From the April 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
Money can’t buy more time on earth, but it will buy a $3,825,000 Bugatti Chiron Super Sport. And while 1578 horsepower won’t extend your expiration date, accelerating hard in a Super Sport crams a hell of a lot of living into a short amount of time. You see, the Super Sport’s four new turbochargers compress not only air, but also time. Take, for example, the amount the Chiron Super Sport takes to get to 200 mph. Those 14.8 seconds squeeze in a month’s worth of terror, joy, and comedy.
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Your life does flash in front of you the first time you floor the Chiron’s accelerator and unleash the W-16’s gas-fired hell on the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Launch control brings the engine to about 2500 rpm, allowing the Super Sport to build some boost before takeoff. If 2500 rpm seems low, consider that the 8.0-liter reactor behind your head makes 562 horsepower at that speed and is already producing peak torque of 1180 pound-feet. Let go of the Chiron’s leash, and your spine gets hit with 1.5 g’s of leather backrest while a disorienting fuzziness engulfs you. Traction is critical to acceleration, but even an all-wheel-drive system with massive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (which are X-rayed at the factory to ensure they’re up to near-300-mph speeds) can’t contain the Chiron’s power. All four tires break loose and tag the pavement.
Even after it hooks up, the Bugatti doesn’t let up much. At 60 mph, you’re still accelerating harder than gravity. Between 160 and 170 mph, the car accelerates with about 0.4 g of force. Hold the accelerator to the floor for 9.1 seconds and you’ll see 161 mph, a new C/D test record. The half-mile mark passes a mere 5.0 seconds later at 197 mph. At 18.5 seconds, the three-quarter mark goes by at 217 mph. With the wind at its back (we average runs in two directions), the Super Sport hit 222 mph in less than 0.8 mile. Running out of room on the proving ground’s roughly 1.2-mile straight quickly becomes a concern, despite the strength of the giant carbon-ceramic brakes. What kind of speeds could we find with a bit more space?
A pencil line drawn in the Mojave sand, Avenue A outside Rosamond, California, appears to be auditioning for a John Ford Western. Discovered by former editor-in-chief Csaba Csere in the 1980s after the section of Sierra High-way previously used for testing became too busy, the road remains lonesome. Ruler straight and mostly devoid of houses, cars, and humans, this spot served as an unofficial test site for years. You can see for miles in each direction, so it’s the perfect place for finding out how fast a car can go. Returning seemed like an appropriate way to mark the end of the Chiron era, even if we’re not here to run.
Things have changed a bit. The six-mile portion formerly used for straight-line testing now skirts the edge of a solar farm on the north side of the road. In the right light, the farm’s mirrored panels shimmer like a sequined dress. Employees regularly rumble by in a Ford F-150, making speed runs impossible. Back in the ’80s, C/D testers befriended the Dennis family, some of the only nearby residents. Possibly starved for entertainment or curious about the cars zooming past, they’d stop by to chat and check out the vehicles. In exchange for their looking the other way as a Porsche 911 Turbo or a Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 ripped by, testers would bring food and drinks, then stay for dinner. We’re not so sure that the solar farm would be as magnanimous if a Bugatti stormed by at Indy 500–qualifying speeds.
Governed to 273 mph, the Super Sport gets the carbon-fiber bodywork of the 300-mph Chiron Super Sport 300+. A longer tail, the most obvious difference, gives the car a lower, almost lithe look. Cheese-grater-like perforations on the front fenders nod to the Bugatti EB110 Super Sport of the 1990s. Engine tuning and the new turbos are responsible for the 99-hp improvement over the base Chiron, and the redline rises from 6500 to 7100 rpm. The changes sound minor, but the W-16 is now more melodious. The 88-decibel sound it puts out at full whack is deeper and richer. Of course, the Chiron runs through the first couple of gears so fast—100 mph passes in just 4.1 seconds—that you only hear it start to work beyond 100 mph.
A 1578-hp engine will make anything, even the 4587-pound Super Sport, seem as light as a Mazda Miata. But remarkably, the Chiron loves to turn. Light and fluid steering, a carbon-fiber structure that’s unfazed by everything short of an off-road trail, and 1.05 g’s of grip on the skidpad make for a multimillion-dollar car that’s as at home in the canyons as it is flossing outside Nobu. Get a little stupid with the throttle in the middle of a corner and the engine’s tectonic energy will send you slip-sliding. As the rear end begins to rotate and wants to overtake the front, you become conscious of the mass of the giant engine and gearbox. The handling is neither snappy nor threatening, which sounds odd considering you’re cornering at over 1.00 g in something as heavy as a Ford Explorer. It’s yet another way the Bugatti makes the insane seem sane.
Though we beg for more time, this version of the Chiron will be the last, a parting shot before electric motors join in on the fun. What comes next will probably outperform our $4,301,450-as-tested Chiron, but there’s something captivating about an unapologetic nonhybrid 16-cylinder engine with 64 valves and four turbos. There’s no denying the next version will better answer the question of how to go really, really fast. But doing things the hard way—the old way, the slightly stupid way—is something we’ll remember about both the Chiron Super Sport and testing on Avenue A.
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