Just days before legendary supercar manufacturer Bugatti, founded in 1909 and until now part of the Volkswagen Group, finalised its merger with Croatian electric car marque Rimac Automobili to form Bugatti Rimac, two of its most desirable and expensive new models were at our disposal, the Chiron Super Sport and the Chiron Pur Sport, representing a cool Dh26.8 million.
The Chiron Pur Sport was reviewed by The National last December and is just coming into showrooms now, while the new Super Sport will arrive early next year.
Announced on Tuesday, the Rimac confirmed its 55 per cent stake takeover of Bugatti with Porsche holding the remaining 45 per cent, while founder and chief executive of Rimac Automobili, Mate Rimac, 33, becomes chief executive of Bugatti Rimac. The old marque will no longer be headquartered in Molsheim, France but in Sveta Nedelja, Croatia.
Outgoing chief executive Stephan Winkelmann, who has overseen Bugatti and Lamborghini, will now focuson the Italian brand and Porsche steps in as a strategic shareholder with its chairman Oliver Blume and deputy chair, Lutz Meschke, joining the Bugatti Rimac supervisory board.
To the casual observer not much will change as both companies will continue to manufacture from their respective factories. Bugatti will still hand-build cars in Molsheim while Rimac will continue to create its electric hypercars out of Zagreb but it will almost definitely mean that the next Bugatti-badged car will be electrified in some respect with a full EV version on the way.
So before the ink had dried on the contracts, I found myself at the Dubai Autodrome in what is the end of an era with the VW-owned Bugatti and the most outrageous internal combustion engine available in the world. Measuring 8.0-litres with 16 cylinders, four turbochargers and 1,600 horsepower, the new Chiron Super Sport was joined by the lightweight 1,500hp Chiron Pur Sport.
Joining me for the ride was Bugatti’s test pilot and former LeMans and Daytona 24 hours winner Andy Wallace, who reminded me of the car’s ridiculous performance potential before swapping seats and throwing me the keys to both, for what was my most expensive day of driving in more than 30 years of motoring journalism.
“When I retired from professional racing, I thought I’d never drive anything as cool as a LeMans winner again but Bugatti offered me the role of test driver. When I jumped in, I had to do a double take; ‘How can a car be that fast?’ I asked myself,” Wallace said.
“The LeMans Jaguar race car produced 1,100 horsepower in the early 1990s but at the end of two qualifying laps it had used up two sets of tyres and the engine required rebuild each time. Yet here we are in the Chiron and we’ve got another 500hp and it’s good for 300,000 kilometres of very comfortable, every day driving.”
We entered pit straight at 50kph in the Super Sport but in seconds it was nudging 270kph while the cluster of gauges the Chiron has, which display your performance, showed it had developed 1,593hp by the pit exit. Not bad for an out lap.
“It's a luxury car and very easy to drive. It’s refined and comfortable and very secure, yet it’s got 1,600 horsepower and a governed top speed of 440kph and now it’s your turn,” Wallace said.
As I strapped into the Super Sport, I noticed it was more luxurious than the lightweight Pur Sport with powered seats (yes, for Dh13.2m you have to slide the seat yourself) and polished alloy interior highlights instead of lightweight carbon fibre.
It’s incredibly civilised for a 1,600hp car with a full leather and carpeted interior, air conditioning set to 22°C and wearing licence plates, yet it inspired confidence, making me almost forget the value under my fingertips.
Entering the front straight at the Dubai Autodrome a little quicker after an exploratory lap, I gave it everything and by the braking mark, the magic numbers in the centre console showed 282kph and 1,614hp developed at 6,960rpm, 14 more horsepower than its book quoted maximum. I was satisfied.
It has a similar feel on track, in terms of mid-corner handling, braking and performance, as a full-blooded GT3 Ferrari 488 race car I sampled in full race suit on slick tyres last year, but is far more comfortable, because it’s a road car. I had to keep reminding myself it was not modded for the track in any way.
The lighter Pur Sport by comparison communicates a lot more feel through the steering and while a lot of all-wheel drive cars can feel weak in the front, with this, you can feel there’s enough load on the nose to place it exactly where you want it.
The Pur Sport is 15 per cent lighter and has shorter gearing, so it doesn't have the same top speed as the Super Sport, being limited to 350kph but gets to 200kph faster in 5.5 seconds. The Super Sport differs visually with a pair of vertically stacked quad tailpipes plus an extra 25cm in the tail for better aero that helps give it an unrestricted top speed of 470kph with a 0 to 200kph of 5.8 seconds and 0 to 300kph of 12.1 seconds.
Despite prices of Dh13.2m and Dh13.6m, respectively for the Pur Sport and Super Sport, last year marked the most successful year in Bugatti’s history with 460 of the 500 vehicles planned, either already delivered or in production.
It gives new owner Rimac a solid foundation for his future with the historic marque.
“I’m excited to see what impact Bugatti Rimac will have on the industry and how we will develop innovative new hypercars and technologies,” he said.
Whichever way he takes Bugatti, it will involve electrification and bringing to a close, a century plus era of the world’s best and fastest combustion engined supercars that’s wrapped up with these two Chirons.