On the day that Max Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Red Bull Racing and Lewis Hamilton ended his season as a seven-time world champion with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, I drove a road car that, in the right hands, would embarrass them both.
On paper, the Bugatti Chiron is almost the equal of a modern Formula One car in terms of performance, but this Dh13.4 million Pur Sport limited-edition model, which is 50 kilograms lighter, has more track-focused suspension and shorter gearing for even quicker acceleration, raising the Bugatti marque to another level, yet again.
From zero to 100 kilometres per hour, the best F1 driver in the world would not see me as the Chiron Pur Sport covers it in 2.3 seconds compared with 2.6 seconds for a modern F1 car, according to British motorsport magazine Autosport.
Need for speed
The Chiron Pur Sport is mind-bendingly quick with its fantasyland engine specs of eight litres, 16 cylinders and four turbos, two of which are constantly working while the back two come on like a freight train at 3,800 revolutions per minute.
At this point, you are passing 200kph from zero in 5.5 seconds, less than a second behind Hamilton's current F1 car.
Hamilton, Verstappen and his crew get to 300kph in 10.6 seconds, while we clocked the Pur Sport reaching the triple tonne just a second shy.
Those four turbos are fed by four exhausts each and deliver a linear wall of torque from 2,000rpm to 6,000rpm. Top speed has dropped compared to the Chiron from 420kph to a mere 350kph, which is just 10 off this year’s F1 cars.
Yes, Bugatti slowed its road car down to a speed that’s closer to an F1 car.
This allowed them to not only shorten the gear ratios by 15 per cent to provide even better acceleration and the important in-gear punch, but also so the team could alter the suspension to run camber, which you can’t do on cars above 400kph.
The new seven-speed transmission doesn’t have any overdrive ratios, so nothing short of explosive performance was delivered in any gear and at any speed. Bugatti raised its redline by 200rpm to 6,900rpm as a result, but I have never experienced anything even close to this before, race cars included.
From 60kph in sixth, it hit 80kph in two seconds and 100kph in 3.4 seconds, while a 60kph to 120kph dash was done in 4.4 seconds, and it took 2.4 seconds to get from 80kph to 120kph.
The Chiron Pur Sport is almost two seconds faster than the already lightning-fast Chiron and, overall, its in-gear elasticity is 45 per cent better.
In layman’s terms, this means it’s virtually unbeatable, no matter what gear you choose.
Some of the 50kg saving has come from replacing leather with lighter Alcantara inside, as well as using 1 millimetre trim strips instead of solid billet aluminium, but mostly the saving has come from outside with a massive 1.9-metre wide rear wing replacing the heavy but effective hydraulic air brake.
If it weren’t for its giant rear wing, you’d be gobsmacked by the size of the diffuser below, that, like the front spoiler, is the natural enemy of speed humps, so I was aware of both fore and aft when negotiating Dubai’s many silent car-killers.
The rear diffuser is exhaust-blown in the same way as Red Bull used to great effect to win at least two F1 titles with Sebastian Vettel and, in this case, it’s another aid to overcome the loss from the missing air brake by providing more grip.
New magnesium aero wheels with optional wings save a further 4kg each, which results in a lower kerb weight and also removes a vital 16kg of unsprung mass. They are wrapped by newly developed high-performance Michelin Sport Cup 2R tyres (285 / 30 R20 front and 355 / 25 R21 rear) made exclusively for this car.
Behind the wheels are firmer springs with adaptive dampers, which Bugatti says are aimed towards performance, making it slightly harsher and noisier.
An engine this size has aircraft-like specs with an oil flow rate of 120 litres per minute and, at peak speed, passes 1,000 litres of air into its 10 radiators per second, while its water pump could fill an average-sized bathtub every 11 seconds at 800 litres a minute.
The Chiron Pur Sport’s forte is corners which, unfortunately, were beyond my reach in a short drive. I found a few to get a taste, but nothing ever prepares you for its missile-like acceleration.
With electric cars coming en masse, this masterpiece of over-engineering may never be topped and could represent the pinnacle of the internal combustion engine. Maybe that alone is worth the global price of €3 million excluding VAT ($3.6m) for only 60 cashed-up collectors.