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The Sexiest Ride on the Road? Driving Bugatti’s $3 Million Chiron

At age 25, your neural pathways have all but solidified. Everything you’ve learned or experienced, the way you talk, interact with others, perceive the world, and react to stimuli has coalesced to the point that little in our ever-changing world can actually modify the neural network that guides every moment of our lives. "Little," however, could never be an adequate description of the Bugatti Chiron, or what it did to my supposed fossilized 31-year-old brain when I sat behind its wheel.

Three years ago, Bugatti entrusted me with the key of one of the company’s final Veyron Grand Sport Vitesses. It was and remained until last week, the most powerful car I had ever piloted. And piloted is the correct term, as that 1,184-horsepower hypercar was the closest I had ever come to piloting an F/A-18 with its afterburners alight. Nearly immobilized upon acceleration, the sun streaming through the Veyron’s clear roof panels, the only piece missing from my Top Gun-esque moment those years ago was the “keeping up foreign relations” exchange with a MiG-28.

Afterward, as I cut the 16.4-liter W16, unclenched my white-knuckled fists and inhaled for what felt like the first time in an hour. I was left mute. Though I was past my supposed neurological concretion, the Veyron had edited my brain’s coding. My concepts of speed and acceleration were just too antiquated to handle what Bugatti had achieved. I left with a Veyron-embossed psyche. Progress, however, doesn’t stop and though I can scarcely believe it myself, my Veyron-addled neurons have just been forcibly rewritten again by Bugatti’s follow-up masterpiece.

Every new super car receives the same form of hyperbolic imagery that does little but inflates the writer’s perceived grasp of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Colorful language abounds. “The immediacy of torque,” “a stampeding torrent of wild horses,” “lightning doesn’t strike its target as quick as (X) car perpetuates speed,” and on and on. There are, after all, a great many descriptors. Yet, while the Bugatti’s performance metrics belie a machine worthy of several chapters of script, none are satisfactory enough to pin to the Chiron’s carbon fiber rear. This is truly the sort of car that’s best left to unsullied depiction.
From the pilot’s seat, tipping just ever so slightly into the Chiron’s W16-produced torque waters the eyes, hurts the neck, tantalizes the ears, removes the wind from your lungs and causes the briefest of moments where you think you’ll faint. That’s not hyperbole: Just before its launch, a respectable source inside the company told me that when Bugatti first took prospective customers out for a drive, one fainted from a full dose of the absurd 1,500 horsepower and 1,180 lb-ft of torque. You must prepare yourself before unleashing its perception-bending quad-turbo-charged W16 fire. 

Primed and ready, and with a traffic-deprived and healthy straight piece of pavement ahead, I level the throttle and watch in disbelief at how hurriedly the Chiron’s speedometer needle gracefully follows its housing’s circular arc. The Chiron is a 6.5-second-to-124-mph, Mayweather-type bodily assault. Acceleration is positively unrelenting as the speedometer doesn’t even begin to slack until the Chiron’s upper-mph echelons. Only a fully electric, gearless Tesla gives a similar sensation to the delirious 7-speed dual-clutch transmission’s delivery. Suffice it to say, I’m still giggling like my infant when I blow raspberries on her stomach.

With my eyes widening from the lateral forces, as well as from watching the outward scenery pass by at the Chiron’s cross-continental pace, I laid into its dual brake system. *Insert “the only thing quicker at stopping the Chiron is if you hit a tree” trope here. Yet, it’s honestly not that far off from reality. Behind each wheel is a carbon ceramic disc and either an 8-piston caliper at the front or a 6-piston caliper at the rear clamping down when I hit the brakes. For any normal supercar, these would be enough. A 261 mph hypercar on the other hand, well, that requires the Chiron’s hydraulically operated rear wing/air-brake. Stab the brakes above 120 mph and the wing stalls vertically, essentially acting like an airplane’s wing upon touchdown. 

But whereas the Chiron’s predecessor was more a car that’d give you time to contemplate the specific green hues of the foliage rapidly passing outside—the Veyron was never a track fiend, more a runway riot. The Chiron is an instinctual creature poised to devour even the squiggliest of roads.
Like riding a motorcycle, your eyes lead where you want to go in the Chiron in a sort of telepathic guidance. My hands seem like such pointless appendages gripped to the aluminum steering wheel, but I am very much in control. Bugatti’s engineers designed a car that’s as if my arms were connected directly to the Chiron’s chassis. Minute degree changes in the steering come quickly and sent back through your senses with tactile perfection. I can feel the tires molding themselves to the imperfect road underneath, the subtle suspension compressions, and the power and torque being brutally delivered to all four wheels by that massive motor just three inches behind my ears. Autopilot, this is not. This is a machine that’s at its best when you’re wringing it out like last week’s laundry.

Chiron, however, like the Veyron before it, is still a playboy’s mode of transportation. A car meant not just to thrill driver's along an alpine backroad, but one that can take on the Monaco Grand Prix circuit in the morning and dramatically whisk driver and passenger off for an evening in Turin. It’s a road-tripper. Inside, the cabin is lined with leather you’d believe was cashmere, stitching that looks as if it were completed by the best Milanese fashion houses, and Cartier-esque metalwork and gauges. It’s the sort of billionaire accoutrements I’d very much expect if I dropped $3 million on a Chiron. Though, it isn’t garish. The only real flourish inside is the theatrical Bugatti Line that separates driver from passenger in an LED “C” motif.

I spent two and a half hours behind the Chiron’s wheel. Two and a half hours blasting through the golden fields near California’s coast. Two and a half hours driving a car capable of rewriting your own internal source code. Bugatti’s business has always been about producing machines that deliver a mind-altering reckoning. Something that takes you by the shoulders, shakes you, slaps your face, and forces you to unshackle your mind from the past. 

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