Bugatti’s Chase for 300 mph

By Brendan Byrne ‘22

In February of 2019 Bugatti had made a huge reveal: their first true production car since 2010’s Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. As soon as the news came out that this was true, adrenaline pumped through the deepest veins of the car community. Speculation immediately sprung up about what this could mean. Some believed it would make an attempt at or even pass the 300 miles per hour mark that had been so elusive over the past decade of speed-chasing cars; something that was recently beginning to be teased as possible by companies like Hennessey. 

The reason for this speculation was of course that Bugatti had held the throne of “King of Speed” for many years with their Veyron Super Sport model until they were usurped by a relatively young company that had taken a shot at the record in the late 2000s in the Koenigsegg CCX with an approximate top speed of 250 mph. The Koenigsegg Agera RS, the famous record breaking car, hit an incredibly impressive top speed of 278 mph, pulling away from the record of the Veyron Super Sport by just over 10 mph, a respectable figure at such high numbers. 

With all of this hype around the vehicle, the disappointment was almost immeasurable when it was revealed that the Bugatti Chiron would be electronically limited to a top speed of 261 mph upon release. Some outrage erupted in response this disappointing reveal as well as a blend of skepticism and speculation due to the claims that Bugatti had made, these being that there was no tire that currently existed that was capable of handling the top speed that the Bugatti Chiron was supposedly capable of. 

The vehicle was clearly no slouch when it came to design or power so the possibility of this being true was very much present. Every curve and line on the chassis was designed to optimize aerodynamics for both speed and cornering, with a retractable wing that was unfolded upon reaching a certain  speed threshold, and the engine was a true beast. The machine that powered the Chiron was a heavily modified carry-over from the Veyron: an 8.0 Liter Quad-Turbocharged W16, possibly the most amazing engine ever put in a production car. This 882 pound monster, utilizing all 4 of its Turbochargers and all 8.0 of its Liters is capable of producing an absolutely mind-boggling 1500 horsepower and 1600 Newton Meters of torque, allowing for a 0-60 time of 2.5 seconds. 

On August 2 this year, a version of the Bugatti Chiron was taken to the Ehra Liessen Test Track by world famous Le Mans winner Andy Wallace for an attempt at reaching the Chiron’s true top speed. Driving down the massive straightaway, the car kept climbing and climbing past ludicrous numbers. From 261 mph to 278 mph, all the way to 300 mph. When Wallace stopped accelerating, the Chiron was recorded at having reached a top speed of 304.773 mph, an earth-shattering record never before seen by a near-production vehicle. 

However, that was the main issue with this model of the Chiron: it was a “near-production” variant. Slight modifications such as a lighter and lower crossbar as well as a 40 horsepower boost to the engine disqualified it from being named as the world’s fastest production car. The disputes began over whether or not this vehicle should be allowed to be given the title of the “King of Speed” and the overall verdict was no, it should not. Due to the slight modifications it was exempted from the running and the Koenigsegg Agera RS held its top spot. Andy Wallace had made the claim that the Chiron was still accelerating upon reaching 304 MPH and he merely stopped because he felt unsafe going that fast, which lead many claims that the stock Chiron, due to how slight these modifications were, would still be able to beat 300 mph easily. 

Instead of sending out a public letter to address this, Bugatti simply stated that they would be releasing a new production model of the Chiron, in the same vein of the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, called the Bugatti Chiron 300+. The name made it clear that this version of the Chiron’s intention was to beat 300 mph and claim the record for Bugatti one last time before throwing in the towel. Bugatti had been known as the head of the top-speed production car field ever since their Bugatti EB110 which managed to hit in the 240 mph range all the way back in the 1990s and had continued their legacy all the way through the past 30 years. 

Despite the competition from Koenigsegg, they held on and didn’t back down when they faced a tough opponent. The President of Bugatti had made the statement that the company would retire from chasing the mantle of the fastest production car in the world after the Chiron, but knowing that they claimed it one last time brings some comfort to those in the car community all around the world.