Bad weather won’t stop us from letting rip in the new 1,479bhp Bugatti Chiron Sport – but do we have the goods to go for 400km/h?
A Bugatti worth AED12 million and the heaviest sand storm the UAE has seen in possibly a year is not a great combo.
Yet even a four-day shamal wasn’t enough to stop the chance to be one of the first in the world to drive the newest member of the Bugatti range, the lightweight Sport member of the Chiron family.
To spice it up, former pro racer and Molsheim’s official test driver, Pierre-Henri Raphanel, reminds me that this road-registered machine develops a cool 500 horsepower above a current Formula 1 car. The big number is 1,479bhp, thanks to an 8.0-litre, quad-turbocharged 16-cylinder engine. It’s the biggest, most powerful unit currently in production that gives the Chiron Sport a phenomenal 420km/h top speed.
And a good thing, too, that Bugatti knows some important people. Strapping into the driver’s seat on a section of road closed just for press runs, it was time to reacquaint myself with the Chiron having driven the launch version two years ago. I remember being utterly blown away by its performance.
The standing start is enough of an eye-opener, as soon as you notice the speedo calibrated to 500km/h. Remember pasting your face to a window as a kid when 260km/h was a big deal? In a Bugatti Chiron Sport, the needle barely lifts on the way to the ton – I was already doing 60km/h virtually the moment the brake was released. Just under a second later we passed 100km/h marked by its shift into second gear.
At this point I heard a giant whoosh behind me as the second pair of turbochargers fired up to send it past 160km/h with the needle pointing to the 10 o’clock position. Two seconds later, it’s smack in the middle of the dial, 250km/h. Just over six seconds after I had released the hand brake.
By now only my peripheral vision registered the speedo which showed the needle at 1 o’clock and so with plenty to go, I kept my foot buried, not realising that the 1 o’clock mark signalled 300km/h.
After 16 seconds of full throttle in a Bugatti Chiron Sport, I decided enough was enough and rolled out of it, having touched 315km/h but scarily it was still pulling like a train, urging me to 400.
However this was in the middle of a sand storm, so visibility was reduced and grip levels were low but it never once put a foot wrong.
The big difference between this and the regular Chiron is the 17kg weight reduction, which although minuscule (it amount to less than one percent), is actually felt when you jump on the brakes. As before, the rear wing turns into an air brake except now it deploys regardless of pedal pressure above 160km/h. This means it not only pulls up much faster but importantly there’s no weight transfer which you had on the previous car when the wing popped up only for emergency stops above 160km/h and resulted in some nose dive.
Mechanically, the Sport is unchanged from the regular Chiron which Bugatti claimed was a 25 percent improvement in every respect to its performance over the Veyron model it replaced.
With turbos that are just about twice as big as on the Veyron, you can imagine the kind of lag these units could deliver, so Bugatti offset them by having two blowing all the time, fed by eight exhausts each, then at 3,800rpm a valve opens the back two to bring all four on song. They are fed by four exhausts each to deliver a linear wall of torque from 2,000rpm to 6,000rpm.
As expected, it takes a mountain of air, water and oil to keep the Chiron Sport operating at its peak with an oil flow rate of 120 litres per minute keeping things cool. That’s two litres a second.
At its 420km/h top speed, governed by tyre limits, a thousand litres of air is fed into 10 radiators and intercoolers every second while its water pump can fill an average sized bathtub every 11 seconds at 800 litres per minute. If left at full noise, its 100-litre fuel tank is drained empty in under eight minutes.
Back it off to 60km/h however and with its VW Group infused interior and copious amounts of leather, you could be forgiven you were cruising around in a Bentley Continental GT. There’s no boy-racer carbon fibre accents, race-harness belt buckles or cramped cockpit to shout its speed credentials. It has more headroom than an AMG GT or Aston Martin and is one of the most civilised cars you could find for a gentle drive.
Supremely faster and more luxurious than all of its competitors, the Bugatti Chiron Sport is not what you’d call completely practical, but it does have room for a 66-litre suitcase in the nose which makes it more useable than most that like to claim the title of ‘hypercar.’
Compared to its stripped out rivals, the Chiron’s interior is a tremendously luxurious environment. The powered seats are supportive in a firm way, not good for an all-day stint but okay for a few hours, while the feeling of width inside is accentuated by a slim centre console milled from a solid billet of aluminium. This houses all the comfort and convenience gauges while a swoopy LED divider down the centre gives the feeling of the driver sitting in his own cockpit.
Where you will find raw carbon fibre and Alcantara in other exotics, the Chiron is a cabin filled with solid billet metal hardware and the finest grade leather, as well as an outstanding Accuton sound system which uses a one-carat diamond membrane in each of its four tweeters to deliver outstanding audio quality.
On hand to keep a watchful eye on the journalists was Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann who everybody knows as the sharpest dressed executive in the business, previously of Audi and Lamborghini fame. Once Molsheim buzzed, Winkelmann found his life’s calling. The German was in town to celebrate Bugatti’s 110th Anniversary by chaperoning the stealthy €16.7 million La Voiture Noire one-off that was recently shown at the Geneva Auto Show. To save you the bother, that’s AED69 million, which buys you an entire floor in the Burj Khalifa, with change left over for a ‘normal’ Bugatti…
“The Middle East is a very important market for us and is our first stop on our global Anniversary tour,” said Winkelmann. “We wanted to bring La Voiture Noire here as it’s an important region for us where people like to tailor their cars and order bespoke models like this. It also gives us a chance to test it among the public even if this one is sold,” he added.
I guess the rest of us will just have to settle for the Sport.
2019 Bugatti Chiron Sport
8.0-litre quad-turbocharged 16-cylinder | seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive | 1,479bhp at 6,700rpm and 1,600Nm from 2,000rpm | zero to 100km/h in 2.6 seconds and a top speed governed to 420km/h | AED12 million