Bugatti Chiron first ride - what's it like to be a passenger in the world's fastest car?
We experience Bugatti's new luxury supercar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
Trying to describe just how fast the Bugatti Chiron feels isn't easy. This is, after all, a 1479bhp supercar with 1180lb ft of torque that will accelerate from 0-62mph in less than 2.5sec and 0-186mph (300kph) in less than 13.6sec. The term 'fast' itself doesn't quite do it justice, especially as Bugatti consider those figures to be conservative.
Being sat in the passenger seat doesn't help, either, but this is the most eagerly anticipated hypercar of the moment and when Bugatti offers you the opportunity to ride in it, you don't turn it down.
The way the Chiron's acceleration feels is something altogether different. This is a car that moves at such a rate your brain can barely keep up and your stomach has no chance. The forces it exerts, even in the extremely limited environment of the Goodwood hillclimb, are entirely alien.
Admittedly within the confines of the glorified driveway that makes up the hillclimb course running past Lord March's bedroom window, I get the impression I'm not about to experience its full potential today. But 1497bhp in any car on any piece of tarmac makes a mockery of any such thoughts.
How the Chiron deals with every other aspect of the course, rather than just the straights, is far less noteworthy. But it's just as brain frazzling to compute. I simply don’t expect a car that can accelerate so violently and relentlessly to be even remotely civilized. But the Chiron feels pliant and refined, despite boasting monster performance.
That it's able to deploy its monumental power without any histrionics is one of the aspects that my pilot for the day, evo friend, Le Mans legend and one of Bugatti's few trusted hands to carry out Chiron development work, Andy Wallace, finds so extraordinary. Full throttle on the slightly muddy, bumpy Goodwood asphalt and the traction control intervenes only once.
The Chiron, just like its predecessor the Veyron, has a turbocharged 8-litre W16 and four wheel drive. To help the Chiron make almost 50% more power than the Veyron, all four of its turbochargers are as big as each other rather than having two small ones and two larger ones. So the Chiron doesn’t suffer from horrendous amounts of turbo lag, only two of the turbos are engaged below 3700rpm with the second two cutting in to keep the peak torque of 1180lb ft from 2000 to 6700rpm.
A unique aspect of being driven or driving the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the substantial amount of waiting around that's required; assembly areas, holding areas and start and finish line paddocks are all part of the process. And then you do it all again in order to return to where you first stepped into your car two hours earlier. It's frustrating for some, but useful when you have the inside of a new car to explore.
The huge curve that arcs through the centre of the cabin, and is home to the single largest light bar fitted to a car, looks like it might seem imposing from pictures, but there’s a great deal of space inside the Chiron.
What is noticeable is everything you touch is made from leather or metal. The entire dash and roof lining is trimmed in leather and all of the dials, switches and air vents are hewn from perfectly polished aluminium – the whole of the centre of the steering wheel is milled from a solid block of the stuff.
The only thing I spot that doesn’t seem entirely appropriate are the grey vents on the top of the doors, that look like they might be plastic, but I am reliably informed are actually titanium.
The most significant aspect of the interior, however, is the lack of satnav screen. Just as we’re getting used to massive TV sized screens in luxury cars, the Chiron opts for four simple rotary knobs on its centre console and the absence of a cumbersome, rectangular screen makes for a much more elegant interior.
The entire design philosophy for the Chiron is to make it as elegant as possible while being able to deal with the heat a 1479bhp engine produces and be aerodynamic enough for it to go at least 261mph. It’s a similar concept to Bugatti’s of old, and although the Chiron looks much like an evolution of the Veyron its has many old-school Bugatti features. The central ridge is taken from the Type 57 Atlantic, and the large C-shaped line that separates the front from the rear is similar to the shape of the Atlantic’s door.
The entire body is made from carbon fibre, as is the monocoque chassis and engine cradle. However, it’s not just any common or garden carbon fibre. Every different element – be it bodywork, chassis or aerodynamic applications – is made from a different thickness of foam resin or aluminum honeycomb sandwiched between layers of carbon fibre. This structure is complicated and expensive to make, but it’s lighter and stronger than just carbon fibre alone.
This exposure to the Chiron, although brief, does suggest that it is the perfect successor to the Veyron. It’s a brutally fast and technically advanced machine wrapped up in an exquisite, luxurious and useable package, but the day we swap seats with Andy can't come soon enough.