By Dan Neil 

THE TROUBLE with any Bugatti is legibility. Sure, they are fast; a modified Chiron set a series production road-car record of 304.7 mph in 2019. But the badges are so small and they go by so quickly. How are people supposed to read that?

And thus the Chiron Pur Sport's extraordinary fixed rear wing, a carbon-fiber scimitar emblazoned with the word. Also, should anyone wonder how many cylinders, the Pur Sport has "16" stenciled on its horse collar-shaped, 3D-printed grillwork -- a charismatic touch drawn from the company's racing history, if a little, um, AutoZone-y, in this presentation. Maybe uncheck that box.

Whenever I encounter one of these cars in the real world, away from the auto-show stand, I am struck by their dual moral status. They are dazzling objects, scintillant with human ingenuity, sublime in craft and overwhelming in effect, like a pipe organ at point-blank range.

But the clientele? As I watched our Pur Sport tester being unloaded, I hoped it would one day become the cherished centerpiece of an aficionado's collection. But I won't be surprised if, six months from now, it is halfway up a lamppost on Tverskaya Street and the owner's ocelot is missing.

Bugatti will build only 60 of these brilliantly engineered codpieces, to order, and sell them for between $3.6 to $5 million.

Some may yet be hazy on what a Bugatti is, or was. Founded by Ettore Bugatti in the early 20th century, in Molsheim, France, Automobiles Ettore Bugatti prospered in the decades between the world wars building and selling luxury cars and sports-racers, often to wealthy, danger-courting dilettantes.

The company we know today is a beautiful fiction, a commercial fantasy ginned up by VW Group patriarch Ferdinand Piëch. Having acquired the rights to the marque in the late 1990s, Piëch ordered his forces to build the fastest, most powerful sports car evah, to be brought safely into the ether of immortality by such innovations as a high-rise, strut-mounted adaptive rear wing. Piëch called it the Veyron 16.4 (2005-2015). He even rebuilt Ettore's beloved orangerie on the grounds in Molsheim. I've been there. It's cool.

Introduced in 2016 -- to a resounding chorus of whys, admittedly -- the Chiron is faster/better/badder evolution of the Veyron. He be thick, absolutely cray cray. Its immensity is engraved on its intake plenums: "1,500," as in brake-horsepower. They might have added an asterisk noting a torque output of 1,600 Newton-meters (1,180 pound-feet) from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm (emphasis added) but it would have gotten crowded.

In any event, it's all the power and torque, ever and always. Amen. At full chat the 8.0-liter, quad-turbocharged W16 consumes 60,000 liters of air a minute and the gas tank runs dry in about 10 minutes. How was your trip across Montana?

When the big truck from Molsheim arrived two weeks ago, I had a choice of spending the day with a Chiron Sport model or with the new, track-focused Pur Sport edition. The Sport is the fast one (top speed 261 mph). The Pur Sport is the quick one. While the latter's top speed is limited to 217 mph, it gets there horrifyingly sooner. According to the factory, the Pur Sport can accelerate from a standstill to 186 mph in less than 12 seconds, which is about as long as it takes most people to read this sentence aloud.

Well, that being the case, I told the driver, I'll take the Pur Sport. Just let me get my kidney belt.

Here I should introduce a man with the worst job in motor sports. Jamie Morrow is a British racer and instructor based in Florida who, when tasked by the factory, rides with journalists during Bugatti test drives. Oy. In deference to Mr. Morrow and my driving privileges, I kept my hooning to a minimum. To properly exercise such a car you really need to own your own country, which conveniently some customers do.

Sampling these forces on an open road, even at 50%, is aweing, humbling and it makes the next fast BMW you get into feel like it's dragging an anchor. The rumble of the thing is in league with the underworld. Yet what surprises me about any Bugatti is how comfortable and tractable they are. You just happen to be going 140 mph. I wonder if the "uncanny refinement" argument holds up in court?

The Chiron was initially optimized for stability at maximum speed. The Pur Sport's calibrations are about increasing acceleration rates and what the factory euphemizes as "extreme agility." That's when the car throws your sunglasses out the window and your wife threatens to leave you if you don't stop.

Shod with four of the meatiest, mightiest, most adhesive-treaded tires I've ever seen on any car, road or race -- custom-compounded Michelin Sport Cup 2 R's, 285/30 R20 in the front and 355/25 R21 at the rear -- the Pur Sport's grip on Earth is like Antaeus's sandals soaked in dragstrip compound. The nominal figure is 1.6 G lateral acceleration, or almost twice the force of gravity in side-loading. I bet it's more. Between the heroic rubber and 2.5 degrees of increased negative camber, the Pur Sport responds to decisive steering inputs hard enough to move loose change from one pocket to the other.

The Chiron was already a rocket sled, so making it accelerate harder took an astonishing amount of work, and money. Bugatti spent a reported $120 million developing the Pur Sport, much of which would have gone into overhauling and re-cogging the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The spread of gear ratios was shortened 15%, making the Pur Sport's seventh gear ratio comparable to the Chiron's fifth gear. The felicitous repacking of gears does wonders for the car's roll-on acceleration. In sixth gear, the Pur Sport accelerates from 60 to 120 kmh (37.2-62 mph) in 4.4 seconds, 41% faster than the Chiron. And feel free to make your own weather. The Pur Sport's redline (6,900 rpm) is 200 rpm higher than that of the standard Chiron.

Thrusty McThrustface does sacrifice the Chiron's hydraulic actuated adaptive rear wing, to save weight. That's OK. I was never going over 200 mph anyway.

Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport

Base price: $3.6 million

Price, as tested: $3.96 million

Powertrain: mid-mounted 8.0-liter W16 with dual sequential turbocharging; seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; rear-biased AWD, using a torque transfer differential on the front axle and transverse differential lock on the rear.

Power/torque: 1,479 hp (SAE) at 6,900 rpm/1,180 pound-feet at 2,000-6,000 rpm

Length/width/height/wheelbase: 178.9/80.2/47.7/106.7 inches

Curb weight: 4,340 pounds

0-60 mph <2.5 seconds

0-186 mph <12 seconds

EPA fuel economy: 10/8/13 mpg

Cargo capacity: 2 cubic feet

Write to Dan Neil at Dan.Neil@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 16, 2021 08:15 ET (12:15 GMT)

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