2021 Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport
Gearly beloved. Track-focused handling and revised ratios make this the liveliest Chiron ever.
‘16’ is carried over from the Sport, reminding the world of your cylinder count
Driving the 2021 Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport on track forces you to recalibrate your brain. A stretch of tarmac that in any other car would feel like a long straight is in the Pur Sport just a pause for breath between two bends. That third-gear corner is now a fourth-gear one. Or you can stick with third and scare yourself silly when you open the taps as you exit the curve.
Although the Pur Sport has been referred to as a Chiron with improved stopping and turning, the most vital difference is that Bugatti’s engineers have shortened the final-drive gearing by 15 per cent, a radical change that tightens up the intermediate ratios and puts seventh gear roughly where fifth gear usually is.
It still feels luxurious inside, just decked out in Prada athleisure wear instead of a suit
The Pur Sport shares its 8.0-litre quad-turbo W16 engine with the base Chiron, bar a 200rpm stretch before the rev limiter intervenes, but the effects of the revised gearing are outrageous. Forget the meaningless 0.1sec lopped off the Chiron’s 2.4sec 0-62mph time, and the fact the top speed has been pruned to a mere 217mph, and look at the numbers in between: the 0-124mph figure falls from 6.1sec to 5.5sec and 186mph drops from 13.1sec to under 12. The impact is even more obvious out on the road, where those new ratios create an almost total lack of inertia and the point-and-squirt pull is just absurd. A standard Chiron, barely getting into its stride, needs 4.3sec to get from 50 to 70mph in sixth. The Pur Sport takes 2.4sec. When I got back into my BMW M8 test car at Heathrow and stuck the boot in, I had to check it wasn’t in limp-home mode.
This isn’t Bugatti’s first go at a more handling- focused Chiron. In 2018 it released the Chiron Sport, lopping 18kg from the standard car, stiffening the suspension and adding torque vectoring. And a year later Bugatti released the Divo, a 40-unit run of re-bodied Chirons that were 35kg lighter than standard, limited to a mere 236mph and cost a shocking (even by Bugatti standards) £5.4m.
The Pur Sport’s aim is along similar lines but even more focused: to prove the Chiron is more than a one-trick thoroughbred. While the Super Sport 300’s goal was to become the first production car to crack 300mph, the Pur Sport showcases some of the other strengths we expect from our supercars. Like turning. Dynamically, the Pur Sport is the most extreme of the lot. Which is why we’re driving it on unfamiliar ground for a Bugatti: a racetrack. Germany’s Hockenheim circuit is unfamiliar ground for me, too, and just to add an extra frisson of excitement, the surface is greasier than a hog at a tri-county show, and Bugatti has invited a load of potential buyers along to drive it after we’ve had a go.
Simple physics put the Chiron at a disadvantage over other supercars in this kind of environment. Greater use of carbonfibre everywhere – including even the windscreen wiper arms, replacing the adjustable wing with a fixed one, using magnesium for the stunning wheels and a titanium exhaust – has reduced the kerbweight by 50kg.
But that still leaves 1945kg before you’ve added a driver to the mix, making the Pur Sport one-and- a-part-finished Caterham heavier than a McLaren 765LT. No amount of fiddling is going to fully disguise that extra heft. But the other changes Bugatti has made have a good stab. The little-known secret about Bugattis is they’re far more fun to drive than you might expect. In fact a standard Chiron and the mildly modded Sport have genuinely tactile steering and feel surprisingly agile on flowing roads.
You feel it first through your hands, through the seat and through the floor. This is no stripped-out track missile; it still feels luxurious inside, just decked out in Prada athleisure wear instead of a suit. But even on a smooth track the ride is noticeably firmer, and no wonder: the springs are 35 per cent stiffer at the back and a massive 65 per cent stiffer at the front. There are stiffer top mounts too, and revised geometry increases the amount of negative camber, putting more of the special Michelin Pilot Cup 2R rubber to the ground during hard cornering. These tyres, chosen for their stickiness rather than extreme high-speed durability, are part of the reason the car’s top speed has been limited to 217mph Swapping to the new car after a few laps in the Sport, the Pur Sport’s sharper, more precise steering is immediately obvious. There’s a more positive, more immediate feel to the way the front end responds when you roll the steering away from centre – and a slightly more playful feel to the rear one.
The Pur Sport is definitely a more capable track machine, but it demands more attention in return, feeling edgier through corners and under braking, where its fixed wing means it misses out on the standard car’s airbrake function. By the end of our session the track has dried, but not fully, and both me and those Cup 2Rs are still struggling to stop the car exiting every corner in a four-wheel drift that would be terrifying if the car wasn’t so nicely balanced. Switch to the new ESC Sport+ mode and you can even play at drift hero in your 1479bhp toy on a bone-dry track, says Bugatti.
It’s an astonishing achievement, and entirely succeeds in its mission of creating an incredible track car from what was previously a car happiest away from curves. The only thing more capable of knocking the air from your lungs is the price. At £3.25m the Pur Sport is £650k more expensive than the regular Chiron (and £370k more than the Sport). Given that the average option spend on a Chiron is £350k that’s probably less of a buying deterrent than the fact the Pur Sport is harder, noisier, less relaxing – generally less Bugatti – than the standard car.
Bugatti’s focus on luxury and performance has always set it apart from the track-biased hypercar pack, but now it’s trying to play their game and it loses something in the process. It also gains by pushing the acceleration envelope just as rivals were catching up, and proving that corners needn’t be an inconvenience. Bugatti has always been about the extreme, the ridiculous. So why should the idea of a two-tonne trackday weapon be any different?
Sharper-handling but less-comfortable Chiron delivers knockout punch thanks to shorter gearing 5/5
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 2021 Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport
- PRICE £3.25m
- POWERTRAIN 7993cc 64v quad-turbo W16, seven-speed auto, all-wheel drive
- MAX POWER 1479bhp @ 6700rpm,
- MAX TORQUE 1180lb ft @ 2000rpm,
- 2.3sec 0-62mph,
- MAX SPEED 217mph
- WEIGHT 1945kg
- ON SALE Now
- EFFICIENCY 12.7mpg, 506g/km CO2 (figures for regular Chiron)
Magnesium wheels are each 4kg lighter, and claimed to add downforce Fixed wing rules out the airbrake of other Chirons. Longer shift paddles are fitted, as Bugatti expects you to use them more.
THE FIRST HOUR
- 5 minutes Fixed rear wing and magnesium wheels with carbon vanes make the Pur Sport stand out from Sport parked next to it
- 10 minutes Track familiarisation laps in Sport. Surface is scarily slippery
- 20 minutes Switch to Pur Sport: love the sharper front end but miss the spoiler air brake
- 40 minutes We’re oversteering a £3.3m car at every corner. Then the fuel light comes on 50 minutes Out on the road. New gearing means epic thrust, but ride is also worse