Environmental regulations may be pushing the auto industry to produce hybrid and electric cars, while consumer preferences demand high-riding, cargo-hauling SUVs and crossovers. But for some, raw speed still trumps all other considerations. Among them are fans of Bugatti, who are no doubt thrilled to hear that the latest vehicle from Volkswagen’s ultra-luxury arm just became the first production car to top 300 miles per hour.
Bugatti test driver Andy Wallace reached 304.773 mph on Monday at Volkswagen’s banked test track at Ehra-Lessien in Germany. That’s nearly 40 mph faster than Bugatti’s last record holder, the Veyron Super Sport (268 mph), and well above its high-speed competitor, the Koenigsegg Agera RS (278 mph). (It’s also 287 mph than the Chiron that Bugatti showed off last summer, but that one’s made of Lego.)
In a statement, Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann said that company has been considering such a run for a long time, but now that it’s done, Bugatti has had enough of pushing the speedometer. In the future, he said, “we will focus on other areas.”
Bugatti’s new champion is a pre-production prototype of a special edition of the $3 million Chiron, which in its base form is electronically limited to 261 mph and goes from 0 to 60 mph in under three seconds. This variant is thought to be the new Chiron Super Sport, following the naming convention of the Veyron Super Sport. Bugatti hasn’t confirmed when it will debut the car, but next week’s Frankfurt auto show is a good bet.
To squeeze an extra 44 mph out of the Chiron, Bugatti made an array of modifications. According to Top Gear, which observed the run, Bugatti’s engineers lengthened the back of the car by about 10 inches to reduce drag and used a laser measuring system to regulate ride height. They used a pair of stacked exhaust pipes to aim exhaust away from the base of the car, improving the aerodynamics. (Similar exhaust pipes can be seen on the new, $9 million Bugatti Centodieci, another variant of the Chiron.) They replaced the adjustable rear wing with a fixed-position model, Top Gear reports, added a roll cage, and bumped the horsepower to 1,578 from the base model’s 1,479.
The unheralded hero of any speed run is the tires: At a certain threshold, the rubber can’t properly grip the asphalt, capping the car’s velocity. To hit 305 mph, the Chiron’s tires had to withstand 5,300 G while rotating 68 times per second. So Michelin made the car a special set of rubbers, with reinforced steel belts holding everything together. In a run on a test bench, the tires kept it together at 318 mph, and the engineers x-rayed each to have a proper look before attaching them to the car.