With this morning’s debut of the exotic Bolide, Bugatti appears to have answered the long-standing question of whether it will add a second hypercar to its line-up.
Then again, maybe not. While the Bugatti Bolide would seem to be a perfect fit alongside the marque’s current model, the Chiron, company officials cautioned that the 310 mph coupe is, at least for now, an “experimental study.” Meanwhile, Bugatti’s plans have been upset by not only the ongoing coronavirus pandemic but also reported discussions that could lead to the sale of the brand to Rimac, the Croatian electric supercar company.
“We are presenting our interpretation of a Bugatti track car of modern times to Bugatti enthusiasts all over the world and finally make their most fervent wishes come true,” Bugatti CEO Stephan Winkelmann said in a press statement. “For the first time, we are showing what the W16 engine is really capable of.”
The W16 is, of course, the unusual engine developed specifically for use by Bugatti that, in the Bolide, is said to punch out 1,824 horsepower, or a whopping 200 more than it currently produces in the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport. That’s all the more impressive considering the concept vehicle weighs in at just 2,733 pounds, or about half as much as a Chiron.
“Bugatti stands for the continuous quest for technological innovations – in alignment with the company’s brand values of excellence, courage, dedication,” added Winkelmann, who formally ran VW’s Lamborghini brand. “Bugatti never stands still. We are perpetually aiming for new and exciting goals, and the question that we always keep in mind is: what if?”
The Bolide’s name comes from French slang meaning, “It’s a fast car,” something backed up by Bugatti’s claim that it could reach a top speed of 310 mph. Surprisingly, Bugatti might need to rethink its plans, at least if it were ever going to put the sports car into production. A month ago, that would have put it on a path to claim the record as the world’s fastest production vehicle. But little SSC, a company few had ever before heard of, snatched the Guinness World Record when, on Oct. 10, it set a two-run average speed of 316.11 mph at a track outside Las Vegas.
Visually, the Bugatti Bolide is even more aggressive than the Chiron, if that could be possible, with a lower nose, steeper rake to the windshield, and a massive rear wing needed to keep the two-seater glued to the pavement at extreme speeds. At barely 39.2 inches, it sits significantly lower than Chiron overall. In the concept version, big white “X”s mark where a production model’s headlights would go.
“It is the very first time that my team had the freedom of creating an absolutely minimalistic design around the W16 engine. The result is the most provocative proportion of a modern Bugatti ever and the distilled quintessence of our Bugatti design ethos that form follows performance,” said Achim Anscheidt, Bugatti’s design chief. “The Bugatti Bolide, however, is a project more technically driven than shaped by style.”
Bolide does bear a familial resemblance, nonetheless, starting with the horseshoe collar grille and red-and-white Bugatti logo. It also mimics the Chiron – and the Veyron before that – with a two-tone paint scheme.
Everything about the Bolide pushes to extremes, starting with the scissor-style doors, the 16-inch wide rear tires, F1-style ceramic brakes and “morphable” air scoops.
“If the vehicle is driven at a slow speed,” Bugatti explained during an early morning debut, “the surface of the scoop remains smooth. In contrast, a field of bubbles bulges out when driven at fast speeds. This reduces the aerodynamic drag of the scoop by 10% and ensures a 17% reduction in lift forces. In addition, the flow onto the rear wing is optimized. At 320 km/h, (or 200 mph) the downforce is at 1,800 kilograms at the rear wing and 800 kilograms at the front wing.”
There seems little doubt Bugatti would like to build Bolide – or something like it. The company has been hinting that it could use a second model for some time. But plans were pushed back due to the pandemic that has caused all sorts of grief for parent VW AG. Ironically, demand for Bugatti vehicles has remained strong during the pandemic. During an interview on Bloomberg TV, Winkelmann said from a revenue and sales standpoint 2020 “may be the best year ever,” adding that nearly three-quarters of the cars Bugatti plans to build next year already have been ordered.
One of the big questions is who will own Bugatti in 2021. As TheDetroitBureau.com has reported, VW is considering the sale of some of its more exotic assets as it dumps billions of dollars into its EV and autonomous vehicle development efforts. The company currently owns a dozen different automotive marques and its Supervisory Board reportedly will next month consider selling Lamborghini and Bugatti, as well as Italian motorcycle company Ducati.
Insiders have said the most likely buyer for Bugatti would be Rimac Automobili, a Croatian company that already has a relationship with VW. More precisely, the Porsche unit currently holds a 15.5% stake in Rimac and a deal could see that jump to 49% in exchange for Bugatti.
Rimac itself has been developing some of the world’s fastest hypercars, albeit using all-electric drivetrain technology. What that might mean were it to get the Bugatti brand is uncertain but there has been growing pressure on exotic automakers to adopt electrification in some form or another. That could mean a very different sort of powertrain for Bolide – if it ever winds up being built.