Bugatti Chiron: leader of the pack

It's a truth universally acknowledged that the Bugatti Chiron beats all other cars hands down but what's it really like to drive? David Green finds out

Motoring 20 Dec 2017

Bugatti Chiron has a W16 8-litre engine
The Bugatti Chiron is the fastest road car in the world and has a strict 500-unit run
The interior of the Bugatti Chiron

Most kids go through the ‘Top Trump’ phase in their development. It occurs somewhere near teenage years but before they become obsessed with sex. It’s a period of absolutes. The nuances of life are yet to reveal themselves and they are governed by material fact. A footballer may be known as the best of a generation but in the statistical annals if another player has scored more goals, then he is obviously superior to him. A Cortina GXL is better than a Cortina XL because it has more letters in its name. Fact.

Sometimes in the Top Trumps game one card is better than another in a number of areas, but crucially weak in others. You may proudly hold the Tyrannosaurus Rex card in the dinosaur pack but secretly worry that the Brontosaurus card owner will ask your length. A further lore of Top Trumps is that there is one card that literally trumps all others in almost every statistic. This is the unicorn in the pack and if you hold it in your possession then you will likely win this not so complicated game. Winning, of course, is important, very important.

You want horsepower? I give you 1479 bhp. Zero to 60, you ask? Beat 2.3secs

Now fast forward into the real grown-up world and throughout all of the cynicism and knocks, there is still a little of this in all of us. Even the sober, analytical minds at Volkswagen Group understand this. Which is why they have pulled the covers off the latest model in the Bugatti range with such a flourish. The Chiron is all about numbers. This car wins on every level (except maybe fuel economy, but whoever wanted to be proud of that statistic when you were a kid?). So let’s get them out of the way. You want horsepower? I give you 1479 bhp. Zero to 60, you ask? Beat 2.3secs. Top speed? I raise you 261 MPH. V8 engine, you say? You lose. I have a W16, 8-litre. These figures are not normal or merely impressive; they’re mind-blowing figures that are mind-altering to experience. In maximum acceleration in the Chiron, you feel like you may have to check in with Lieutenant Uhura to see if you are closing in on the next star system. Scotty needn’t worry the captain, she’s not gonna blow, she’s just going to go faster and faster and faster.

To drive it is a lesson in restraint, at least in the UK. As my relationship with the Bugatti started in central London, there was no chance to stretch its legs and instead, it was the slow-moving procession of a global superstar. Anyone with a fleeting interest in cars was diving at their camera phones. Anyone not interested in cars simply joined in, as they didn’t want to miss out, even if they didn’t know what all the fuss was about. What’s incredible about this fastest of cars is how good it is at going slowly. Sub 50 MPH, you could believe you were driving its distant cousin, the Golf, such are its manners around town.

When I finally emerged from the smog, I could allow myself to get excited about the potential I had under my right foot. Excitement is exactly what you get, even with smallest of stabs of the pedal. You tease yourself with its potential allowing a little full throttle dash, before coming off the power, giggling in that scared, but good, way. Anyone watching from the outside would suspect something was broken given the start/stop nature of my driving, but the fact is that you can’t risk 100% throttle in the Chiron, even in first gear, without serious threat to your licence.

The dual-clutch seven-speed transmission mated to four-wheel drive does an incredible job of transferring the colossal horsepower to the road in such an unfussy way via the custom Michelin tyres. It’s not a lightweight car, but with more than enough power on tap to shove the mass along, it makes for a very stable vehicle, even at very high speed. Interior instruments are well crafted and elegant and the lack of a touch-screen removes the modern problem of a car looking dated within a few years of production with an old-fashioned interface. More sculpted and handsome than its predecessor, the Veyron, it also pulls off the feat of making that rocket ship feel slow in comparison.

It’s such a FU to other supercars that it goes beyond arrogance to a supreme majesty. You wave away the goading of the fellow motorist in their over-tuned hot-hatch itching for a race, because, as with some of the best things in life, knowing you have the capability is as satisfying as deploying it.

Sadly in the real world, it is not as simple as being dealt the Bugatti card as a path to instant success. But you can bet if you hold the keys to one of these £2.5million marvels of modern engineering, then things are not going too bad for you in the great game of life.