The Bugatti Veyron was one of the most iconic supercars in history and broke allkinds of records, not least for its very high price. When you’ve built a sports car like that, what on earth do you follow it up with? Surely, even Bugatti has its limits, but apparently not, because the new Chiron is here and it’s even faster and also more expensive.

A look back at founder Ettore Bugatti’s career shows the man to be an eccentric and creative automotive engineer in all kinds of ways, some of them wildly unconventional. He produced his first car in 1910, which preceded numerous fascinating models that always bristled with innovative – if sometimes peculiar – technological features. Never a follower of whatever trend happened to be popular at the time, Bugatti has been described as ‘an autocratic perfectionist’ and his cars reflected this. Racing successes were numerous between the wars, but Bugatti was never able to grasp the concepts that saw Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union dominate grand prix racing in the 1930s.

Bugatti cars disappeared from sight for quite a while and Ettore himself died in 1947, but there were numerous efforts to re-introduce the brand under various ownerships. Some attempts were quite successful and the EB110 of 1991 was much praised by well-heeled buyers, the list of which included no less than Michael Schumacher. The company foundered again until revived by the VW/Audi group with new plans, which included the production Veyron.

Bugatti’s newest hypercar is called the Chiron, honouring the great Monegasque racing driver Louis Chiron, who competed from the 1920s to the 1950s. He had a long career, interrupted, of course, by WW2. He’s in the history books as the oldest driver ever to have raced in Formula One and took 6th place in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix when he was 55. In fact, the winner of many major races over the years entered and practiced at Monaco as late as 1958, but didn’t compete.

It is fitting, then, that the latest Bugatti should bear his name. The production run will stop at 500 cars and 250 have already been sold, according to Bugatti. The Chiron features a mid-engines configuration like other cars from this maker over the years. Like the Veyron, the car uses the almost unbelievable 8-litre W-16 power unit with four turbochargers to develop a whopping 1,479-horsepower. The entire car is built from carbon fibre and this shows on the exterior with a fascinating textured sheen. Carbon fibre is noted for its stiffness and rigidity, so body flex is something you’ll have to look for on other sports cars.

Given the car’s enormous power and light weight, it’s no wonder that it boasts astonishing performance figures. In a scant 2.5-seconds, you’ll be nudging 100 km/h and the Chiron will go right on running until it reaches 420 km/h when the engine is electronically limited for reasons of safety. Insiders believe the car is capable of over 490 km/h, but it would take a bold driver indeed to try it, though sooner or later, it’s bound to be attempted.

The styling follows along from what we got used to in the Veyron, but there are numerous tweaks and updates, though the rather voluptuous lines and the enormous side ducts remain. Naturally, the vehicle retains the famous Bugatti horseshoe grille, which has been a feature of the cars since the 1920s. The grille badge is solid silver and is hand-painted. Following current form, the headlights are narrow and rather menacing-looking LEDs and they function sublimely. As might be expected, the Chiron has an impressively appointed cockpit with all the technology that’s available today. Fit and finish are superb and only the very finest materials are used.

The Chiron is ‘sports car as art’ in every possible way, but hopefully, fortunate owners will exercise the brute’s power on a regular basis and not keep it in an air-conditioned garage just to look at now and again. Of course, anyone who lays down the rubber in a 2.4-million euro car is brave indeed, but that’s the way the Bugatti Chiron just begs to be driven.

ENGINE: 8-litre W-16 with four turbos and 1,479-horsepower.

TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed, dual-clutch.

ACCELERATION: Zero to 100 km/h in 2.5-secs.

TOP SPEED: 420 km/h, governed.

I LIKED: The ultimate hypercar with features that not even the most daring of makers can match. Engine configuration is innovative and intriguing and really delivers on its promise. Bodywork and interior is as good as it gets and more so.

I DIDN’T LIKE: Of course, the price is astronomical – you can buy a twin-engined jet aircraft for that kind of money. Even so, Bugatti has already sold half the number they plan to build.

MARKET ALTERNATIVES: Not much out there to rival this Bugatti, though supercar builders like Koenigsegg and Pagani do their best.

WHO DRIVES ONE? Obviously, someone with a great deal of money and a love of superlative automobiles.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY: Available now at around €2.4 million

 

WORDS TONY WHITNEY   PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF BUGATTI