Bu­gatti: the king of straight-line speed takes a turn

New boss, new era at Bu­gatti, start­ing with the Divo – £4m hy­per­car that pri­ori­tises cor­ners over speed (but still does mph). By

CAR (UK) - - Insider - Cur­tis Moldrich

UN­VEIL­ING THE DIVO at the The Quail – an event held dur­ing Mon­terey Car Week that val­ues pedi­gree and his­tory above all else – was no co­in­ci­dence. After all, Bu­gatti’s new hy­per­car is based on the al­ready leg­endary Ch­i­ron, and named after ’20s Bu­gatti racer Al­bert Divo. But it breaks new ground for the French mar­que, by fo­cus­ing more in­tently on dy­nam­ics than top speed. Cost­ing £4.4m and lim­ited to 40 units, it also marks the first chap­ter of Stephan Winkel­mann’s Bu­gatti, for­mer Lam­borgh­ini and Audi Sport boss.

‘The Divo was a de­ci­sion we took in­ter­nally, with­out com­par­ing us to any­body else,’ says Winkel­mann. ‘We want to set the pace and I think the Divo does some­thing no­body else can do.’ Cam­eras are trained on Winkel­mann as he takes the wraps off the first Bu­gatti made un­der his pres­i­dency, and as the car is re­vealed, ap­plause and the sound of cam­era shut­ters fills the air. We later learn Winkel­mann be­lieved this was the true acid test.

‘The test was not with the clients, as we were sure the clients would buy into it, the test was go­ing pub­lic,’ Winkel­mann tells CAR in a ho­tel on Can­nery Row. ‘99.9% [of peo­ple] are not able to buy a car like this be­cause we are speak­ing to a very se­lect cus­tomer, but it’s im­por­tant also to get the feed­back of the fans.’

Tak­ing a turn, bet­ter

The Divo shares the same un­der­pin­nings as the Ch­i­ron and Ch­i­ron Sport, but it’s an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent beast – it’s lighter, grip­pier, and prom­ises a far more en­gag­ing dy­namic drive, as you’d ex­pect of a car that name-checks the win­ner of the tor­tu­ous Targa Flo­rio in 1928 and ’29. ‘When I ar­rived we wanted to do some­thing spe­cial,’ Winkel­mann tells CAR, but when you’re al­ready the kings of straight-line speed, where do you go? For Bu­gatti, the an­swer was sim­ple: side­ways.

Bu­gatti en­gi­neers have made the sus­pen­sion stiffer, the steer­ing more re­spon­sive and op­ti­mised cam­ber set­tings for a bet­ter at­ti­tude when cor­ner­ing. A rear-wheel steer sys­tem was re­jected, ap­par­ently on the grounds of weight, but lighter al­loys, re­duced sound in­su­la­tion and a lighter stereo sys­tem con­trib­ute to a 35kg weight sav­ing to help agility.

Bu­gatti, but more so

For Winkel­mann, the Divo had to be in­stantly recog­nis­able as a Bu­gatti. He cites the horse­shoe grille, the cen­tre­line from the ’30s At­lantic and the sig­na­ture line that loops around the side glass as three must-have el­e­ments. ‘It’s not wild with a lot of lines but it is very calm, and there­fore very recog­nis­able,’ says Winkel­mann. But there’s also an ag­gres­sive fo­cus on aero­dy­namic per­for­mance to com­ple­ment the Divo’s abil­i­ties in the curvy stuff.

From the front, Bu­gatti’s new hy­per­car looks like a Ch­i­ron that’s been un­der the sur­geon’s scalpel, with folds, creases and in­ci­sions all de­signed to im­prove cool­ing and work in­com­ing air as hard as pos­si­ble. A new front split­ter guides air into the Divo’s cool­ing sys­tem, while slits in­te­grated along­side the re­worked head­lights di­rect air out through the front wings. The roofline grad­u­ally melts in­wards, cre­at­ing a neat air duct, while there’s more air-ma­nip­u­la­tion at the rear.4

Divo is lighter, grip­pier, and prom­ises a more en­gag­ing drive than the Ch­i­ron

Al­can­tara echoes Divo Rac­ing Blue paint. Be­ware wardrobe clashes

A mod­i­fied rear spoiler span­ning a huge 1.83 me­tres – 23% wider than the Ch­i­ron’s – perches above the or­gan-like ex­haust lay­out, and the rear dif­fuser is su­per-sized, too. Al­to­gether, the new aero pack­age is claimed to gen­er­ate 456kg of down­force – 90kg more than the Ch­i­ron.

Faster, but also slower

The Divo’s 8.0-litre W16 en­gine and seven-speed dual-clutch gear­box are car­ried over un­changed from the Ch­i­ron. ‘We have an en­gine with more power than needed, and there­fore we didn’t touch it,’ Winkel­mann ex­plains. ‘The en­gine is our rea­son to be, ev­ery­thing is built around the en­gine.’

De­spite hav­ing ‘just’ the 1479bhp avail­able, Divo’s chas­sis and aero tweaks shave a claimed eight sec­onds off a lap of the Nardo test track. How­ever, the Divo’s more re­spon­sive cam­ber and steer­ing set­tings mean Bu­gatti has low­ered the top speed from the Ch­i­ron’s lim­ited 261mph to a pos­i­tively re­strained 236mph.

Here’s to the fu­ture

Bu­gatti has al­ready sold all 40 cars at £4m a piece, and the wait­ing list con­tin­ues to grow; from a fi­nan­cial point of view, the car is al­ready suc­cess­ful. ‘Ev­ery­thing is a busi­ness case. Even if you do out­stand­ing stuff and you lose money, this is go­ing to hurt the com­pany,’ says Winkel­mann. ‘It’s not like we’re look­ing into mar­ket share, pres­ence or vis­i­bil­ity, we have to al­ways find the per­fect bal­ance be­tween ex­clu­siv­ity for the cus­tomer and the busi­ness case for the com­pany.’

For a high-end brand like Bu­gatti, suc­cess must be mea­sured be­yond earn­ings or a cus­tomer wait­ing list. The Divo has to push the brand for­ward, while up­hold­ing the val­ues of its pre­de­ces­sors. It’s the be­gin­ning of a bullish Stephan Winkel­mann era, and sig­nals a new, punchier chap­ter for the French mar­que.

In­sid­ers tell us to ex­pect a lim­ited run of aero­dy­nam­i­cally ad­vanced lightweights, an even rawer Ch­i­ron SS and a com­pletely re-skinned targa-top Ch­i­ron Aperta. Winkel­mann con­firms there’s cer­tainly more in the pipe­line.

When quizzed about the VW Group’s move to­wards elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, the boss is prag­matic. ‘The W16 is our DNA and it will stay for years. We also have to look at the fu­ture, so we can­not leave out any op­por­tu­nity for de­vel­op­ment for dif­fer­ent types of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion,’ he con­tin­ues. ‘But we are not tak­ing any de­ci­sions and this has to be [in­tro­duced] in a way that we can equalise or out­per­form what we have to­day.’

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to our sources, the com­pany is al­ready weigh­ing up an all-elec­tric model in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Porsche, Ri­mac and Dal­lara. It might even be dis­played at a fu­ture Quail event next to the Type 56, an elec­tric Bu­gatti pro­to­type once used to nip around the Mol­sheim fac­tory by founder Et­tore Bu­gatti. After all, few elec­tric cars have a bet­ter pedi­gree or his­tory to call upon than that.

Bu­gatti has al­ready sold all 40 ex­am­ples at 4.4m each; the wait­ing list con­tin­ues to grow

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