The speedo needle sweeps past 300kph and continues its relentless arc around the dial. There’s plenty more to come, but at 313kph I back off the gas. This is neither the time, nor the place, for further heroics… especially as just half an hour earlier I’d signed a form that said I would end up buying the Bugatti Chiron Sport (or what was left of it) if things went pear-shaped. That would be a debt even five lifetimes wouldn’t be enough to pay off.
In any case, I’ve done enough to re-establish what I already knew from having driven the standard Chiron a couple of years ago at its international launch in Portugal — in other words, that the Bugatti sits in a different stratosphere to even the most extreme offerings from Ferrari, Lamborghini et al. It’s once you get past 200kph, and even more so once you get past the triple-ton, that the 1,479bhp/1,600Nm nuclear-force wallop of 8.0 litres worth of quad-turbocharged 16-cylinder engine makes its brutality felt. Where the rate of acceleration begins to tail off in ‘regular’ hypercars by this stage, the Bugatti is only just getting started.
Given how unhinged — yet remarkably civilised — the standard Chiron is, you’d hardly think there was the need for a ‘Sport’ version. The donor car is already too fast for the grey matter to comprehend, so any more would be just plain lunacy. However, the new derivative is all about subtle enhancements and increased tactility as the powertrain remains exactly as it is in the ‘base model’. But with a 0-100kph split of 2.5sec, and 0-200kph sprint in 6.5sec, there’s not too much to complain about, is there?
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Bugatti claims the Sport is 5sec a lap quicker than the regular Chiron around the Nardo handling circuit, and the key lies in a firmer suspension set-up and revised damping strategy, although this is only unleashed in the car’s ‘Handling’ mode. The Chiron Sport also launches out of corners with more vigour (not that the standard car was lacking in this department), thanks to a rear differential that’s been optimised with a new dynamic torque vectoring function. In addition, steering response has been sharpened up to make the Chiron Sport quicker to change direction.
Even though the Chiron tips the scales at a beefy 1,996kg, it’s already chockful of lightweight components. This is about as sprightly as a leather-lined road car with all the mod-cons can get when equipped with a 16-cylinder engine with four turbos strapped on, not to mention the ultra-robust brakes, cooling system and driveline components that need to stand up to such a powertrain. Given this fact, there wasn’t a whole lot of scope to reduce the Chiron’s girth, but the Sport does manage to come in 18kg lighter, thanks to a new set of thin-spoked rims, carbonfibre windscreen wipers (a production car first) and a lightened window over the engine compartment.
It takes a keen eye to differentiate the Chiron Sport from its standard sibling, but the most obvious giveaways are the bespoke wheels and the menacing four-exhaust cluster mounted centrally (in lieu of the twin outlets of the latter). Inside, you’ll find black adonised finishes for the switchgear and stitched ‘Chiron Sport’ motifs on the upholstery.
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Driving the Chiron Sport is pure sensory overload, and the human brain can barely take in the stupefying rate at which the car annihilates distance. It would take a back-to-back drive with the Chiron to take in the full magnitude of the enhancements made to the Sport’s steering and suspension, but what comes through loud and clear is how supremely cohesive and fool-proof — even in the hands of relatively inexperienced drivers — the car is.
A handful of other hypercar manufacturers may well churn out offerings with similar horsepower claims but the riveted-to-the-tarmac dynamics and hewn-from-titanium feel of the Bugatti sets it apart from the rest. It’s only after driving it and scrutinising the hundreds of immaculately sculpted details that you begin to understand why it costs as much as it does.
Piloting the Chiron Sport isn’t an experience, it’s an event. Perhaps I might one day get to tell my grandkids (who will doubtless be commuting in autonomous pods or drones) about that one time their grandpappy got behind the wheel of the grand overlord of fossil-fuel-burning cars.