en­gine is force-fed by four tur­bocharg­ers; the re­sult is a say-that-again 1103kW. But equally im­por­tant is the way the car’s body low­ers it­self and changes its an­gle of at­tack the faster you go. You don’t know this is go­ing on from be­hind the wheel. Be­cause you are too busy watch­ing the road ahead and think­ing, with very wide eyes, “This is f..king ridicu­lous.”

Last week I drove the Ch­i­ron, not just for a cou­ple of laps around a race­track un­der the watch­ful gaze of a min­der, but all the way from St Tropez to Turin. I still haven’t stopped fizzing. The speed is be­yond any­thing you can even imag­ine.

At one point in France I be­came mixed up in one of those ral­lies where young men take their Audi R8s and their As­ton DB11s and their Oak­ley wrap­around sunglasses on a tour of chateaux and race­tracks in the sun­shine. They kept draw­ing along­side then roar­ing off in the hope I’d put my foot down. So af­ter a while I did. And I could feel their penises shrink­ing in dis­be­lief and em­bar­rass­ment. Noth­ing made by any main­stream car maker could hold a can­dle to the Ch­i­ron. Not even a McLaren P1 comes close.

It’s not just the straight-line speed that leaves you breath­less. It’s the pace com­ing out of the corners. Plant your foot into the car­pet in first gear emerg­ing from a hair­pin and all that power is trans­ferred with no fuss di­rectly into for­ward mo­tion. It’s ac­cel­er­a­tion and G-force so vivid you can ac­tu­ally feel your face com­ing off. It’s speed that hurts.

There’s a se­cret but­ton that you re­ally don’t want the po­lice to know about. But if you push it, the dig­i­tal air-con­di­tion­ing read­outs will qui­etly in­form you what speed you’ve been av­er­ag­ing. Of­ten I’d sneak a look. And of­ten it came up with a fig­ure over 193km/h. That’s an av­er­age. On a moun­tain road (which was closed to the pub­lic, since you ask). Like I said. It’s ridicu­lous.

But it’s never dif­fi­cult. Oh, I’m sure Richard Ham­mond could roll it down a hill, but for the rest of us it’s a dod­dle. There are no histri­on­ics. The ex­haust sys­tem doesn’t pop and bang. The en­gine doesn’t shriek. There are no au­ral gim­micks at all. And everything you touch is either leather or metal. Un­less it’s the badge; that’s ster­ling sil­ver. If Rolls-Royce were to make a mid-en­gined su­per­car it would feel some­thing like this, I sus­pect.

From some an­gles – the back, es­pe­cially – it’s ugly. Then there’s that big ra­di­a­tor snout at the front. It’s there be­cause Bu­gatti tra­di­tion dic­tates that it should be there. And you can’t help but marvel, be­cause for this car to go so quickly ev­ery tiny aero­dy­namic de­tail had to be tweaked. Look at what hap­pens to a F1 car when it loses one of its lit­tle winglets: it crashes im­me­di­ately. And F1 cars rarely reach 320km/h. The Bu­gatti is way faster than that, which means that snout must have been a night­mare to fit into the mix, but the en­gi­neers did it some­how.

And that’s what this car is all about. At its core, it’s just man look­ing at na­ture, rolling up his sleeves and say­ing, “Wanna fight?”

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