Redefining the way we experience speed in two completely different fashions.
Speed is speed, right? If you've gone really fast before - be it on a bike or in a high-powered muscle car - you're likely to believe that slightly varying degrees of speed aren't going to feel different. You'd be wrong, however. Physicists might tell you that the human body is not physically capable of feeling speed, that we can only feel acceleration, but they too are wrong. That's because they've never experienced speed the way Bugatti does it, and until recently, we hadn't either. But just this past week, CarBuzz was invited to the small commune of Molsheim in France, home of Bugatti, to sample some of its most special creations to date, creations that have rewritten the rulebook on what speed is.
After driving the Chiron Pur Sport (and Chiron Sport) and spending an age drooling over the new Chiron Super Sport, it became clear that these are more than just variations of the same theme. In name and appearance, the two are clearly brothers, but beneath the surface, and from behind the wheel, they're very different machines. So what is it that separates the two, and which would we rather have?
While Bugatti might have sold a number of special editions of the Veyron, throughout its lifetime there were only three major incarnations - standard, Super Sport, and Grand Sport. Contrarily, the Chiron has had nearly double. While it might not be available in convertible guise, it's been reinvented from its base form several times over. In addition to Chiron-based special series models like the Divo, Centodieci, and La Voiture Noire, we've also been introduced to the Chiron, Chiron Sport, Super Sport 300, Edition Noire, Les Legendes Du Ciel, 110 Ans, Pur Sport, and most recently, the Super Sport.
All in, just 500 Chirons will ever be built before a replacement comes along heralding a new era for the hypercar brand. But of all those we've mentioned, the Pur Sport and Super Sport are among the most special.
Bugatti loyalists will know that the quad-turbo, 8.0-liter W16 used by the brand has been in existence since the Veyron first dropped a 1,001-horsepower bomb on the world back in 2005. It's that same engine that does duty in the Chiron, but over the years Bugatti's continual development of the 16-cylinder motor has seen it achieve new heights and new levels of insanity.
It's widely known that this engine has 16 cylinders, four turbos, and a whole lot of radiators, but what's less known is that the Chiron and its variants all have six exhausts - four visible and two under the two-ton behemoth's undercarriage. While 1,500 hp generates a lot of heat and a lot of exhaust gas, those hidden exhausts are there to maximize the under-car aerodynamics, sticking the back of the car firmly to the tarmac by channeling air through the prominent rear diffuser.
As for the differences between these two machines, both boast the same engine, retaining its four turbos and 8.0 liters of displacement. But in Pur Sport guise, it generates 1,479 mechanical horsepower (Bugatti claims 1,500 metric) accompanied by 1,180 lb-ft of torque distributed to all four corners via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with 15% shorter ratios.
In the case of the Super Sport, too much power is never enough, so Bugatti engineers turned up the wick with larger turbos, revisions to the oil pump, cylinder heads, and valvetrain. Over and above that, they raised the ceiling on how high the engine revs by 300 rpm, resulting in an extra 98.6 horsepower (1,577 hp total), while the torque spread was widened by a full 1,000 rpm at the top to deliver maximum twist between 2,000 and 7,000 rpm. Additionally, the gearbox and clutch were heavily revised resulting in quicker shifts and seamless power delivery, with the shift into seventh gear arriving at a frankly ludicrous 250 mph.
The end results are numbers that speak for themselves. The Pur Sport rips off the line with devastating efficiency, ringing up 62 mph in 2.3 seconds, 124 mph in 5.5 seconds, and 186 mph in under 12 seconds. One might be surprised to find out that the Super Sport - for all its extra power - is slower in these metrics, taking 2.3, 5.8, and 12.1 seconds to reach the same marks. But while the Pur Sport runs into its electronic limiter at a heady 217 mph - a limiter that can't be circumvented with the so-called 'Speed Key' Bugatti has used on other models - the Super Sport keeps going. And going. And going, racking up 249 mph in 28.6 seconds and then still continuing until it hits 273 mph - limited.
Bugatti has gone faster in the Chiron Super Sport 300+, which is to this day one of the fastest machines on earth, but when asked if it's possible to unlock the limiter on the Super Sport, we were met with a wry smile and a "no comment", a sign that this is a brand that could, but knows better than to abuse its power absolutely.
Bugatti knows you can't just throw power at a car and hope for the best. That's why both the Chiron Pur Sport and Super Sport boast completely different suspension setups - perhaps the biggest mechanical differentiation between the two cars.
For the Pur Sport, Bugatti wanted to prove that a two-toe hypercar can handle as a true sports car should. Firmer springs - up to 65% at the front and 33% at the rear compared to a standard Chiron - are matched with new dampers, stiffer bushings, carbon stabilizers, and cambered lightweight magnesium wheels with carbon aero blades, dropping unsprung weight where it matters. Those wheels are shod in some seriously sticky rubber - Michelin Sport Cup 2R tires measuring 285/30 R20 at the front and 355/25 R21 at the rear, providing up to 1.6g of lateral grip.
The Super Sport is no less spectacular to perve over but is far softer in a sense. The rear dampers are only 7% stiffer than the standard Chiron, and the revised kinematics, active suspension, and completely revised steering software are designed to enhance stability all the way up to 249 mph and then some. Likewise, its own Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are reinforced specifically to withstand high speeds.
Both are utterly remarkable. We've driven some of the world's most potent high-speed machines, ranging from McLarens and Paganis and everything in between, but never has a car capable of cresting 200 mph felt this stable. You can feel that the Pur Sport is more nimble, more eager to change direction and pelt out of corners like a stone from a child's drawn slingshot, but it still has a solidity, a sense of being grounded at all times that is reassuring at speeds that the human body wasn't created to reach.
It's not just beneath the surface where these two are different, though. Visually, Bugatti has created a niche for each car, where its style has been dictated by its purpose. The Pur Sport's aggressive wheels and abundance of carbon fiber make it immediately clear that saving weight was a priority to improve handling, while a prominent fixed rear wing spanning six feet and two inches looks like it'd be more at home on the tail of an F1 car or Le Mans racer than on a street-bred hypercar.
It's not just functional from a downforce perspective but shaves 22 pounds from the overall weight by eschewing the active spoiler's hydraulic components. Look closer, and the attention to detail is staggering. There are no parking sensors, as such conveniences merely add weight, and the exhaust tips are 3D printed titanium in order to save weight and be ultra-efficient in their heat distribution.
The Super Sport is similarly focused, albeit on an entirely different goal. With lessons learned from the record-setting Super Sport 300+, it boasts a 'longtail' design that more efficiently channels air over its body to reduce drag, while the hydraulic spoiler can adjust to give the car grip without compromising its ability to reach astronomical speeds. Massive front air curtains channel air around the car, while vents on the hood of the car release air pressure from within the wheel arches - providing stability at speeds higher than 249 mph. Even the exhausts contribute towards its high-speed ambitions, twin vertical stacks that effectively form part of the diffuser itself.
The interior is plusher, more luxurious, and convenience features like parking sensors have been left in place to make the Super Sport surprisingly usable, yet no less spectacular in its focus.
While both the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport and Chiron Super Sport share the same naming prefix, we were floored at just how differently these two machines do speed. Speed, it would seem, can be tailored and tweaked, and no one has mastered the ability to change how speed feels than Bugatti.
The Pur Sport accelerates with all the ferocity we've come to expect from the French motor manufacturer's creations, with an unrelenting surge forward that seems as if it'll never end. But then where other hypercars might have to tap off for a twisting, snaking section of corners, the Pur Sport is somehow able to hide its obvious size and weight and grip the road in a manner that's hard to even comprehend. On the other side of said corners, the unrelenting wave of acceleration takes over yet again, and yet all the while, at any speed, there's an underlying composure. An unflappability to the Pur Sport's nature. This isn't a Hyper-GT in the way we've often theorized Bugattis are. This is a true sports car, but with a seemingly unending well of thrust from which to draw performance.
The Super Sport is no less incredible, albeit in a completely different manner. This is a Hyper-GT, an autobahn-crushing hypermissile that could cross continents with a passenger comfortably relaxing in the seat beside you. Its performance is no less staggering than the Pur Sport's is, and yet somehow, it just never ends. Bugatti has created a machine with all the comfort of a Bentley Continental GT, but a level of speed, stability, and crushing power even the most experienced automotive connoisseur is unlikely to ever be able to get to grips with or experience to the fullest.
To answer the question of which is best... Some might think that this is a simple choice of speed versus handling, but it isn't. These two machines might share a name, a basic design, and many of the same core components, but they're such different creatures. Have such different demeanors. It's truly impossible to say which is best, because each has a different focus. A different goal. And both achieve their targets with distinction.
Given the average Bugatti owner has a collection of 40 cars, if they can afford to get one of these then they can afford to get them both. And that's exactly what they should do.