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
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