The Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport Is a $3.6 Million Rebuke to Electrics
(Bloomberg) -- I didn’t arrive at a recent test drive of the 2021 Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport expecting much.
Don’t get me wrong—given the car’s base price of $3.6 million, I expected quite a lot compared to every non-Bugatti car ever. But setting the 2021 Chiron against the searingly fast model I drove in 2018, I didn’t expect much of a change. It’s the same car with a different paint job and a new spoiler, I thought. Cosmetic tweaks at most.
Yes, this variant looks pretty much like the regular Chiron—if you can call anything from Bugatti regular—with the same wide arch that stretches from the roof to the foot-sills and the same 8.0-liter W-16 1,500-horsepower engine under the hood. The one I drove did carry a classy new carbon-fiber-and-dark gray livery that adds tens of thousands of dollars to the multimillion base price. But the Chiron Pur Sport presents more significant changes as well, which came as welcome surprises the day I drove it around Los Angeles, from Beverly Hills to Mulholland Drive to the Pacific Crest Highway and back.
Lower, Leaner, Meaner
Those familiar with Bugattis will be able to tell the Pur Sport from others in the Chiron line right away. It looks subtly lower, wider, and leaner than the original, which debuted in 2016. Those less familiar with the Chiron should look for these specifics: The horseshoe grille on the front is bigger, as are the air intakes; the front nose is chiseled down; the front splitter is wider; and there are new air extractors on the top of the reshaped front fenders.
At the rear, a monstrous new spoiler wing (6-feet, 2-inches long) is set in a fixed position that allows it to save weight compared to the motorized, movable system that helped the fastest Chirons reach top speeds above 260 mph. (They don’t all have that huge lettering spelling out BUGATTI as this one does.)
Sitting below the diffuser are a set of novel, very thinly cut titanium 3D-printed exhaust pipes. It feels odd describing tailpipes as beautiful, but they are: Delicately formed and the color of gunmetal, they’re spun like the latticework of an enchanted spider. Other automakers, from Ford to Lamborghini, have used 3D printing for components, but this is the first time Bugatti has done it in such a visible place.
Other changes: The wheels have a negative camber, an inward tilt at the top, by 2.5 degrees, to improve grip around corners. A new magnesium wheel design with optional aero blades saves weight and prevents adverse turbulence in the wheel area; new Michelin Sport Cup 2 R tires are made from a softer compound that provides an even quicker response to your steering.
Quicker Around Corners
Most significant, the gear ratios have been shortened by 15%, Bugatti says, meaning the Pur Sport shifts more quickly—and is therefore better around corners—than the base Chiron. It’s like my old high school track team relay that put the longest-legged runner on the back stretch and the shorter runners on the corners. Shorter ratios handle curves better than longer ones.
The shorter gear ratios also help the Pur Sport accelerate quicker than previous Chirons, even if its top speed of 217 mph can’t touch the Sport’s 261-mph limit. That gearing and a considerable weight reduction—110 pounds—has the Pur Sport shaving maybe a tenth a second off the 2.4-second 60mph time of its predecessor Sport by a tenth of a second.
Driving the Pur Sport is a surreal experience. It accelerates more quickly and smoothly and with less effort than anything I’ve driven in 15-plus years of reporting.
The suspension is 65% firmer in front and 33% stiffer in back compared with other Chirons, according to Bugatti-provided specs, and while I can’t tell the difference in a tenth of a second on a sprint time, I felt the difference as I nipped my way around the sunny back side of Mulholland. The Pur Sport is perfectly balanced, instantly responsive, and glued to the road. It feels alien even compared to Ferraris and Lamborghinis in its ability to maneuver through traffic, surge up hills, and dance down canyon curves.
Even better, the Chiron is not embarrassingly extra like some supercars. By that I mean it’ll drop your Porsches and Bentleys like nothing—it’s a full second faster than some of their 0-60mph times—but it won’t be dramatic about it. It doesn’t prance tail up, engine screaming, tires screeching, belching, and popping along the way.
This will be welcome news for owners of a car that, despite its otherwise flamboyant appearance, elite pricing, and galactic performance, is easy enough emotionally and otherwise to use as a daily driver. It is as comfortable and easy to drive at 30mph as it is at 130mph, a certain steadfastness that is not often associated with supercars.
Granted, you can’t need anything resembling usable trunk space, and you better not mind stopping often to refuel (average gas mileage is 10mpg) or really checking your blind spots (three-quarter and rear visibility is useless). And you better remember to use the onboard lift, which raises the front of the car for those steep speed bumps they seem to think are fun in Beverly Hills. And also—you better not need cup holders.
The less-is-more feeling continues inside the Pur Sport, where the interior maintains the ascetic Chiron aesthetic—no center touchscreen, the smallish whip-stick-style “shifter” for the seven-speed automatic transmission, and, as I mentioned, zero (0) cup holders. There is a small bucket of a ledge that folds open in the bottom of each door; it’s about the right size to wedge in a paper coffee cup or a bottle of Pellegrino.
New, lightweight, racetrack-ready seats and mostly alcantara trimming help save tonnage, as does the decision to forego some sound insulation compared to the Chiron.
The weird thing is that even with that rather bleak-sounding interior, the car feels practically appointed. All trim and controls are made exclusively of either black, anodized aluminum, or titanium. Contrasting cross-stitching adds color highlights, as do the steering wheel’s 12 o’clock spoke and the blue center spine. The Bluetooth connects immediately; the infotainment, climate, and navigation controls are intuitive and unobtrusive.
In the Chiron Pur Sport, Bugatti remains unparalleled in the quality of its materials and craftsmanship, in its topnotch ergonomic comfort and sensibility, and in its excellent fit and finish.
Is It Worth It?
That’s the one question everyone has asked me about the car, even before “How did it drive?”
This is how I see it: If you can comfortably afford to purchase, drive, and maintain a seven-figure automobile—even when it gets dinged—and if you feel that it will give you joy, then yes, it’s worth it.
So the answer to whether the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport is worth that skyscraper of a price tag lies between you and your banker. Here’s a hint at how those conversations go: According to the company, the average Bugatti owner around the world owns two of them. With a third on the way.
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