The Bugatti Chiron, like the Veyron before it, may pack an absurdly powerful quad-turbo W16 engine, but as a whole the French hypercar is focused on being one of the most luxurious grand tourers possible -- with one of the highest top speeds in the world. There have been some special variants more oriented toward track use like the new Chiron Pur Sport, but even still Bugatti's offerings aren't exactly meant to be race cars. So Bugatti wanted to see just how far it could push the performance limits of the W16 engine once you strip everything else away and create a "radically light vehicle" around said engine, and the new Bolide was born.
Bugatti says the Bolide is "the most extreme, uncompromising, fastest and lightest" car it has ever made. Yes, I said fastest -- according to Bugatti the top speed is "well over" 310 mph, making it faster than the record-setting Chiron Super Sport. Here are some other standout numbers: The Bolide has 1,825 horsepower and it weighs just 2,734 pounds, giving it a crazy power-to-weight ratio of 0.67 horsepower per pound. Bugatti also says that according to computer simulations the Bolide can lap the Nürburgring in 5 minutes 23.1 seconds, putting it just 4 seconds behind the record-holding Porsche 919 Evo, and that it will lap Circuit de la Sarthe in 3 minutes 7.1 seconds, nearly 8 seconds quicker than the record qualifying lap of the Toyota TS050.
Don't let those simulated numbers and CGI images that Bugatti has released fool you, though. As you can see from the post above, Bugatti has built at least one fully functioning Bolide that was spied on track at Circuit Paul Ricard last week, so expect the company to start proving these claims to be true in short order. And while Bugatti calls the Bolide an experimental prototype, the company is still deciding whether to put it into series production. If a handful of these don't get produced and sold for millions of dollars each I will eat my hat.
Looks worthy of Chuck Yeager
Typically it's easy for me to talk about the design of a new car, but the Bolide is so insane that I don't really know where to begin. The Bolide is as function-over-form as it gets, and while that's not usually my jam, I think this thing looks freakin' sick. It basically looks like a spaceship mixed with a Le Mans race car from 2040, and Bugatti's designers were inspired by "X-planes" like Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1, hence the X-shaped headlights and the four long, thin taillights that form an X at the rear. Only the horseshoe-shaped front grille and the color-split paint scheme really give the Bolide away as being a Bugatti. And of course Bugatti says that only 40 percent of the Bolide's surfaces are painted (in a new "French racing blue" color) and there's 60 percent more visible carbon-fiber than on its other models, because that's something worth bragging about.
Track-only Bugatti Bolide laughs in the face of Formula 1 carsSee all photos
It's only 39.1 inches tall, about a foot shorter than a Chiron and matching the classic Type 35 race car from the 1920s. Bugatti hasn't given an overall length, but the Bolide's 108-inch wheelbase is 2 inches longer than a Chiron's, and the Bolide is a couple of inches narrower in width.
The low, wide front end has cutouts in the hood for a peek at the car's suspension geometry (and really for aero reasons), and the heavily vented front fenders and quarter panels are heavily influenced by modern F1 cars. The cockpit is low and narrow with a wraparound windshield, and the rear deck has more cutouts to show off the engine. Air intakes are really well integrated into the rear haunches, with your eye finding new inlets and details the more you look at the car. I wouldn't exactly call the Bolide beautiful, but there certainly are a ton of beautiful sculptural elements to the design.
A huge central fin starts at the base of the roof scoop and attaches to the crazy rear wing, which Bugatti says produces nearly 4,000 pounds of downforce at 199 mph. (At the same speed the front wing is putting down close to 1,800 pounds of downforce.) It's the rear end that makes the most impact visually though. Four massive exhaust tips are mounted in the center, flanked by those four LED strips in an X shape. Aside from an also massive diffuser, there isn't really any bodywork to speak of -- the rear tires are almost completely exposed to the elements.
Accessed by a small pair of butterfly doors and a shockingly narrow sill, the inside of the Bolide is a lot more subdued in terms of design. There are two racing seats with six-point harnesses, a complex steering wheel and a digital gauge cluster, and a small panel on the dash with push-button transmission controls and a few other switches. Every surface is either covered in carbon-fiber or blue microsuede, and there are similarities to the Chiron's interior when it comes to the C-shaped motifs. Bugatti says that drivers up to 6 feet, 6 inches tall can easily get into the Bolide, and the pedals and passenger footrest are adjustable.
Just add lightness. And power
While the Bolide's quad-turbo 8.0-liter W16 engine and all-wheel-drive system are technically taken from the Chiron, everything has undergone some radical changes. The 1,825-hp engine is over 200 hp more powerful than the Chiron SS' motor and its 1,364 pound-feet of torque makes it almost 200 lb-ft torquier, and Bugatti says the powertrain's overall weight has been "significantly reduced." All four turbochargers are new and feature different blades for more boost pressure at high speeds, the intake and exhaust systems have been "dethrottled" for better response and there's an air-to-air intercooling system with two water precoolers that Bugatti says is more effective than a Formula 1 car's radiator setup.
Some insane measures were taken to ensure the Bolide would be as light as possible. I'm gonna be honest with y'all... I'm not an engineer. But I'm going try to parse this stuff down to be a little more easily digestible. The monocoque is made from superstrong carbon fiber that Bugatti says has "single-fiber tensile strength" that's only matched in the aerospace industry, and the rear frame is made from aviation-grade high-strength stainless steel that is very thin but very strong. Every screw and fastener is made from titanium, and the Bolide makes use of hollow and thin 3D-printed titanium components. One example is the auxiliary drive shaft, which combines carbon fiber with titanium and can withstand a "continuous operating temperature" of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The driveshaft is half as light as the Chiron's and increases the engine's revvability.
All four center-lock wheels are magnesium, with the fronts weighing 16.3 pounds each and the rears coming in at 18.5 pounds. All four wheels are way wider than a Chiron's, too: The fronts are 340-width and the rears are 400-width, compared with 285s at the front of the Chiron and 355s at the back. Horizontally mounted dampers contain oil reservoirs inside them for better aero, and the titanium push-rods have a buckling load that almost equals the weight of two Chirons. The Bolide uses ceramic brakes similar to an F1 car's, with the calipers weighing 5.3 pounds each, and there's a built-in jack system for easy tire changes.
Maybe the craziest part of the Bolide is the roof scoop that sucks cool air into the engine. Bugatti says this scoop has "morphable outer skin," which is a world first. At low speeds the surface of the scoop is smooth, but as speed increases "a field of bubbles bulges out." Seriously. Bugatti says this reduces drag by 10 percent and lift by 17 percent, but there are sadly no images to show it off. Think about how the dimples on a golf ball create some turbulence that actually improves the airflow of the ball -- this seems to work in a similar way.
Bugatti's grand finale
There won't be another W16 engine after this one, with Bugatti being forced to downsize -- and more than likely go fully electric -- so the Bolide seems like a damn good way to send off the revolutionary motor. (Although I'm sure there will be a few more Chiron-based special editions in the near future.) To that end, CEO Stephan Winkelmann says that the Bolide is the first time that Bugatti has really shown what the W16 engine is capable of. "We have freed the vehicle of all baggage and have illustrated and combined the engine with the lightest possible chassis to create the ultimate Bugatti and to ensure the ultimate driving experience," he said. "With the Bolide, we are presenting our interpretation of a Bugatti track car of modern times to Bugatti enthusiasts all over the world and finally make their most fervent wishes come true."
When the Chiron Super Sport became the first production car to reach 300 mph last year, Winkelmann said that Bugatti was done chasing speed records and would instead focus on other things. With the Bolide, it seems like Bugatti is more focused than ever -- and I would bet on the company going after some real-life lap records.
Oh, one more thing. Bugatti says the Bolide has been designed to fully meet the FIA's safety regulations, meaning it's got features like a fire extinguisher, polycarbonate windows, a pressure refueling system and HANS device compatibility. Could this mean that Bugatti is looking to enter the new Le Mans hypercar class in the near future? Nothing of the sort has even been hinted at by Bugatti, but what other reason would there be to match those regulations? That's just my own speculative, hopeful brain talking, but it would be pretty damn cool.