Autos

Bugatti Chiron Is a $2.61 Million Monster to Attack Land Speed Record

Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, the successor to the Veyron could be the fastest production car in the world—and the most luxurious.

First Look: The $2.6 Million Bugatti Chiron

At an exclusive party in Geneva Monday night, Bugatti unveiled the Chiron ("sheer-on"), the 2.4 million euro ($2.61 million) successor to the Veyron. 

On paper and to the casual eye, the car is faster, more powerful, and more beautiful than its chunkier predecessor. Bugatti head Wolfgang Durheimer said even he could barely believe the improvement.

“We asked ourselves, 'What do you do when you have already built the world’s best super car?'” Durheimer said. “Bugatti had to take one further step. It’s hard to believe we have delivered.”

Bugatti head Wolfgang Durheimer unveils the Chiron on Feb. 29, 2016, in Geneva.
Bugatti head Wolfgang Durheimer unveils the Chiron on Feb. 29, 2016, in Geneva.
Photographer: Hannah Elliot/Bloomberg

Chiron roars with a 1,500-horsepower, W16 engine pushed by a new, two-stage, turbo-boosting technology; it has 1,600 newton meters of torque and a completely new chassis designed for improved rigidity and handling. Bugatti engineers said it comes with a unique linear power curve that will hit 60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds and 186 mph in just over 13 seconds. (Indeed, anyone who drove even the Veyron can attest to the nearly unsettling jet-like hum and feel of that multimillion-dollar thrust.) Top speed on the dashboard is listed at 500 km/h (311 mph), though they hinted the car will go faster than that.

Durheimer is well known for his devout passion for auto racing and once told me a highlight of his life was watching Bentley set the ice speed record in Finland in 2011. He said he plans to use his new monster to attack the land speed record: “With Chiron, we will test the limits of physics,” he said.

The car features an aerodynamic system that changes according to speed and conditions. “With Chiron, we will test the limits of physics,” said Durheimer.
The car features an aerodynamic system that changes according to speed and conditions. “With Chiron, we will test the limits of physics,” said Durheimer.
Source: Bugatti

More pedestrian drivers can choose from five distinct drive modes: the Auto EB mode, for daily driving in regular conditions; the Autobahn mode, which comes with a special top-speed suspension adjustment for highway conditions; the Handling mode made especially for race track fun; the Lift mode, which enables easier access for ramps and garage; and the Top Speed mode, which is activated by a top-speed key and is to be used only in the most extreme circumstances.

During the debut, Bugatti executives emphasized the “beast and beauty … but more beast” nature of the machine. It has a new aerodynamic system that changes according to speed and conditions (the entire rear end is carbon fiber, and the car comes with a carbon monocoque), bigger F1-level brakes on bigger, new 19-inch wheels, and a full titanium exhaust system. They are all performance-driven aspects, but they also curve the car toward beauty by conventional standards, rather than leaving it looking raw and jagged like a massive track machine.

Interiors are unqualified luxury: What looks like leather is leather, what looks like carbon and steel is carbon and steel.
Interiors are unqualified luxury: What looks like leather is leather, what looks like carbon and steel is carbon and steel.
Source: Bugatti

The swooped air vents on the side, elongated fenders, and the square LED lights on the low, wide front face look extreme but well-finished, like a predator that has evolved to combine sheer power with elegant precision.

“Small waist and big hips also works for cars,” one designer said, referencing the iconic Type 57 Bugatti Atlantic as a reference point for the Chiron.

The W16 engine is like two V8s melded into one 1,500-hp beast.
The W16 engine is like two V8s melded into one 1,500-hp beast.
Photographer: Dominic Fraser

Inside, the car matches its exterior excellence. The dashboard includes an analogue speedometer offset by HMI gauges on the side. Light accents say the word “Chiron” throughout, plus there's a matching set of Bugatti Chiron leather luggage. The Illuminated C-bar in the interior is the longest light conductor in the automobile industry. “What you see is what you get,” Durheimer boasted, meaning that everything that looks like leather is leather, everything that looks like steel or carbon is steel and carbon.

Maybe that minute attention to detail—combined with world-best performance—is why one-third of the 500-unit production has already been spoken for. They officially go on sale later this fall.

Top speed on the analog speedometer is listed at 500 km/h (311 mph), but reps say the car can go faster.
Top speed on the analog speedometer is listed at 500 km/h (311 mph), but reps say the car can go faster.
Source: Bugatti
Drivers can choose from five distinct drive modes.
Drivers can choose from five distinct drive modes.
Source: Bugatti
Photographer: Hannah Elliot/Bloomberg
Photographer: Hannah Elliot/Bloomberg
Photographer: Dominic Fraser
Photographer: Dominic Fraser
Photographer: Dominic Fraser
Photographer: Dominic Fraser
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
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