Since rising from its ashes for the second time in 1998, Bugatti has specialized in creating cars that are as fast and powerful as they are luxurious. And yet, competition — where luxury is superfluous — is a big part of its DNA. It renewed ties with its racing heritage by building a track-only two-seater around its mighty 16-cylinder engine.
Bugatti proudly calls the Bolide — which means “a very fast car” in French — the fastest and lightest concept it has ever built. Concept is the key term here; the Bolide is a one-off, and it has not been approved for production yet. It’s proof of concept that illustrates what a modern-day successor to the victorious Type 35 could look like.
Stephan Winkelmann, the head of Bugatti, said driving the Bolide is “like riding a cannonball.” Do you remember the 0.67 figure the company mysterious floated? That’s the car’s power-to-weight ratio, which was achieved using the kilogram-per-Pferdestrke formula used in Europe. It tips the scale at 2,734 pounds dry, and it has 1,824 horsepower. Put another way, it weighs slightly less than a Subaru BRZ, but it has over nine times the power.
Unlocking the full cavalry requires feeding the quad-turbocharged, 8.0-liter W16 engine 110-octane race fuel. Its output checks in at 1,600 horsepower (a figure that’s on par with the limited-edition Centodieci‘s) when it burns 98-octane gasoline, which is dispensed at virtually every pump across Europe. Computer simulations suggest that the Bolide’s top speed lies somewhere north of 310 mph, and that it can lap the Nürburgring track in 5:23.1.
Although the W16 is closely related to the unit that powers the Chiron, it received a number of modifications that reflect the fact that the Bolide was not designed for street use. It develops 1,364 pound-feet of torque thanks in part to four newly-developed turbochargers. Its intake and exhaust systems are derestricted to let more air travel through, and the oil system has been revised to cope with the high centrifugal forces experienced on the track.
Created in eight months, the Bolide benefits from an array of weight-saving techniques, including some not found in production cars. All of the screws and fasteners used to build it are made with titanium, for example. The auxiliary drive shafts are manufactured using a blend of carbon fiber and 3D-printed titanium. Aerodynamic innovations are part of the package, too. Bugatti points out the roof-mounted air scoop’s outer skin remains smooth at low speeds, but it grows what’s referred to as a field of bubbles at higher speeds to reduce drag.
Getting in the Bolide requires sitting on a sill, putting your feet in the footwell, and shifting the rest of your body in one of the carbon fiber seats. It’s a quick and easy process unless you’re over 6’5″, according to the company. While the seat is fixed, the pedals offer nearly six inches of travel. Once inside, the driver faces a rectangular steering wheel and a flat screen that provides vital information about the car and its surroundings. It’s not quite a stripped-out track car, but it’s certainly not as opulent as a Chiron. Soft, diamond-quilted leather? Not here.
Achim Anscheidt, the head of Bugatti’s design department, explained form followed performance. His team faced the challenge of making the body as minimalist as possible to keep weight in check, integrating the necessary aerodynamic add-ons, and still drawing something that looks like a Bugatti. Up front, the shape of the fenders and the horseshoe-shaped grille form a subtle visual link between the Bolide and other recent additions to the firm’s range, like the Divo. It’s a different story out back, where X-shaped lights flank four exhaust tips. Anscheidt noted it’s a styling cue that’s loosely inspired by the Bell X-1, which was the first plane to break the sound barrier.
“For the first time, we are really showing what the W16 engine is capable of,” Winkelmann summed up.
Bugatti still hasn’t decided whether to build the Bolide. If it reaches production, it will undoubtedly arrive as a limited-edition model with a multi-million-dollar price tag. It complies with the FIA’s safety requirements, so it would in theory be allowed to compete, though we don’t know which series it would participate in yet.