Bu­gatti Divo

How do you make the 261mph Bu­gatti Ch­i­ron even even faster? Only the €5m Divo has the an­swer...

Top Gear (UK) - - WELCOME -

It takes a spe­cial type of mind to stroll in on your first day, poke around the quick­est pro­duc­tion car in the world, and de­cide item one is to make it a quan­tum leap faster. But on 1 Jan­uary 2018, that’s pre­cisely what Stephan Winkel­mann, the new pres­i­dent of Bu­gatti, did. Eight months later, the Divo is the re­sult – a car that takes its in­gre­di­ents from the same al­lot­ment as the Ch­i­ron, but cooks them up into some­thing with a bit more kick. Rule one of Divo: do not try to ra­tio­nalise it – your head will ex­plode and you’ll ruin the car­pet. At €5m a pop, it’s twice the price of a Ch­i­ron, so un­less the prop­shaft is forged in gold, dipped in uni­corn poo and rolled in di­a­monds, it’s not a num­ber that can be jus­ti­fied by any nor­mal means. No, the key here is ex­clu­siv­ity. It might use the same 1,479bhp be­he­moth of an en­gine as the Ch­i­ron does, but ev­ery­thing else is stiffer, lighter and gen­er­ally mad­der, re­fo­cus­ing the car not on top speed, but go­ing around cor­ners like an LMP1 race car. Only 40 will be pro­duced (that’s 40 on top of the 500 Chi­rons Bu­gatti is al­ready build­ing), and you can’t have one. De­spite buy­ers hav­ing to be pro­posed by a dealer and own a Ch­i­ron al­ready, it sold out im­me­di­ately.

“The brief was to de­sign a car to­tally dif­fer­ent from the Ch­i­ron, but make it recog­nis­able, in­stantly, as a Bu­gatti”

And yes, more than one of the 40 bought a Ch­i­ron just to get their hands on the €5m fruit.

This is the ge­nius of Winkel­mann. A man who knows his cus­tomers bet­ter than they know them­selves, who can take a rel­a­tively shoe­string bud­get and, like Je­sus and his loaves and fishes, turn one car into many, keep­ing the buzz go­ing while, be­hind the scenes, he pon­ders his next move. At Lam­borgh­ini, he mas­tered the art, re­cast­ing the Mur­ciélago as the Reven­tón, the Gal­lardo as the Sesto Ele­mento and the Aven­ta­dor as the Ve­neno and Aven­ta­dor J, while the Urus’s lengthy de­vel­op­ment process bub­bled away. The Divo is born of the same phi­los­o­phy.

Over to Achim An­scheidt, de­sign di­rec­tor, the man tasked with turn­ing Winkel­mann’s brain­wave into three di­men­sions: “The brief for the project was very clear, to de­sign a car that is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the Ch­i­ron, but make it recog­nis­able, in­stantly, as a Bu­gatti. That’s why we still have the horse­shoe grille, the cen­tre line ac­cen­tu­a­tion and a mod­i­fied Bu­gatti line from the side.”

A tough as­sign­ment, then? “Sorry, it was easy for me. I’ve been burn­ing all these years to do some­thing like this, and who bet­ter could you ask for than a pres­i­dent that’s gained so much ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and brand aware­ness in his former life.”

Fair enough. It’s at this point I should prob­a­bly point out that this isn’t merely a de­sign ex­er­cise or a Ch­i­ron with a new hat on, it has been honed and thrashed mer­ci­lessly around Nardò’s 6.2km han­dling cir­cuit to make sure it has the speed to match its show. It worked… post­ing a lap time a full eight sec­onds faster than the Ch­i­ron. But why go down the route of a road-le­gal racer at all? Isn’t it at odds with Bu­gatti’s hard­fought rep­u­ta­tion for build­ing cars that bend physics in a straight line, but pos­sess the lux­ury and ease of use of a well-specced Rolls-Royce?

“We started in this di­rec­tion al­ready this year in Geneva with the Ch­i­ron Sport, which is al­ready a bit lighter, a bit sportier,” Winkel­mann ex­plains. “But in the per­for­mance part of the cake, han­dling is some­thing which we feel could be high­lighted more in a Bu­gatti. That’s what we con­cen­trated on here.”

But Winkel­mann wasn’t about to push the green light with­out first con­sult­ing the his­tory books. It’s from there that the name was plucked – Al­bert Divo – a two-time Targa Flo­rio win­ner in the late

Twen­ties and a French­man of Ital­ian de­scent, like Et­tore Bu­gatti. The Divo also builds on Bu­gatti’s his­tory of in-house coach­build­ing, an idea driven through by Et­tore’s son, Jean, in the Thir­ties. It pro­duced some of Bu­gatti’s most iconic shapes, cul­mi­nat­ing in the most sought af­ter of them all – the ri­otously curvy Type 57SC At­lantic, of which only two are in ex­is­tence.

Back to the present. We meet the Divo in a dimly lit Ham­burg stu­dio, hours be­fore it’s chained down, crated up and shipped to Cal­i­for­nia for its world de­but in the sun. But a gloomy lair is where it be­longs, for the way it shapeshifts de­pend­ing on the shad­ows, the sheer spec­ta­cle of its new light sig­na­tures and be­cause pure evil be­longs in the dark. There’s in­spi­ra­tion from the Gran Turismo con­cept, that spawned the Ch­i­ron, in its colour pal­ette and ex­trav­a­gant aero, but ev­ery vent, duct and wing is there to work. In to­tal it pro­duces 456kg of down­force at top speed – 90kg more than the Ch­i­ron.

The rear pulls its weight via a wider and deeper dif­fuser that splits ei­ther side of the re­trimmed quad ex­hausts, and a 1.8m-wide hy­draulic wing (23 per cent wider than the Ch­i­ron). On the roof, fresh air is rammed through a NACA duct be­fore be­ing cleaved by the fin and fed smoothly over the en­gine bay and square onto the wing. The front mucks in with a huge chin spoiler, air cur­tains to tidy the air as it passes over the wheels and no fewer than four sep­a­rate vents chan­nel air to cool the front brakes.

Re­ally it’s a car of two halves, an imag­i­nary line drawn hor­i­zon­tally along its midriff. On the top, or­ganic shapes and smooth slip­per­i­ness, be­low is some­thing more bru­tal, de­signed to slice and bully the air. It’s still a Ch­i­ron un­der there, no ques­tion, but this feels like some­thing sketched af­ter two-dozen espres­sos early in the Ch­i­ron’s de­vel­op­ment and binned in favour of a more sen­si­ble physique. It’s the front that’s the big­gest de­par­ture. Im­pos­si­bly thin head­lights brack­eted by LED run­ning lights that swoop up­wards and right to the outer edges of the bon­net, widen­ing the car and defin­ing it. It’s the same at the back where the tail-lights are pure con­cept car fan­tasy – made up of 44 3D-printed fins that light up in­di­vid­u­ally.

You can see the push and pull be­tween engi­neer­ing and de­sign de­part­ments play­ing out in front of your eyes. Un­sur­pris­ingly, it wasn’t all plain sail­ing: “The days are gone when you just draw some­thing and throw it over the fence at engi­neer­ing. Of course there are ar­gu­ments – it’s like talk­ing to your wife,” says An­scheidt, grin­ning.

In­side, the architecture is fa­mil­iar, but that doesn’t make it any less im­pres­sive. Slide across the sill, drop into the Divo Blue Al­can­tara bucket seat, and I’m in­stantly a giddy 15-year-old pok­ing, rub­bing,

“Ev­ery vent, duct and wing is there to work – it pro­duces 456kg of down­force”

“Where the real shift has oc­curred is where the eye can’t see”

prod­ding, mar­vel­ling at the pre­ci­sion of the metal and car­bon work, and the the­atre of the il­l­lu­mi­nated arc. There are changes in here – more pad­ding on the cen­tre con­sole and deeper sculpt­ing on the seats – to hold your puck­ered butt cheeks in place when you turn in at a 220mph, or en­counter a speed bump, but oth­er­wise it’s all Ch­i­ron.

Where the real shift has oc­curred is where the eye can’t see. Stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars (no of­fi­cial fig­ures on by how much), an ex­tra de­gree of neg­a­tive cam­ber on the wheels and 35kg of weight saved though the car­bon-fi­bre wiper blades, grooves cut into the wheel spokes, less in­su­la­tion, a lighter sound sys­tem and deleted stor­age in the doors and cen­tre con­sole. Hardly a crash diet, I ad­mit, but ev­ery lit­tle helps. Lead en­gi­neer Ste­fan Ell­rott in­sists: “The step we’ve taken with the Divo in terms of agility… can be com­pared with the over­all de­vel­op­ment from the Vey­ron to the Ch­i­ron.” Ballsy claim.

The 8.0-litre quad-turbo W16 pro­duces the same 1,479bhp, the seven-speed twin-clutch ’box is iden­ti­cal, 0–62mph is still 2.4 sec­onds… but the top speed isn’t. While the Ch­i­ron is capped at 261mph, the Divo slams into its lim­iter at 236mph. That’s be­cause the ex­tra down­force and neg­a­tive cam­ber in­crease the load on the tyres, hence this nod to self-preser­va­tion. Es­sen­tially there’s no top-speed mode, unlocked with an ex­tra key in the Ch­i­ron, just EB, Au­to­bahn and Han­dling. Could it take on the Nord­schleife? “Not for the time be­ing, no,” says Winkel­mann.

But what next for the Ch­i­ron? There’s still no news on if and when a top-speed run will oc­cur. By Bu­gatti’s own ad­mis­sion, the en­gine is near the limit of what its com­po­nents can cope with and good luck find­ing any space in the Ch­i­ron’s pack­ag­ing for hy­brid en­hance­ment. But the boss is con­stantly busy, look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand. “We’re working on a lot of things, but do we have re­sources to do more? I will say no to­day be­cause I don’t have the peo­ple and money. Al­ready, peo­ple are telling me to slow down, but I don’t think that’s the way to act. If you’re ever sat­is­fied, then some­thing is wrong.”

Cen­tral fin re­duces tur­bu­lence, let­ting the wing do its thing In­te­rior splashed in Divo Blue Al­can­tara, be­cause it’s lighter than leather

Re­plcement bulbs, prob­a­bly not avail­able in your lo­cal Hal­fords

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