Developing a brand new car from scratch costs in the region of a billion dollars. When you sell a few hundred thousand units a year, that money is relatively easy to recuperate. Bugatti is only building 500 Chirons, so just to break even it needs to make $2 million a unit. So how do you convince buyers to part with upwards of $3 million for what is still just a car with an engine, four wheels, a couple of seats, and a pretty body?
You engineer every element, every small detail to perfection, you pen a timeless design with sumptuous elegance from all angles that screams speed while standing still. And you push the boundaries of what's possible with an internal combustion engine. To get the full effect, we got behind the wheel of the Bugatti Chiron Sport at Bugatti's Molsheim HQ in France.
Every angle tells its own story. Head-on, the horseshoe grille (customizable with digits of the customer's choosing) is flanked by a pair of four jewel-like LED headlights strong enough to light up a football stadium at night. Sweep around to the side profile, and Bugatti's signature C-shaped cowls frame the cockpit, the top of which is just 47.7 inches from the ground. That distinctive design element also works to separate the carbon fiber monocoque and rear of the car, which are connected by just 14 titanium bolts.
At 80.2 inches wide, the Chiron Sport sits squat on the road, wider than even a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. In black like our tester, the Chiron looks like it was cut from a single piece of polished onyx, its immense power palpable even while sitting stationary, craving to break out of its carbon-fiber body.
Up close, the carbon weave looks to be aligned to the nearest micron, every inch of its body built to the same exacting standards as the performance on offer and all of it serving a purpose while delivering an aesthetic thrill.
At the rear, the Chiron Sport features a unique exhaust shroud with four individual tips housed in the center of a huge diffuser topped by 82 LEDs forming a single full-width brake light. The adaptive rear spoiler is the cherry on this very elegant cake. Owners get the chance to customize the underside of the spoiler, which is flashed to drivers behind like the proverbial middle finger upon braking. In our case Ettore Bugatti's signature was used but owners, could in theory, have KEEP BACK, inscribed or something more offensive if they so wished to show off their wealth in such a gaudy manner.
The McLaren 720S is arguably the best supercar of the last decade. Astonishingly fast and agile, power comes from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that delivers 710 horsepower. The Chiron Sport doubles every aspect of that with 8.0 liters, 16 cylinders, and four turbos producing 1,479 hp and 1,180 lb-ft of torque sent to permanent AWD via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. The result is 0-62 mph in 2.4 seconds, 0-100 mph in 4.4 seconds, and a top speed limited to 261 mph when Top Speed Mode is engaged. Reaching that top speed is alarmingly easy, too, with 250 mph rung up in under 33 seconds given enough space. Such staggering performance is why the word hypercar was coined, and the Chiron is at the very top of this elite model category.
At 4,359 pounds, the Chiron Sport is 1% (40 pounds) lighter than the Chiron. But that's still 1,200 pounds heavier than the McLaren. While it might not be as nimble, the Chiron is about devouring the road, effortlessly covering long distances, delivering hypercar performance in a truly luxury package.
Its most apt competitor is of course the Veyron, which uses a predecessor to the Chiron's W16. But the internals of the Chiron's engine are mostly new with bigger turbos, a stronger crankshaft and conrods but crucially no extra weight. The 16-cylinder lump still tips the scales at almost 1,000 pounds, but this is an engine built to last, to deliver monstrous performance time and time again.
With peak torque available at 2,000 rpm all the way to 6,000 rpm, mash the throttle at any speed, in any gear, and the full 1,180 lb-ft of torque arrive all at once with nearly 1,500 horses arriving at 6,700 rpm. The 270-pound transmission that sits right under the cabin to help keep 45% of the weight up front, does a stellar job of putting the power to all four wheels.
The violent thrust forward contrasts with the zen-like sound of the wastegate as the turbos spool and exhale gases, but there's not a hint of lag. Bugatti managed that by forcing the exhaust gases through just two turbos up to 3,800 rpm, then all four thereafter.
The Sport also boasts more responsive steering and a rear differential with torque vectoring at speeds of up to 75 mph. Cornering at normal speeds is fluid, precise in its feel and execution. Having signed a waiver that meant I would be mowing the lawn at Molsheim for life had any damage befallen the Bugatti, after a minute of driving the Chiron Sport I felt at ease. The confidence-inspiring chassis behaves like a VW Golf when driving within the speed limit, vaporizing any fears of potential trouble. It's a sweetheart at low speeds, a hypercar that anyone can drive.
The moment a stretch of road opened up, I was fearless in pursuing what the Chiron does best: speed. A firm press of the beautifully polished accelerator pedal, and the Ricardo seven-speed DSG drops down from seventh gear where it keeps engine speeds nice and low, instantly teleporting the Chiron to the horizon at the end of every stretch of road we encountered. Accelerating from 31 to 93 mph takes just 3.2 seconds, from 50-75 mph an even shorter 1.8 seconds.
Turns that link the straights, while satisfying and swift, are almost an inconvenience.
Accelerating in a Chiron is intoxicating, going as fast as anything on four wheels while cocooned in luxury, with a chassis so rigid it would take 50,000 Nm of force to twist it by a single degree. But the rush is always short-lived. There are only a handful of places on earth where the Chiron can fulfill its potential as a slayer of continents, and the narrow roads of eastern France are not one of them.
With Bugatti test driver and multiple Le Mans winner Andy Wallace keeping me honest from the passenger seat, I felt completely at ease. A sweetheart at low speeds, a hypercar poser that makes other road users blush, this is an exquisite looking car anyone can drive but that only someone of his driving caliber would be able to truly master the Chiron at the limit.
Therein lies the genius of the car's engineering. When taking prospective buyers for a test drive, Andy will get their wife to drive the car to seal the deal, proving that anyone can drive it comfortably while knowing that owners will spend a lifetime exploring its full breadth of capabilities.
They'll need to head to a track to exploit it, something the Chiron Sport, I am reliably informed, excels at. That's where it can blow past 200 mph on the straights, and make full use of the Sport's stiffer suspension and torque vectoring to take tight corners with a nimbleness that belies its bulk.
On the central stack, circular controls that typically act as climate controls can be programmed to display metrics for the driver to drool over, constant reminders of its greatness. After every burst of otherworldly acceleration, a quick glance to my right and a number in the region of 1,470 would reveal that the massive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (285/20 up front, 355/21 in the back) were putting almost 1,500 horsepower to the tarmac.
But all good things must come to an end and bringing the Chiron Sport to a stop are monstrous titanium brakes (420/400mm front/rear) with eight-piston calipers at the front, six at the rear built by AP Racing. They can bring the Chiron to a standstill from 249 mph in less than 10 seconds.
The Chiron lacks the typical discomfort associated with supercars. After an hour or so behind the wheel, it was clear this was a car I could spend all day driving without feeling fatigued. The Comfort seats finished in Brun Cavalier, the Maronnier-colored leather interior, Truffle carpeting, and aluminum trim all combined to create a cockpit with subtle elegance. There's no distracting, thumb-smudged touchscreen, just a Stingray-esque central bar with four dials that present various bits of information, programmable as either informational displays or climate controls.
The view out the back is 90% Bugatti artwork, 10% road, but we can see Bugatti's partnership with Rimac resulting in future tech akin to Land Rover's ClearSight, where at the touch of a button, the artwork in the mirror is replaced with a camera view of what's behind you for unhindered sightlines. In any case, the Bugatti is all about going forward. And the view out the front is better than most machines of this ilk.
When the Chiron Sport was first introduced at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, it was billed as a track-focused variant of the Chiron and the first Bugatti of the Winkelmann era. We've since had the Pur Sport and more recently the Super Sport, both substantially different to the Chiron. In retrospect, the Chiron Sport is more of a trim level than a new variant. Lighter wheels, a carbon-fiber anti-roll bar, four distinct round tailpipes (that look better than the four pipes disguised as two massive exhausts on the Chiron), thinner glass behind the cockpit, and a carbon-fiber window wiper all combine to trim the fat.
Customers are only limited by their imagination when speccing the latest addition to their exotic car collection. Bugatti will then take a buyer's idea and evolve it into something more palatable and present it as an alternative option. More often than not, the buyer acquiesces, which is perhaps why there are no bad-looking Chirons on the market.
As for which model to go for, the $275,000 extra the Chiron Sport commands over the Chiron is a no-brainer. Especially when you consider the average buyer adds $500,000 of options anyway.
There truly isn't another car on the market like the Chiron. Its multi-million-dollar price tag means it exists in a rarefied space alongside seven-figure supercars like those from Pagani and Koenigsegg. Unlike other purveyors of exotic machinery aimed at the super-rich, Bugatti has the weight of the VW Group behind it. What other mainstream brand sells a car for $3 million?
A typical Chiron buyer has a fifty-strong car collection, a private jet, and a yacht. These are people with purchasing power we can only dream of. But they still need to be convinced that their $3 million is being well spent. In terms of long-term value, a car that took the internal combustion engine to its absolute limit is almost guaranteed to be a future classic. Consider that the electric revolution will soon make gas guzzlers obsolete and as a long-term investment the Chiron looks rock solid. In the meantime, owners will get to experience one of the finest cars of its generation.