Deep Dive: The 288-mph Bugatti Chiron

A Veyron successor with more power, more space, and a lot more speed.

The Bugatti Veyron is almost gone. Coupes, roadsters, Vitesses, Super Sports are all spoken for—not to mention the 30 different special editions—but fret not. Bugatti started working on the Veyron replacement four years ago, a coupe likely to be called Chiron (pronounced Shir-on). (More about that name below.)

With about 1,500 hp and a 0-62 mph acceleration time under 2.5 seconds, the new Chiron will be lighter and more responsive and handle better than its predecessor, talents of particular importance to Bugatti lover, owner, and senior keeper of the brand Ferdinand Piëch. Although the new Chiron is being derived from existing carbon-fiber architecture, 92 percent of the parts will be new or modified to enhance rigidity and keep poundage off.

After considering several drivetrain options, carrying over the 8.0-liter, quad-turbocharged W-16 engine made the most sense. To push power output from 1,200 to 1,500 hp, direct fuel injection is introduced and boost pressure is increased, with at least two of the four turbochargers now powered electrically. The fast-acting e-turbos should promptly provide torque—likely to peak again around 1,100 lb-ft—which will be delivered via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and dispersed through torque-vectoring, all-wheel drive.

The unconfirmed top speed of the new Franco-German monster coupe is 288 mph, making it some 18 mph faster than the Veyron Super Sport. Active air deflectors will help the Chiron get up to that speed, and carbon-ceramic brakes and a massive rear wing that acts as an air brake will help slow it down.

Inside, three round analog instrument dials prevail, although a speedometer, with a hitherto unseen 312 mph (500 kph) peak, replaces the tachometer in the middle as the largest, most prominent face. We expect to see an interior very different from the Veyron, one that is more spacious and corrects the Veyron’s slightly offset driving position, complex ergonomics, excessively wide A-pillars, and poor visibility. During a concept drive, Piëch and VW Group chairman Martin Winterkorn complained about the Chiron’s door concept, which is reportedly handicapped by excessively wide sills and a narrow opening angle. Piëch proposed a solution in which the door and the outer part of the sill swing up together. The change would provide much easier entry and exit—and necessitate extensive and costly re-engineering. We don’t know whether chief designer Achim Anscheidt and CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer were willing and able to comply, but we know that the Chiron’s launch has been pushed back from 2015 to 2016.

To bridge the gap and to keep the workforce busy, management is considering building a small additional batch of Bugatti Speedsters, which would put a bespoke body on the existing car, à la Lamborghini’s Reventon, Sesto Elemento, and Veneno. So perhaps the Veyron isn’t really dead just yet. When it is, though, the Chiron will come to life and wear a price tag just under 2 million euros ($2.5 million).

Bugatti loves Monégasque racing driver Louis Chiron almost as much as Chiron loved the lonely, wealthy women who backed his early racing efforts in his 2.3-liter supercharged Bugatti Type 35B. Bugatti’s owner, Volkswagen, already posthumously honored him once by commissioning an EB110 successor, named the 18/3 Chiron, from design house ItalDesign. Built on the bones of a Lamborghini Diablo VT, the concept coupe (below) with a 6.3-liter W-18 engine bowed at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show and influenced the production Veyron that followed several years later.