Bugatti: a new horizon, approaching less rapidly Bugatti sidelines top speed to focus on an electric limo, sexy crossover and über-Chirons – though it can’t resist a crack at 300mph. By Georg Kacher.
Bugatti, maker of the world’s fastest, most luxurious hypercars, is plotting to expand its repertoire with an electric limousine that could revive the legendary Royale name plate. It will be central to a new direction for Volkswagen’s French luxury brand, as president Stephan Winkelmann seeks to expand the portfolio.
A couple more developments of the Chiron will arrive first, upping the intensity, before it makes way for a different kind of sports car. ‘In Bugatti’s future, maximum speed does not play the leading role any more,’ says Winkelmann. ‘From now on, we are going to put an emphasis on ultimate overall vehicle dynamics, light weight and modern sustainable luxury.’
NEW ROYALE FOR 2023
Sustainability is a key word shaping the thinking behind the Royale project. The plan is to use a stretched version of Porsche’s J1 platform, which will underpin this year’s zero-emissions Taycan. While the Porsche measures around 4.8m long, the Bugatti would be longer to give it the stature of the ultimate luxury car. Engineers plan to use carbonfibre and exotic metals lavishly in the construction, in a bid to keep weight down despite the size.
The e-Royale is not expected before 2023, giving Bugatti hope it will be able to blood solid-state battery cells. These replace the liquid or gel electrolyte used in today’s lithium-ion batteries with a ‘solid’ conductive material, whose superior heat-resistant properties help make cells more compact but more potent. Three electric motors will make around 870bhp, turning both axles for all-wheel-drive capability. That’s almost 300bhp more than the Taycan is expected to muster at launch.
Expect the Royale to be equally cutting-edge with its autonomous capability – Level 4 full autonomy in areas with HD mapping – and a digital concierge service to ease wealthy owners through their daily lives. The coachbuilt range-topper will naturally have an interior fully personalised to customers’ tastes – as you’d expect with an asking price of €700,000. It may even come in a range of bodystyles.
MORE SUPREME HYPERCARS
With its comeback car, 2005’s Veyron, Bugatti was light years faster than any other hypercar. But those days are gone, with rivals outbidding each other with claimed new speed records. Bad news for the 261mph Bugatti Chiron, which is no longer the fastest shark on the platinum-card coast.
To fix this issue, the Molsheim taskforce is already working on the Chiron R, which should be out in late 2021. Equipped with a more radical active-aero pack, more aggressive torque vectoring and a more highly tuned W16 engine good for an estimated 1600bhp (today’s peak is 1479bhp), the ultimate Bugatti is gunning for 300mph. Whether it will make it is still to be tested, but it will be a speed demon regardless and offered to 70 customers.
There will be other Chirons. Hitting the treble-ton will take some engineering, so a purer, simpler Superleggera arrives beforehand in early 2021, with a 100-unit production run. The engineers hope to shed 100kg, bringing the weight down to around 1885kg, which should dramatically improve acceleration and handling, despite the W16 engine being unchanged. An even more track-orientated, decontented, hardcore Chiron Supersport may follow, and a topless Aperta has been discussed. This model would be totally reskinned for maximum street cred, stable high-speed open-air driving and ground-effect aerodynamics.
Those cars will take the Chiron to the end of the road. Bugatti is looking to the torpedo-shaped Type 35 grand prix racer to inspire its successor. The 16-cylinder armoury that has powered the modern Bugatti story will bow out, but what will replace it in the sustainable era? Perhaps Audi Sport’s inline five or a 4.0-litre V8, both with electric assistance to crank up power. Whichever drivetrain is selected, it will be plumbed into the group’s SAZ architecture, the sports car platform of the future developed by Porsche and good for electric, hybrid and combustion applications.
AND WHAT OF A CROSSOVER?
The final piece of the jigsaw would be a crossover. Winkelmann kicked off the Urus SUV project while at Lamborghini, but he’s on record stating ‘there will be no SUV from Bugatti’. Fair enough – but that doesn’t rule out a sporty crossover with a higher seating position than a saloon, with a body lower and less boxy than a traditional SUV.
The idea is for a sexy, two-door crossover, more compact than the Urus and, crucially, much lighter. It will share some componentry with the big Lambo, including the 641bhp V8, but with some serious hybridisation to take output close to four figures. As a result it should eclipse even the Urus’s extraordinary performance, which bludgeons 0-62mph in 3.6sec and v-maxes at 191mph. Bugatti may need to tap the group’s factory network to assemble the model, tipped for up to 800 units annually from 2023. It’s a long way from a single 16-cylinder hypercar and an obsession with top speed.
Glancing back, powering forwards
BUGATTI TYPE 35 1924
Most of Bugatti’s racing heritage stems from this model line. Versions of the Type 35 won the Targa Florio and plenty of European Grands Prix in the five years from 1925 to 1930.
BUGATTI TYPE 41 ROYALE 1926
One of the most luxurious cars in the world. It was so overly ostentatious that even the aristocracy struggled putting money down for it during the harsh years of the Great Depression.