The W16 Mistral was developed with heavy reliance on virtual reality.
The Porsche 911 GT3 finally arrived earlier this year, but it took a very long time to get here and evolved considerably over its development cycle. The same company spends four years designing new colors for its cars. Over at Mercedes, the AMG ONE hypercar was first shown as a concept in 2017 but was only revealed in June of this year. Similarly, the Aston Martin Valhalla was first presented in 2019, and we can only hope it will enter production in 2025.
Compare these vehicles to the Bugatti W16 Mistral that Molsheim's premier automotive atelier recently unveiled. Even though this car has the ultimate goal of becoming the world's fastest roadster, its design was completed in just nine months, thanks to the power of virtual reality (VR).
We're fully aware that the W16 Mistral is heavily based upon the preexisting Bugatti Chiron, but the Chiron was never intended to spawn a convertible variant. Speaking with The Drive, Bugatti's head of design Achim Anscheidt, who designed the Chiron, says that new technologies have been a huge help in getting car designs developed and finalized quickly.
"We are so VR-based now," said Anscheidt. "I also like clay and my hands-on, but our virtual glasses these days are so good that we're getting very close to the final product." Basically, the clay model and other physical representations of a future concept are still necessary, but VR has helped designers cut down on time spent and resources consumed.
The team starts off using Blender, a free, open-source CAD (computer-aided design) software system. The models made using this software are not advanced enough to develop tooling for a future car, but they're almost as realistic to behold as clay models. After the preliminary design work is complete, a more advanced CAD software program called Alias is used to precisely define surfaces and measurements. As such, the designs created here are detailed enough for tooling to be created for the production of the car. Any minor adjustments to the design can be made in a matter of moments, which is certainly easier than trying to update a clay model when a new development is to be tested out.
"I would probably say now we save 40% of the time compared to 15 years and 20% from five years ago," said Anscheidt.
Bugatti is not alone in embracing new technologies, including virtual reality in the design of its cars. The GMC Hummer EV was designed with the help of VR software, and Volkswagen, Honda, Bentley, Pininfarina, and Porsche have been taking advantage of the tech too.
For Bugatti, a company that is aiming to own the top speed record for roadsters, designing a car in virtual reality is particularly helpful in perfecting the balance of drag and downforce, among other elements. As society shows more and more of an inclination to embrace the so-called metaverse, it won't be long before VR is a part of our daily commute, just as it's a part of designing the cars we use to travel.