2017 Bugatti Chiron first drive review: the king of the exotics

When a Bugatti Chiron fires up, the sound it produces is loud—surprisingly, dramatically, crazy loud, even while idling at a mellow 650 rpm. Sixteen cylinders, eight liters, four turbochargers and six exhaust pipes can do that. But if you’re lucky enough to be manning the driver’s seat, there’s a hermetic seal between you and the titanium exhaust’s gloriously raucous howl, not to mention the peering cell phones and hungry eyes you’ll likely encounter in the wild.

The Chiron means many things to many people. For some, it’s merely the sequel to the Veyron, the up-to-1,200-horsepower hypercar that Bugatti produced for a decade. For others, it’s the continuation of an epic car that broke barriers and paved the way for the even more ambitious follow-up, which, despite threats like Dieselgate and the emergence of hybrids and EVs on the hypercar scene, still marches to the beat of its own gasoline-powered drum.

Bugatti Chiron first drive

Bugatti Chiron first drive

Bugatti Chiron first drive

Bugatti Chiron first drive

Bugatti Chiron first drive

Bugatti Chiron first drive

The new Bugatti Chiron brings a slew of updates over the Veyron. Beneath the sultrier skin and more luscious, elongated silhouette are a new adaptive suspension system, active underbody aerodynamics, a stiffer and wider carbon fiber chassis, and a vastly improved wheel/tire combo that does away with Michelin’s late, not-so-great Pax system. The wheels are lighter than the Veyron’s and the tires are massive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, 285/30R20s up front and 355/25R21s in the back.

The main attraction is, of course, the massive W-16 powerplant whose output grows by a quarter, to 1,480 horsepower. The mill gets 95 percent new parts in the name of lighter weight, improved thermal efficiency, and higher output. Crucially, the turbochargers have grown 68 percent larger and now work in two stages: a smaller pair handles the 2,000-4,000-rpm rev range until the second set picks up, extending the staggering 1,180 lb-ft torque plateau to 6,600 rpm. Airflow is diverted between the two using a flap made of Inconel, a superalloy capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 1,800º F.

Because of the considerable volume of exhaust gasses, a watermelon-sized catalytic converter roughly six times larger than the average car’s is employed. Spread out its interior surfaces, and they would fill a surface area of 43 football fields. The intake manifolds, formerly made of aluminum, are now carbon fiber, helping save a total of 11.24 pounds; at full load, a thousand liters of air flow into the cylinders per second. Another bit of engine porn is the slenderized titanium connecting rods, which have been strengthened to handle 2,800 pounds of load yet weigh only 336 grams apiece.

Left-brain engineering aside, the Chiron’s leather, aluminum, and subtly carbon fiber-accented interior proves a reassuringly sparse place to clear your mind (and possibly your bladder, depending on your high-speed bravado). The dash has been de-cluttered, save a centralized binnacle of four anodized and knurled multifunction gauges. The instrument cluster trades multiple gauges for a single, humongous analog speedometer surrounded by three high-resolution TFTs. The needle on my test car goes to 500 kph; U.S.-spec models get a 300-mph top peg.

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