Monday, September 23, 2019

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Bugatti Centodieci, a 1577-HP Hypercar now revealed

Automakers often turn to past glories to draw inspiration for new models.

Yet the surprise for the new Bugatti Centodieci, which has just been unveiled at Pebble Beach during Concours d'Elegance week, is which former model has played muse to it: the Centodieci pays homage to the EB110, as its name (which translates to "110") suggests.

Although one of the fastest cars of its era, the EB110 has never been regarded as a success. The Bugatti brand had been lying dormant for decades before it was revived by Italian businessman Romano Artioli in the late 1980s. An all-new factory was constructed at Campogalliano, Italy, near Modena to make the new model, which featured such innovative technology as a carbon-fiber core structure and a 553-hp 60-valve quad-turbocharged V-12.

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Timing was not on its side. The EB110 launched after the speculative bubble in supercar values had popped, and it always struggled to sell. Just 139 examples were built over the next four years until Bugatti collapsed into bankruptcy. Volkswagen bought the Bugatti brand in 1998, but the Veyron and then Chiron had no technical relationship to the EB110, and production was shifted to another new factory in Molsheim, France.

The plant at Campogalliano remains empty and derelict, although vandals are kept at bay by a dedicated groundskeeper. When Volkswagen bought the brand, the company ordered the vast Bugatti logo on the side of the factory to be painted over, but after two decades it is now showing through again. While there is no formal link between modern era Bugatti and this former incarnation of the brand, the connection with between Centodieci and EB110 means that this is where a small group of journalists, including C/D, were bought to see the new car for the first time.

Photo credit: Bugatti

Like the Bugatti Divo that was officially launched at Pebble Beach last year, the Centodieci is based on the Chiron but with unique bodywork and mechanical upgrades. These have made what is already an enormously fast car slightly faster, but the dramatic increase in the Centodieci's price over what we now need to think of as the regular Chiron is justified by both the visual makeover and the car's much greater exclusivity. Just 10 will be built, with deliveries to customers in 2021. All were sold well before the formal announcement was made, despite a price of about $8.9 million—more than twice as much as the Chiron.

Although limited in scope, the mechanical changes are still sufficient to make the Centodieci the quickest-accelerating Bugatti so far. The 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W-16 engine has been retuned to deliver 1577 horsepower—up from the Chiron's 1478 horsepower—and weight has been reduced by a modest 44 pounds. Bugatti claims a 2.4-second zero-to-62-mph time, a 6.1-second zero-to-124-mph time, and a 13.1-second zero-to-186-mph time; the last of these benchmarks is a 0.5-second improvement over the Chiron.

Aerodynamics include a sizable rear wing; Bugatti said peak downforce is "more than 90 kg [198 pounds]" and claimed the Centodieci's levels of lateral acceleration are similar to those of the more dynamically focused Divo. Like the Divo, the Centodieci's top speed is limited to what we have to refer to as a mere 236 mph, 25 mph less than the Chiron can currently manage.

The Centodieci's design incorporates many themes taken from the EB110, although without ever coming close to being a pastiche of its predecessor. At the front is a similar grille graphic and a windshield that wraps around an invisible A-pillar. On the side of the car is a new air intake incorporating five apertures in the same pattern as those of the EB110, and at the rear the exhaust tailpipes are stacked two by two within the huge diffuser.

Bugatti design director Achim Anscheidt says that the EB110 has always been a personal source of inspiration. "We think it should not be forgotten, it was the start of a trilogy," he told C/D at the unveiling in Campogalliano. "The EB110 and then the Veyron and then the Chiron: it started the revival of the Bugatti brand after it had been silent for decades."

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Anscheidt also credits Stefan Winkelmann, who became Bugatti boss last year, with the decision to built limited-run special cars, with this Centodieci following the Divo and the one-off La Voiture Noire. "He had the vision of doing one-off and few-off models on the technical base of the Chiron," he said. "For many years, we thought the EB110 was a supercar that deserves not to be forgotten. Now we can come back to look at it and welcome it back into our history."

When we interviewed Winkelmann at Pebble Beach last year, he admitted that he was keen for Bugatti to do a second model range, most likely some kind of ultra-luxury SUV. But it is increasingly clear that limited-run specials like the Centodieci will continue to feature in future plans. "We have no shortage of inspiration," Anscheidt said in Campogalliano, "but I think the strategy of a design department should not only be triggered by history. We love these projects, but we must also do projects where we look forward.

"I think that is at the forefront of Stefan Winkelmann's thinking these days."

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