Bugatti Chiron Sport vs. Chiron Pur Sport Comparison Test03/05/2021
Some emails are better than others. Case in point, when the Bugatti public relations person asks if you’d like to compare and contrast the Bugatti Chiron Sport against the new Chiron Pur Sport (pronounced “pure sport”), well folks, that’s a pretty good email. Yes, I spent a day driving two cars that between them have 3,000 hp, 32 cylinders, eight turbochargers, 128 valves, 20 radiators, and cost north of $7,800,000. That’s $3,757,150 for the exposed blue carbon-fiber Chiron Sport and $3,959,000 for the Jet Grey Pur Sport, so you know. We’ll get to the difference between them in good time, but first I’d like to tell you a little story about the first time I drove a Bugatti.
A Veyron Affair
In 2010, Bugatti unveiled the Veyron Super Sport at that year’s Pebble Beach hootenanny. The ultimate Veyron was fresh off its (then) record-setting top-speed assault, where Pierre-Henri Raphanel piloted the 1,200-hp mega-thing to a Guinness-certified top speed of 268 mph. I was a guest of Bentley at Pebble that year, and as it happened, at dinner I sat directly across from Dr.-Ing. Franz-Josef Paefgen (pronounced “peff-kin”), who at the time was the chief executive officer of both Bentley and Bugatti. I peppered him with questions about Veyron development, as Dr. Paefgen was brought in to “fix” the Veyron halfway through its evolution from fever dream of Volkswagen Group übermensch Ferdinand Piëch to its eventual 1,001-PS (987 SAE horsepower) reality. There were nine issues, Paefgen explained to me, holding up production of the Veyron, and the good doctor seemed pleased that I cared enough to want to know each and every one. Around the third course, our conversation turned to the Super Sport, and in between bites of something like a medium-rare A5 wagyu I said, “Dr. Paefgen, isn’t 268 miles per hour getting silly?” I’ll never forget his response.
He nodded, and then in his deep German accent, replied, “Yes, I agree with you. Top speed is for the children. The Veyron, as you know, is about acceleration und braking.” I replied that I didn’t know, as I’d never driven a Veyron. He looked stunned, then pointed his large finger at me. “You’ve never driven a Veyron?” he asked rhetorically. He then turned a few degrees to my left, pointed that same finger at the PR woman seated beside me and declared, “This man must drive a Veyron.” A few minutes later my phone was exploding, “Would tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. work for you?” It’s good to dine with the king.
That next morning, I drove a Veyron, a topless Grand Sport, for the first time. Since then, I’ve driven more than my fair share of the world’s first hypercar, including a regular Veyron and a couple of Vitesses (the 1,184-hp targa-topped final Veyrons), one of which used to belong to Arnold Schwarzenegger—cigar burn on the leather and everything. The 1,479-hp Chiron succeeded the Veyron in 2016, but until now I’d never driven one. I mentioned that I just drove two, yeah?
The Chiron Sport is, shocker, a sportier version of the Chiron. To put the idea into more digestible Porsche terms, going from Chiron to Chiron Sport is like going from a 911 Carrera S to a 911 GTS. Nothing too crazy has happened, but the result is a better driving car. Specifically, the Sport is 40 pounds lighter, has better aero, a torque-vectoring differential on the rear axle, and rides on a stiffer suspension. The incredibly attractive full carbon-fiber Turquoise Blue example I drove came loaded with $509,150 in options. To be fair, the exposed carbon accounts for $315,000, and things such as the $71,300 wheels and $62,000 French Blue leather and carbon interior make up the rest. To be fairer, the wheels are fantastic. Full price is, again, $3,757,150, more than most mid-century masterpiece homes I spend too much time lusting over on Redfin and Zillow that I also can’t afford. For those wondering, I try to block the price from my brain while driving cars like this. It’s the only way.
What’s 1,500 metric horsepower like? Silly. As Dr. Paefgen said about the Veyron, the Chiron Sport is half about acceleration. Also, forget about the horsepower. Instead, concentrate on the 1,180 lb-ft of thunderous, hammer-time torque that’s available from 2,000 rpm until 6,000 rpm (redline happens at 6,700). Those aren’t even the interesting numbers. We know this particular Sport has cleared the quarter mile in less than 9.5 seconds at nearly 160 mph. Kids, that’s a production street-legal car that you can buy! Well, you can’t buy one, but there are a couple of dozen humans who can. The initial acceleration isn’t scary. I mean, more than 4,500 pounds moving so quickly would/should frighten the pants off most observers and passengers. Spoiled old me has experienced the same sort of launch in cars such as the Tesla Model S P100D Ludicrous, Porsche 911 Turbo S, and the McLaren 765LT.
From behind the steering wheel, the Chiron Sport is as smooth a ride as exists. Like it’s on a greased roller coaster track. There’s no squatting, no squirming, no chirping—the car just rapidly glides down the road, and then hey, look at that, 140 mph. Time to get on the brakes/flip up that air brake (the hydraulically actuated rear wing doubles as an air brake). The Chiron Sport, then, is an incredibly, almost unbelievably quick luxury car. Back to what Dr. Paefgen told me: The Veyron’s successor is all about acceleration und braking. Notice he didn’t say anything about turning left or right.
A Purer Chiron Experience
Enter the Chiron Pur Sport. Built for Bugatti owners more interested in “challenging country roads,” the differences between the Sport and the Pur Sport might not sound like much. Weight reduction was a focus, though there’s only so much to be trimmed from a car of which so much is already carbon fiber. First to go was the movable rear wing and its associated hydraulics. In its place is a massive, 75-inch-wide, boomerang-looking fixed wing with the word Bugatti stamped in New York Times headline font. Lamborghini did the same thing when it turned the Aventador into the Aventador SV and saved around the same amount of weight when all was said and done (50 kilograms, or about 110 pounds). Ditching the moving wing accounts for most of the weight loss. Additionally, Bugatti already ditched the moving wing on the Divo, the close to $6 million Chiron derivative that the marque from Molsheim needlessly swears is a separate model (it isn’t). In fact, many of the modifications that take the Chiron from Sport to Pur Sport were first seen on the Divo. One could even think of the Pur Sport as a half-price Divo without the garish body kit. Though, as we’ll see, the Pur Sport is much more than that.
Up front, Bugatti’s iconic horseshoe grille is larger, and the splitter is wider, the effect being that the Pur Sport looks wider than the “regular” car. The rear diffuser is massive and visually serves as a framing point for the huge, 3D-printed, thin-walled titanium exhaust pipes. In an attempt to make the Pur Sport look lower than it is, the bottom third of the body is finished in exposed black carbon fiber. Inside, the leather’s been tossed in favor of lighter, sportier Alcantara. Plus, aluminum and titanium abound. One wonderful thing about all Chiron interiors is that a screen isn’t the central focus of the cabin. Not only is it refreshing, but in 50 years these cars won’t seem dated. Well, aside from that pesky steering wheel (autonomous car joke). Special praise is due to the analog 300-mph speedometer, a parting gift from another former Bugatti CEO and certified watch geek I’ve broken bread with, Wolfgang Dürheimer. The big, central speedo is so cool.
The Chiron Pur Sport’s active hydraulic dampers have been lowered, and the springs are much stiffer—65 percent stiffer up front, 33 percent at the rear. Of particular note is the 2.5 degrees of negative camber now found on each wheel. Pretty extreme for a factory-produced street-legal car. It’s to the point where you can notice the stance standing next to the Pur Sport. Each wheel is 9.0 pounds lighter and features special blades designed to “feed” that massive rear diffuser. Titanium brake pad base panels and new rotors shave another 7.0 pounds. Also worth mentioning are the new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires that are 285/30R20 up front and a still staggering (and staggered) 355/25R21 in the rear (fun fact: Veyrons did have larger 365-width rears). Speaking of tires, since the Pur Sport’s top speed is down from 261 mph to only 217 mph, it doesn’t require the expensive high-speed Michelins found on regular Chirons (rumored to cost $20,000 a set) or, God forbid, the carbon-fiber-reinforced set for the Chiron Super Sport 300+, whatever they cost (think of a number, now think of a bigger number). Probably best not to know. According to Tirerack.com, a set of four for your Pur Sport runs about $3,600.
All that said, by far the most important change made to the Chiron Pur Sport is to the transmission. It’s still a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that handles more torque than any other on earth, but the gears are 15 percent shorter. Actually, the transmission itself is 80 percent new. My sources tell me that Bugatti spent more than $120,000,000 developing the Pur Sport, a simply unbelievable amount of money for what’s essentially a low-run handling package. Unbelievable, I should say, until you realize what it costs to develop a mostly new transmission. Only 60 Pur Sports will be built, and although each one costs $400K more than a Chiron Sport, that’s only $24 million when they all get sold. Smart money says the Pur Sport’s new transmission will be used by whatever vehicle eventually replaces the Chiron. Know that out of the 500 Chirons planned, approximately 415 have been sold. For a single-model brand like Bugatti, a new car will be needed soon.
What does it all mean? I’ve been thinking about it for days, and I’m a little hesitant to write this, but the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport is the best car I’ve ever driven. Period. Full stop. End of story. It just is. The shortened gearset means that the thing’s acceleration is even more insane than the Chiron Sport’s. Rapid is the wrong word. It’s more ferocious, more all-encompassing, more sacred expletives producing. Again, peak torque is achieved at just 2,000 rpm, so the rabid freight train’s worth of torque is always there, right at your fingertips (I was pulling the paddles to change my own gears, thank you very much). On the suggestion of the Bugatti pro driver affixed to the passenger seat (per the brand’s insurance requirements) and fearful of whatever takedown move the California Highway Patrol would use on me, I stayed off the freeways, aiming instead for the twisted canyon roads Bugatti claims the Chiron Pur Sport is designed to tackle. They ain’t lying.
On one such road, there’s a decent-sized straight. In supercars too powerful for their own good (hello, McLaren 765LT), I’ve hit 135 mph by the end. In the Pur Sport, I saw over 140 mph—at the halfway point. Halfway. So, yes, the Chiron Pur Sport is essentially quicker than any other car, and even if there are some far-flung examples that do move more quickly in a straight line, said car doesn’t have the all-wheel-drive surefootedness, nor build quality, nor aircraft-carrier-arresting-cable-like brakes of the Pur Sport. I’m sorry to have to break the news to you like that, but it’s true. Up and down the entire mountain, I was seeing speeds that were 30 mph quicker than I’ve ever seen. I’m still processing it all, four days later. And yes, I saw those speeds everywhere, even and maybe especially through corners. The experience was beautiful. I mean that. A hopefully not once-in-a-lifetime thrill. The Pur Sport carved the road up. Remarkable.
Here’s something else: I’ve always loved listening to various iterations of Bugatti’s 8.0-liter masterpiece of an engine. However, what I’ve mostly heard, including on the Chiron Sport, are the sounds of the turbochargers and wastegates. It’s like listening to a steam factory during the holiday rush. Sure, there’s some exhaust, but not too much of it. In the Pur Sport, which features less sound-deadening material and that thin-walled exhaust, you get to actually experience the whirring and gnashing of 16 cylinders and 64 valves. It’s simply awesome and only adds to the already mind-boggling driving experience.
This is what separates the Pur Sport from not just the Chiron Sport, but every other Volkswagen Group Bugatti I’ve driven. Since the Veyron, Bugattis have only been about acceleration und braking. Those paying attention will notice I said VW-era Bugattis. I’m lucky enough to have driven both an EB110 GT and an EB110 SS. Those relatively small, hyper-stiff supercars handled beautifully. The Veyrons handled, but the feeling was much like a Bentley, not like a proper sports car. I’m sure part of what makes the Chiron Pur Sport so fantastic to drive are the tires, which Bugatti claims offer 10 percent more lateral grip, but in my mind, it’s the negative camber. Having that much bite, especially on the front end, transforms the car from a missile of a grand tourer into a world-class, truly exceptional driver’s car. The Pur Sport has its claws out, slashing away at the road. There’s nothing like it, and I loved every minute of driving it. To the point where I’m worried I’ll never experience an experience like that again.
Between Two Chirons
Sure, you can have fun on a twisty canyon road in the Chiron Sport, but there’s a loose, aquatic feeling. Too much hydraulic fluid, not enough bite. The steering feels relatively slow. As a comparison, and one that will no doubt make steam come out of current Bugatti CEO Stephan Winkelmann’s ears, the regular car’s a bit like a Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye around corners. Not exactly precise or elegant, but with the horsepower necessary to be quicker than every other car on the road. Hey man, the Hellcat has real carbon-fiber trim inside. This floaty, boaty, luxo-barge feeling has been true since the Veyron. Yes, it went remarkably fast in a straight line. But then you got out, ate something, and started thinking about Porsches. The Pur Sport? You begin fantasizing about knocking over a bank. The difference is staggering. This is not another seemingly never-ending Chiron appearance package. The Pur Sport is a fundamental redefining of what makes a Bugatti a Bugatti. This serious, sober, driver-focused machine is a new mission statement. I’m trying to come up with a way to explain the severity of what Bugatti has accomplished. Initially, I was going to say going from the Chiron Sport to the Pur Sport is like going from a Porsche 911 Turbo to a 911 GT2 RS, but it’s more severe than that. Porsche 911 Carrera 4S to 911 GT2 RS? I’m fumbling around here. The Chiron as a car—and, as a result, the marque—has been transformed.
After my Pur Sport experience, I called a friend of mine who recently paid four million dollars for one. His thoughts? “It’s worth it.” Not that I’ll ever be in his shoes, but if I were, I’d feel the same. Only nostalgia would lead you to purchase any other sort of car at this price point. Bugatti is no longer just about acceleration und braking. Driving, actual sweaty palms, hanging off the side of a mountain, blood in your ears, some skill is necessary; canyon-carving driving is now the brand’s focus. As Winkelmann has said of the Pur Sport, “This means we have come full circle, back to the good, old Bugatti tradition.” Welcome home.
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