Oddly, it isn’t the eye-drying, wrinkle-eliminating performance that ultimately impresses me most about the new Bugatti Chiron supercar—though that is on full display, goading me to squeeze off intemperate bursts on the parkways and interstates of suburban Connecticut. Rather, it’s the preternatural tranquility the vehicle offers.
Despite hordes of commuters surrounding me, and the raucous inhales and thrusting expectorations of the vehicle’s world-dominating motor behind my head, the high-velocity experience approaches the serene—like occupying a first-class compartment on a deep-space probe, an impossible synthesis of velocity and solitude.
At $3 million, the Chiron is one of the world’s most expensive cars. Each one is carefully hand-assembled from exotic materials such as magnesium and ceramic composite, fabricated within
NASA-like tolerances by a team of 20 dedicated craftspeople over the course of six months.
Its engine, the largest in production, has 16 cylinders and four turbochargers and produces 1,500 horsepower, about double that of the Chiron’s most potent contemporary, Ferrari. Its top speed is expected to break the record of 285 miles per hour. Only 500 will be built over the next seven years at a pristine atelier in Molsheim in northeastern France.
The Chiron is the ultimate blend of luxury and performance. Its only real competition was the Bugatti Veyron, its $2.3 million predecessor, which sat in the apex position for a decade, and which the Chiron surpasses handily on every level. It comes with a four-year warranty, which includes routine service, a relevant proposition when an oil change costs $20,000.
Its superlatives exceed rivals by orders of magnitude. Its Michelin tires, costing over $5,000 each, are custom-designed to sustain pressures that are 3,800 times the force of gravity. The four tweeters on its stentorian Accuton stereo each have a one-carat diamond in their speaker membrane. To preclude the possibility of blemishes, the leather that lines the interior is specially sourced from farms located at high altitudes where there are no insects (or barbed wire) to pierce an animal’s hide.
This incomparable thoroughness defines Chiron. That’s why, even though Bugatti is owned by the giant Volkswagen Group, there is no part on this car that’s shared with any other VW product. Every component is engineered to feel at once extravagant and precise. Shifting the car’s transmission controller into drive, adjusting the knurled windshield-wiper stalk milled from a solid piece of billet aluminum, or even clicking through the airflow detents on the heating vents is like commanding the control booth at the Large Hadron Collider.
Of course, even superheroes have an occasional Kryptonite moment. This winter, Bugatti had to send its “Flying Doctor” repair specialists to inspect welds in the Chiron’s seatbacks, looking for a tiny potential flaw that might affect only 1% of 47 vehicles sold thus far worldwide. (In a statement, the company said that all cars sold had been inspected, and relevant parts replaced.)
There is a ceiling at which branding and perception cease being a supplemental influence. Like the concierge cataloging the amenities at a seven-star hotel, the Chiron must demonstrate its truth. And it does. The motto of Ettore Bugatti, the company’s early 20th-century founder, was “nothing is too beautiful, and nothing is too expensive.”
But at this level, objective value is also irrelevant. The Chiron isn’t 15 times faster or 15 times more luxurious than a $200,000 Bentley. But it is the fastest car in the world and known for this feat. Its customers are willing to pay a premium to gain membership in that exclusive club.