Feast your eyes on Bugatti’s ‘Holy Trinity’ of hypercars

By topgear, 01 April 2020

Whether you’re a child of the 1990s, a 2000s kid, or you’re the spawn of the 2010s, there’s a Bugatti hypercar for your generation.

Each of them shares four common traits: four turbochargers, four-wheel drive, a carbonfibre chassis, and performance numbers so potty they’d have made Professor Stephen Hawking check his working, twice. Welcome to the evolution of the Bugatti supercar, from EB110, to Veyron, to Chiron. Got a favourite?

The EB110, seen here leading the pack, first emerged in 1991, but only 135 were produced before Bugatti went bust again in 1995. The curious-looking two-seater was a luxury, leather and wood-lined capsule of speed which took the fight to the McLaren F1, Ferrari F50 and Jaguar XJ220 with a quad-turbo, 3.5-litre V12 engine developing 560hp. Power was thread – gingerly – through a 6spd manual gearbox.

Like the Veyron and Chiron that would come later, what Bugatti did was make a really, really fast car, then decide it wasn’t fast enough, and make an even more powerful, faster version – and dub it ‘Super Sport’. That’s an EB110 Super Sport pictured above.

More boost upped power to 612hp, and with only 40 sold – one to a young Michael Schumacher no less – it’s the rarer and more desirable car. Course, if you want an even more scarce EB110, you could always try to buy one of the pair specially prepared for endurance racing.

Bugatti claimed the EB110SS was good for 0-100km/h in 3.2secs2, a top speed of 354km/h, and independent tests found that the car would streak from rest to 160km/h in under ten seconds.

It was bananas, but it didn’t stop Bugatti going pop once more, and becoming dormant until 1998, when Volkswagen purchased the brand, and set about building a car – and a legacy – that would rewrite the supercar record book. 

The culprit was of course the Veyron, as seen here in the middle, in Super Sport guise. The story has become the stuff of automotive legend: the late VW boss Ferdinand Piech instructed his top engineers to build, as a showcase for the best of VW engineering, a 16-cylinder car with a top speed of 400km/h.

Development was long, painful and terrifically expensive, with massive hurdles to overcome in tyre tech, development, building a gearbox to take the torque and making the aero work over a body design that Piech insisted was not to be changed.

Ironically, the engine was reputedly one of the less fiendish aspects of the projects. The 8.0-litre quad-turbo W16 – distantly related to the W12 engine in the Bentley Continental GT – easily developed more than the nice, round 1,000hp  that had been specified.

It also powered the finished Veyron to a verified top speed of 407km/h, realising Piech’s dream. But, that meant when the likes of Koenigsegg and SSC came sniffing around with their own 400+km/h hypercars, Bugatti had some extra power in its locker to turn up the wick. 

That brought us 2009’s Veyron Super Sport. Its lower-drag body was pushed through the air with a 1,200hp version of the mighty W16, recording a 429.7km/h top speed average at Ehra-Lessien, and re-establishing Bugatti as the king scalp to be challenged in the top speed wars.

Finally then, to the current Bugatti: the Chiron. After years of rumours about how – or indeed, if – Bugatti would replace the Veyron (most centring around some sort of hybrid boost), Molsheim called everyone’s bluff and basically gave us a prettier Veyron with a load more power.

New turbos upped poke to some 1,500hp, though the top speed, limited to a paltry 420km/h, seemed like a bit of a let-down. It wasn’t until the streamlined, tuned-up Chiron Super Sport 300+ became the first street car to max out beyond 300mph that the Chiron’s potential was finally unleashed.

The question for Bugatti is, where next?

STORY Ollie Kew

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