Let’s get ridiculous
There’s fast. Then there’s the Chiron
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?”