During WWII, 28-liter turbocharged and supercharged Allison V1710 V12 engines were manufactured by General Motors and stuffed into North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs and Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter bombers, where they took the fight to the enemy. The output of these giant motors, which successfully carried five-ton planes miles above the earth for thousands of miles at speeds of up to nearly 450 m.p.h.? About 1500 horsepower.
Coincidentally, that is the same number of horses that will be galloping out of the updated, direct-injected, 8-liter, quad-turbocharged, 16-cylinder monster motor that will be positioned behind the very expensive heads of owners of the newly unveiled Bugatti Chiron. However, this beast won’t fly. At least, the designers hope it won’t.
"At the high speeds this car achieves, at speeds above 400 kilometers per hour, airflow is critical," says Achim Anscheidt, design director for the brand. "That is the speed at which airplanes are taking off."
The Chiron is the long-awaited successor to, and supplanter of, the pseudo-automotive instrument of arrant domination known as the Veyron. For over a decade, that vehicle represented the unreachable pinnacle of the production supercar scene: the most expensive, the most powerful, the most outrageous, the fastest. As Bugatti CEO Wolfgang Durheimer told us in an exclusive interview last summer, the Chiron’s only goal was to supplant the Veyron in every conceivable metric.
The 1,500-horsepower Chiron makes the Veyron feel like "driving a VW GTI."
"For us, it is a bit like a film director working on a sequel to a movie that was already successful," Anscheidt says. "But I'll tell you this. I drove a development prototype of this car, the Chiron, to our test facility. And then I drove the Veyron back. And it felt like driving a VW GTI being back in the Veyron. The experience, the power, the dynamic sophistication [in Chiron] is that profoundly heightened."
No one ever accused the Veyron of being pretty. Purposeful, certainly, but not pretty. The Chiron challenges this tradition. It’s defiantly more aggressive—though not quite as aggressive as the finned, winged, straked, and gilled concept the brand developed for the video game Pac-Man Turismo. It looks a wee bit squinty. Also, like it’s angry and embarrassed that it has to wear this narrow classic Bugatti heritage horseshoe pucker around its maw instead of some other, more menacing grille shape—perhaps something more like the mouth of a Payara?
"For me, this horseshoe grille is the most wonderful pain in the butt," Anscheidt says. "Look around the show. Everyone else is going for grilles and openings that are as wide as possible. We had to create a different strategy."
Bugatti owners are a fickle bunch. Not necessarily about their Bugattis—all 450 of them probably love to drive their cars, when they’re not receiving $120,000 tire changes or $80,000 oil changes. More about cars in general, as each of them owns an average of 64 vehicles. So we wonder what creature comforts or other client comments have been integrated into the Chiron to make it superior to and more seductive than the Veyron.
"We had a customer suggest a trailer hitch," Anscheidt says. "We had to say no. But mainly, our customers are insistent that we keep doing this mix of beauty and the beast. The ultimate in performance and the ultimate in rolling luxury."