Bugatti’s best customers saw the successor to the 430kph Veyron SS – named Chiron– at a preview last July. Its public premiere was inked in for the Geneva show in March 2016. But the 442kph-topping, 1100-plus kW supercar is now on hold, the most high-profile, high-performance casualty of Volkswagen’s cost cuts in the wake of the dieselgate scandal.
You can understand why VW Group chairman Matthias Müller got cold feet about the Chiron. Imagine the headlines if VW had pampered a thrill-seeking elite with a supercar retailing at €2.2 million, when it had barely rolled up its sleeves correcting the 11 million diesel cars running the emissions defeat device.
It’s a punishing blow for the Bugatti project, whose world’s fastest car-goal in 2001 encapsulated the VW character: arrogance, steely determination and engineering excellence. The Chiron was set to follow¬¬¬ the Veyron blueprint closely: carbonfibre body structure, four-wheel drive and quad-turbo W16 engine.
By revising 70% of the parts, the engineers had coaxed another 220kW from the 8.0-litre W16, pushing it to beyond 1100kW; the dual-clutch transmission was primed to handle nearly 1627Nm of torque. Redeveloped tyres and a modified 4WD system with adaptive torque split and torque vectoring reportedly delivered a 2.3sec 0-100kph time. To go for 442kph v-max again required a second key to lower the nose, lock the rear airbrake and shut the selectively blocked air intakes.
The Chiron includes new design elements. Double-barrel headlights sit eye-level with the badge on top of the horseshoe grille, the roof-mounted air intake scoops are dropped for semi-oval lateral apertures, and the engine is partly covered by a panel wearing Bugatti’s trademark centre crease.
The finished car seduced a double-digit number of clients into signing contracts and pledging to pay deposits in two tranches, with the second triggering the delivery of the jewel-like speed key as an appetite-whetter. Now the Chiron is on hold. Whether it sees the light of day depends on how quickly VW restores its reputation.