I’VE DONE FAST AND SILLY FAST, BUT THIS IS FLAMING RIDICU­LOUS

Driven - - Clarkson On Cars - BU­GATTI CH­I­RON

Sev­eral years ago I re­viewed the Bu­gatti Vey­ron in The Sun­day Times and was a bit gush­ing. I talked about the sheer com­plex­ity of mak­ing a car feel sta­ble and poised when it was trav­el­ling at 385 km/h-plus, and how dan­ger­ous and an­noy­ing the air can be at such speeds.

A 385 KM/H WIND WOULD KNOCK OVER EV­ERY BUILD­ING IN NEW YORK. IT WOULD DEV­AS­TATE AND DE­STROY EVERY­THING IN ITS PATH. AND YET THE VEY­RON HAD TO BE ABLE TO DEAL WITH WIND SPEEDS THIS HIGH WHILE BE­ING DRIVEN BY SOME­ONE WHOSE ONLY QUAL­I­FI­CA­TION WAS AN ABIL­ITY TO RE­VERSE ROUND A COR­NER AND RECOG­NISE A “GIVE WAY” SIGN.

I mar­velled at the en­gi­neer­ing in that car – it had 10 ra­di­a­tors to keep it cool – and reck­oned that, be­cause of the re­lent­less war on speed and in­ter­nal com­bus­tion, we would never see its like again. There just wouldn’t be the ap­petite to make a re­place­ment. It would be just too dif­fi­cult, not just po­lit­i­cally, but also from an en­gi­neer­ing stand­point.

And it turned out to be dou­bly dif­fi­cult, given that Bu­gatti’s par­ent com­pany, Volk­swa­gen, is spend­ing ev­ery penny it has on deal­ing with Diesel­gate.

But de­spite all the odds, Bu­gatti has come up with a re­place­ment. It costs Pounds 2.5m, it’s called the Ch­i­ron and some­how it is even faster than the Vey­ron. It has an elec­tron­i­cally lim­ited top speed of 420 km/h, which means it is cov­er­ing more than 114 me­tres a sec­ond. You know the Apache he­li­copter gun­ship? It’s faster than that.

The 8.0-litre en­gine is partly the rea­son for this al­most un­be­liev­able pace. It has 16 cylin­ders ar­ranged in a “W” for­ma­tion and it’s force-fed by four tur­bocharg­ers. The re­sult is a say-that-again 1,103 kilo­watts. Yup, 1,103 kilo­watts.

But equally im­por­tant is the body and the way it 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 ****** ridicu­lous.”

Last week I drove the Ch­i­ron, not just for a cou­ple of laps round a race­track un­der the watch­ful gaze of a min­der, but all the way from St Tropez to the bor­der with Switzer­land and then to Turin. I got to know it well and I still haven’t stopped fizzing. The speed is be­yond any­thing you can even pos­si­bly imag­ine.

At one point on the French au­toroute 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 and roar­ing off in the hope I’d put my foot down. So af­ter a while I did. And even from half a mile in front, which is where I ended up af­ter mere sec­onds, I could feel their penises shrink­ing in dis­be­lief and em­bar­rass­ment.

There is noth­ing made by any main­stream car­maker that could hold a can­dle to the Ch­i­ron. A McLaren P1 doesn’t even get close. It’s like com­par­ing me as a drum­mer with Gin­ger Baker.

And it’s not just the speed in a straight line that leaves you breath­less and scared. It’s the pace com­ing out of the cor­ners. Plant your foot into the car­pet in first gear emerg­ing from a hair­pin, and ev­ery sin­gle one of the kilo­watts you’ve en­gaged and ev­ery sin­gle New­ton me­tre of torque is trans­ferred with no fuss, and no wheel­spin, 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 190 km/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 mi­dengined su­per­car, it would feel some­thing

like this, I sus­pect. It’s never hard or jar­ring. It doesn’t pit­ter-patter even on cob­bles. And it has a boot into which you can fit, um, a grape­fruit.

The down­side of this com­fort and lux­ury is that it doesn’t re­ally be­have like a mid-en­gined su­per­car. It doesn’t flow. There’s no del­i­cacy. It just launches it­self out of a cor­ner, and then im­me­di­ately you’re brak­ing for the next one. Progress is stac­cato, not legato. Mainly be­cause in a car this pow­er­ful there’s no such thing as a straight. It eats them be­fore you have a chance to no­tice. Which means there’s no place to sort out your mind. There’s no peace. It’s all ac­tion.

Most mid-en­gined su­per­cars dance. And the Ch­i­ron does too, but it’s not a waltz or a tango. It’s as if it’s in a punk club in 1979, lis­ten­ing to Sham 69.

This, then, is not a car for se­ri­ous drivers. It feels heavy, and that’s be­cause it is. It feels as if it’s vol­canic. You could liken a McLaren P1 to a hum­ming­bird and marvel at its abil­ity to dart hither and thither in a blur. Whereas when you’re driv­ing a Ch­i­ron, it feels as though you’re com­ing up through the spout of Ve­su­vius, pro­pelled by lava, con­vec­tion, and pres­sure.

It doesn’t even look like a traditional mid-en­gined su­per­car. It looks im­por­tant, states­man­like. From some an­gles – the back, espe­cially– it ap­pears ugly.

Then there’s that Brunelian ra­di­a­tor snout at the front. It’s there be­cause Bu­gatti tra­di­tion dic­tates that it should be there. And you can’t help mar­vel­ling at it, be­cause for this car to go so quickly, ev­ery tiny aero­dy­namic de­tail had to be ex­am­ined and scrapped and built again.

Look at what hap­pens to a For­mula One car when it loses one of its lit­tle winglets. It crashes im­me­di­ately into a bar­rier. And those things rarely reach 320 km/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 man­aged it some­how.

And that’s what this car is all about. It’s not driv­ing plea­sure. It’s not aes­thet­ics. It’s just man look­ing at na­ture, rolling up his sleeves and say­ing: “Do you want some?”

This car doesn’t chal­lenge the laws of physics. It blud­geons them. It is an en­gi­neer­ing marvel, be­cause like all other en­gi­neer­ing mar­vels it’s an af­front to God.

It’s also an af­front to Friends of the Earth, Green­peace and all the other Jeremy Cor­byn en­thu­si­asts who say it’s time to put away our toys and live more re­spon­si­bly.

We have to love it for that, too, and ap­plaud Volk­swa­gen for say­ing: “Not just yet, beardy.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.