I was sitting in the passenger seat of a $4 million supercar, with nearly 1,500 horsepower, staring down a highway entrance ramp that looked just about perfect. It was long and straight with a steep rise on the side to block the view of anyone who might see what was about to happen.
Butch Leitzinger, a retired racing driver, was going to show me what the new Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport could do.
He mashed down the accelerator pedal and four turbochargers on the 16-cylinder engine behind us sucked in a massive whirring breath of air. The engine blasted through a quick gear shift as the car launched down the straight stretch of road, both of us slammed hard into our seat backs. After a couple of seconds, Leitzinger lifted his foot off the gas. As he braked hard to slow the car so we could merge into slow right-lane traffic on the highway, there was an explosive blast of air — the turbochargers were redirecting pressurized air into the atmosphere instead of into the engine.
Leitzinger has done this sort of thing with me before in a “standard” Bugatti Chiron — he and I shared a 325 mile drive in a Chiron in the summer of 2019 — but acceleration in the Pur Sport was more brutal. It’s not that the engine is any more powerful, but the Pur Sport’s 7-speed transmission is geared for quick off-the-line acceleration at the expense of top speed. The Pur Sport can’t go quite as fast as the standard Chiron, assuming you can find someplace to approach either car’s top speed. But it will squeeze your eyeballs harder when you step on the gas and it can still get to 217 miles an hour. That’s probably fast enough for most of us.
The Pur Sport is one of several Chiron variants and special editions Bugatti has created to entice the world’s wealthiest to purchase just one more multimillion dollar supercar. Bugatti is owned by Volkswagen Group (VLKAF) and is its most expensive car brand by miles.
The Pur Sport is more about responsiveness, reflexes and cornering than the standard, relatively easygoing Chiron. Since it doesn’t have to attain absurd top speeds, the Pur Sport can have a gigantic wing on the back providing aerodynamic downforce for better high-speed grip. (The standard Chiron has a wing, too, but it’s a complex and relatively heavy retractable one that automatically moves up and down.) It also means tires that are more suited to cornering, since the tire engineers at Michelin didn’t have to worry about the rubber ripping apart at speeds of more than 250 miles an hour.
The Chiron model line is gradually approaching the end of a planned 500-car production run that started in 2016. As of early June 2021, 300 have been built, and another 150 are already reserved and awaiting completion. Only 50 more are still waiting for final orders, according to Bugatti. The brand’s Molsheim, France, factory only turns out about 80 cars annually so, even now, it will still take a few years to build all the remaining cars.
That 500-car run only includes models in the Chiron line. Other Bugatti models, like the Centodieci, of which 10 will be built, Divo, almost all 40 of which have now been made, and the nearly $20 million one-of-a-kind La Voiture Noire, are not included among the 500. These cars all look somewhat similar, because they share the Chiron’s engineering which, while impressive, doesn’t allow for drastically different body shapes. None of these models are convertibles. They can’t be because the Chiron’s underlying structure makes that virtually impossible.
Since most Bugatti customers own more than one, these variants and new models will give owners reasons to keep buying. That’s in addition to drawing in new customers, of course.
The Chiron Pur Sport has a starting price of $3.6 million. It was created at the request of customers who wanted a car that was more fun to drive at the sorts of speeds they might actually go in the real world, Leitzinger explained. (In this case, “real world” means driving at speeds of 80 to 120 miles an hour or so.)
The differences in the steering feel and ride quality are noticeable. The steering is quicker and more immediate in the Pur Sport and the ride is distinctly firmer. As I criss-crossed the border between New York and Connecticut on winding two-lane roads and small highways, I was barely tickling the well-muscled underbelly of the Chiron Pur Sport’s performance potential. Even so, I noticed the brutal kick of the faster acceleration and the nicely balanced way it took corners.
In many ways, the Chiron Pur Sport makes more sense than the regular Bugatti Chiron. The standard Chiron is really a grand touring car — easygoing, beautiful to look at, comfortable and pleasant to drive — but with weirdly outrageous power and acceleration. You can cruise pleasantly along, when the road in front of you opens up, squeeze down the gas pedal and watch the view around you melt into a smear rushing past the side windows. It’s like having your own private roller coaster hand-assembled from the highest quality materials and you can hit that steep downhill part whenever you want.
I have always really liked the Bugatti Chiron. I love that it makes no real sense and fits into no traditional categories. It’s a comfortable car for an hours-long drive, but it has zero space for luggage and an oceanic thirst for high-test gasoline. Still, it’s a pleasure to have so much power in a car that’s so beautifully built and never intimidating to drive
Now, besides the Bugatti Chiron, Chiron Sport and Chiron Pur Sport there is yet another Chiron variation. The Chiron Super Sport, was just recently announced. The Bugatti Chiron Super Sport takes exactly the opposite approach from the Pur Sport. It is all about smooth driving and top speed. There is no fixed rear wing to slow air flowing over the car. There are even holes in the body above the front wheels to allow air trapped in the wheel wells to escape. The Super Sport’s top speed is 273 mph. Prices start at about $4 million.
And it will give loyal Bugatti customers yet another flavor to choose from.