Bugatti’s latest multimillion hypercar trades top speed for fun


When Ferdinand Piech resurrected Bugatti in 1998, he gave the company an engineering brief: build a car with at least 986hp (735kW), capable of 249mph (400km/h). Oh, and it had to be as drivable as a Volkswagen Golf. That car became the Veyron EB 16.4, and when it went into production in 2005, it met that challenge, boasting 1,001 metric horsepower (987hp/736kW) and a top speed of 253mph (408km/h), all for a cool million Euros (or about $1.3 million at the time).

But that was just the starting point. In 2016, the brand followed up the Veyron with the Chiron, another mid-engined two-seater, powered by another quad-turbo 8.0L W16 engine. The price of admission had gone up, but so had the power and top speed, a trend that has continued with derivatives like the Chiron Super Sport that reached an almost unbelievable 305mph (490km/h) in testing last year.

Slower, but quicker?

Topping that number seems difficult, which may be why the latest iteration of the Chiron—called the Chiron Pur Sport—is actually the slowest Bugatti since the EB110 of the mid-90s. Slowest as in top speed, at least, as the Pur Sport is electronically limited to a mere 218mph (350km/h). The Pur Sport might not be the fastest Bugatti, but it may well be the quickest.

The 1,500hp (1,119kW) W16 engine has been reworked to provide a quicker throttle response, with the redline extended from 6,700rpm to 6,900rpm. And 80 percent of the gearbox is new, with 15-percent shorter gear ratios than any other Chiron. In fact, according to Jachin Schwalbe, Bugatti’s head of chassis development, 7th gear in the Pur Sport is almost the same ratio as 6th gear in a regular Chiron—hence the much lower top speed. The flip side is that those more closely stacked gear ratios are better able to keep the engine in its powerband.

Zero to 62mph (100km/h) is 0.1 seconds faster than the regular Chiron, taking just 2.3 seconds. Zero to 124mph (200km/h) gains another tenth over the regular car, and one more to 186mph (300km/h)—this takes just 12.4 vs 13.1 seconds. Which is shockingly quick, when you think about it. The feeling of your internal organs shifting under G as you violently launch can be a lot of fun, as both muscle car and Tesla owners will confirm. But there aren’t that many settings where running up through the gears from a standstill is appropriate—maybe only the drag strip and the highway toll booth.

A better measure of the Pur Sport’s increased drivability shows up on the timesheet when you look at the numbers for in-gear acceleration, specifically sixth gear. And I’m not talking about velocities you’re only likely to use on the remaining bits of derestricted Autobahn in Germany, either. Going from 37-62mph (60-100km/h) in sixth takes 5.7 seconds in a Chiron; in a Pur Sport it takes 3.4 seconds. 37-75mph (60-120km/h) takes 4.4 seconds in the Pur Sport, 3 seconds less than the normal car. The improvement in its 50-75mph (80-120km/h) time is even more impressive, 2.4 seconds in the Pur Sport versus 4.3 seconds in a Chiron.

Dynamic, stiffer, more agile, more emotional

Schwalbe’s team also revised the Pur Sport’s suspension with the goal of keeping all four tires’ contact patches as large as possible. The springs are 65-percent stiffer at the front and 35-percent stiffer at the rear. There are new, firmer adaptive dampers, which Schwalbe says allowed his handling team to “go with a different philosophy, telling the car that it has to react in a different way,” so the wheels have twice as much camber as other Bugattis. And they’ve added a new, more permissive driving mode (called Sport+) that lets the driver powerslide and drift more before intervening.

Given the cost of new tires for one of these cars, that mode may well be sponsored by Michelin. OK, that was just a joke, but the French tire maker has come up with a unique Sport Cup 2 R tire for the Chiron Pur Sport that increases grip by 10 percent.

The weight savings of 110lbs (50kg) compared to a regular Chiron doesn’t seem huge, but it has been targeted at the bits that count. There are lightweight magnesium wheels that save 35lbs (16kg), as well as titanium brake disk protection plates and carbon-fiber antiroll bars. The exhaust tips are 3D-printed titanium, a technique that Bugatti has been playing with for a couple of years now. The brand has ditched the hydraulically actuated rear wing in favor of a massive fixed wing, which also boosts downforce. And there’s the stuff you expect for a fancy track-focused supercar, like thinner glass in the rear window, less insulation material, and a delightful Alcantara interior.

As you might expect, the Pur Sport’s handling prowess has been honed at that famous racetrack with so many corners, the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Slinging a Pur Sport around the ‘ring sounds like an awful lot of fun. Unfortunately, it’s something few will ever experience. Bugatti is only going to make 60 Chiron Pur Sports, and if you want one, they start at $3.5 million (€3 million).

Listing image by Bugatti

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