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Can you ever hope to be objective about the Bugatti Chiron? Less of a name and more of a superlative-in-waiting, the Chiron was born to be the new benchmark by which all other hypercars would be judged. So, now that the dust has settled on what was unquestionably one of the drives of 2017, what do we make of this utterly extraordinary new Bugatti?
Well, inevitably, and despite making it a much warmer, more tactile and more entertaining machine, those numbers remain impossible to ignore: Rs 21 crore before import duties and even taxes; 16 cylinders; 8 litres; four turbos; 1479bhp; 1600Nm; zero to 200kmph in 6.5sec; restricted top speed of 420kmph; unrestricted top speed of 450kmph. Even in a world inured to outrageous figures, the stats are mind-blowing.
Reading those numbers is one thing; understanding what they actually mean and how they feel in action is quite another. So think on this. By any sub-supercar standard, the outgoing Bentley Continental GT V8 is a properly fast car. The Chiron has an engine double the size kicking out roughly three times the power, yet has a fraction less weight to lug about. Ridiculous? Absolutely. But that, my friends, is the point.
Right up until the point when you spend some time with it, that is… Inside and out, it’s much more in-yer-face than the Veyron, but still unmistakably a Bugatti. It does the Lockheed Martin-meets- luxury thing brilliantly, thanks to a bold mix of unashamed theatrics, pure architectural lines and brutal functionality. It’s clearly not a car derived from motorsport DNA, but that somehow creates a bigger wow factor in a sector dominated by quasi road- racers and trackday headbangers.
“The Bugatti Chiron doesn’t conform to regular supercar or hypercar rules. The motor pulses and rumbles rather than yelps and howls”
Leaving the colossal motor partially exposed is a lovely touch carried over from the Veyron. It’s like a display case containing a piece of precious sculpture. The docked tail and extensive use of mesh is explicit evidence of the furnace-like heat that needs to be extracted from the engine bay, yet the monolithic arc of machined alloy that forms the full-width tail light is pure art. Such are the glorious contradictions that this car comprises. The Bugatti Chiron doesn’t conform to regular supercar or hypercar rules. The motor pulses and rumbles rather than yelps and howls. It’s genuinely comfortable to sit it. The fit and finish are fabulous, the hi-fi crystal clear and completely immersive. And, if you can get beyond the heart-thumping realisation that you’re in a Chiron, it drives with the ease of the aforementioned Bentley.
Yes, there is. Albeit one that’s finely filtered, clear and uncorrupted. It’s very much a digital car in this regard, but you have an accurate sense of what each corner is doing. You can feel the Bugatti Chiron working beneath you as you power it through a corner or brake hard after devouring a straight. There’s a sense of life and energy – immense forces being tamed and channelled into the tarmac. It remains well- contained and hugely confidence-inspiring, and there’s enough warmth and tactility to make a bond with the machine, even if it stops well short of outright exuberance.
Honestly, winding the Bugatti Chiron up to 380kmph – the first of its two speed limiters – is no more effort than hitting the 250kmph limiter in a BMW M4. It doesn’t just get there, it gives the electronic limiter a headbutt. If anything it feels more impressive the faster you go, sixth and seventh gears feeding that relentless, runaway feeling of a big airliner in the final few seconds before take-off. Except, of course, you’re going faster and the car is being pushed into the ground with the same insistence that an Airbus claws at the air. It’s this combination of remarkable efficiency and remorseless violence that’s most shocking, and Bugatti at its best. An altogether different kind of performance. One that seems genuinely inexhaustible and makes a McLaren P1 or LaFerrari feel flaccid – the Chiron hefting you towards the horizon in an unbroken rush while the others huff and puff through the gears.
“No words come close to genuinely expressing what it is to have such unimaginable and totally deployable performance at your behest”
It’ll hustle through corners with the best of them, but it’s what it does as you begin to straighten the wheel and squeeze the throttle that’s breathtaking. Given a suspension of traffic laws, you could easily and repeatedly breach 320kmph. Not just on an empty motorway with a long run-up, eyes out on stalks and palms sweating, but on an average A-road. Maybe even a B- road. In a Bugatti Chiron, the biggest challenge is not unleashing its performance. No words come close to genuinely expressing what it is to have such unimaginable and totally deployable performance at your behest. It completely changes your perception of speed. What’s possible, what’s reasonable, what’s marginal and what’s plain stupid. It warps your mind.
I suppose the better question is, if I had the means, would I like to own one? My answer? ‘Hell, yes!’ But driving it begs another question, namely could I trust myself with one? My answer to that is an equally emphatic ‘Hell, no!’
This possibly reveals more about my own weaknesses than those of the car, but it also gets to the heart of the matter. The Bugatti Chiron isn’t alone in being fundamentally too fast to put to meaningful use on the public road, but, despite its improved levels of involvement, its ability to go obscenely fast remains the defining experience. That’s why although it is unquestionably one of the cars of the year, it’s not the car of the year.
Engine W16, 7993cc, quad-turbo
Power 1479bhp @ 6700rpm
Torque 1600Nm @ 2000-6000rpm
Weight 1995kg (753bhp/ton)
0-100kmph <2.5sec (claimed)
Top speed 420kmph (limited)
evo rating 5/5