Bugatti Chiron can’t go over 300 MPH because no tire can handle it

Bugatti Chiron first drive

Bugatti Chiron first drive

The Bugatti Chiron had big shoes to fill when it arrived to replace the beloved Veyron.

So far, it’s showed it has the credentials to be a proper follow-up act. However, no one has been able to fully experience the true speeds the 1,480-horsepower hypercar is capable of. That’s because no tire is capable of handling the car at speeds in excess of 280 mph, Bugatti test driver Andy Wallace told Popular Mechanics.

He should know a thing or two about top speeds. He’s the man that set top speed records in the Jaguar XJ220 and McLaren F1 during the 1990s. Oh, he’s also won overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Right now the Chiron is electronically limited at only 261 mph and currently wears the stickiest, grippiest set of Michelin rubber available to handle 1,480 horsepower. And 261 mph is only possible by inserting the “top speed key.” If 261 mph sounds like a good idea, the driver inserts a special key into the slot on the doorsill. It’s kind of like the multi-million dollar version of Dodge’s now famed red key for the SRT Hellcats.

Bugatti Chiron first drive

Bugatti Chiron first drive

The Chiron then quickly performs a safety check, lowers its suspension, and angles its rear wing appropriately. If the car detects more than a quarter turn of the steering wheel, the top speed mode is disengaged—Bugatti says this is for straight-line use only. Without the key, the Chiron is actually limited to 237 mph.

Wallace said the Chiron easily reaches 261 mph, so going considerably faster shouldn’t be an issue for it, assuming it has the right set of tires. According to Wallace, Michelin is currently developing a tire that will be able to stand the loads experienced at just over 280 mph. The rubber should be ready in 2018 when Bugatti will set an official top speed for the Chiron.

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Reaching 300 mph will still be unachievable, though. The forces at 300 mph are “devastating,” Wallace explained.

It will be interesting to see what Hennessey Special Vehicles will be able to do with its Venom F5. Company founder John Hennessey is confident of hitting a speed approaching 300 mph with his own car, due later this year. We look forward to seeing this battle played out.

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