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Bugatti Tourbillon ushers in fresh era with new V16 engine

20th June 2024
Simon Ostler

Bugatti has signalled the arrival of a new era. Twenty years after the brand invented the hypercar with the Veyron, the first ever road car with more than 1,000PS (735kW), the automotive pioneer has delivered this: the Bugatti Tourbillon, to further extend its pursuit of the ultimate road car.

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From the outside at least, it appears to be an evolution of the Chiron. A philosophical progression perhaps, but aside from some familiar looks, the Tourbillon is an altogether different beast. With a whole new engine, a honed aerodynamic philosophy and a refusal to allow stagnation, Bugatti has delivered another huge step forward in performance and technology.

The name itself, Tourbillon, refers to the game-changing innovation in watchmaking that is still revered today after more than 200 years. And timelessness is the focus here for Bugatti, with a car that it says is designed to remain relevant for generations.

Prototypes are already out on the road, and deliveries will be made in 2026 for 250 customers who will have paid the €3.8million starting price. It’ll be hand-built in true Bugatti style in Molsheim once Bolide and Mistral production is complete.

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Bugatti Tourbillon: A brand-new V16 engine

The first new Bugatti since the W16 was laid to rest, the Tourbillon ushers in an exciting new era for the marque, one that will be powered by a brand-new 8.3-litre naturally-aspirated V16 engine. It’s been developed from scratch in collaboration with Cosworth and weighs just 252kg, but where the preceding W16 was supplemented by four turbochargers, this new V16 is coupled to three electric motors, two on the front axle and one on the rear.

Power produced from the combustion engine alone is 1,000PS (735kW), while the additional output from the electric motors increases that to a total of 1,800PS (1,324kW). The Veyron first appeared in 2004 with 1,001PS (736kW), the Chiron was introduced in 2016 with 1,500PS (1,103kW). Progress, it seems, is inevitable.

But with the incorporation of electric motors, this new engine promises to deliver performance in a way that no Bugatti has done before. Power, throttle response, and torque fill are the priorities for the Tourbillon’s electric powertrain that can spin up 24,000rpm, but it’s also capable of delivering up to 37 miles of electric range (WLTP) from its 25kWh 800-volt battery.

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All of this performance is sent through a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission built for the Tourbillon that has been designed to retain the engine’s analogue, naturally-aspirated feel. It’ll rev all the way to a 9,000rpm redline for what Bugatti says will be a “visceral, awe-inspiring experience that will echo for eternity”. We can’t wait to hear what that sounds like.

The results are as balistic as you’d imagine. The Tourbillon will sprint from 0-62mph in 2.0 seconds on the way to a 276mph top speed.

But surely, we hear you cry, all of these batteries and motors must make the Tourbillon not only the most powerful but also the heaviest Bugatti of all time? That is not the case. We mentioned this new V16 engine weighs only 252kg, but that’s not the only lightweight component in this car. In fact, this car has been painstakingly crafted to save as much weight as possible, and the results are staggering. In total the Tourbillon weights 1,995kg (DIN), 1kg lighter than the Chiron. With that in mind this car is also set to greatly improve efficiency compared its predecessors, which is a welcome fact, no matter how much spare cash you have lying around.

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Bugatti Tourbillon: An exercise in efficiency

So, how has that weight saving been achieved? Well to start, the chassis has been fabricated from the latest carbon composite materials. The battery has been incorporated into the monocoque structure itself, while the diffuser also forms part of the rear crash structure à la Formula 1 cars. The airflow ducts around the front of the car are also integral to the body which means everything you see on the car is multi-purpose and efficient.

The motors themselves are also incredibly lightweight. The new dual-motor front e-axle fits within the same space as what came before it in the Chiron, while luggage space has actually been improved thanks to tighter packaging and cleaner chassis design.

Also new is the Tourbillon’s 3D-printed forged aluminium multi-link front and rear suspension which is 45 per cent lighter than the Chiron’s steel setup. The brakes meanwhile are carboceramic and operated with a bespoke brake-by-wire system that works seamlessly with the hybrid powertrain.

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Bugatti Tourbillon: Aerodynamic equilibrium

The design is of course familiar, but Bugatti has still found ways to fine tune what is largely a similar shape to what came before with the Chiron. The bodywork we can see at the front is more intricately sculpted, while the rear end is more of a departure.

For the Tourbillon to reach speeds of up to 236mph, not only do its aerodynamics need to be spot on, but also its cooling. The latter is even more important here because of the addition of the new electric powertrain.

Bugatti says it has achieved an aerodynamic “equilibrium” that allows for the Tourbillon’s rear wing to remain submerged even at its highest speeds. One of the many forces at play here are a new diffuser which begins as far forward as the back edge of the cabin, and produces an ideal level of downforce to help keep the car balanced. The result is a much higher exit point, which reaches around halfway up the rear of the car, and necessitates a new narrower design to the rear bodywork with an integrated LED bar.

The airflow over the top of the car is equally well managed. Every surface has been honed to deliver optimum airflow for both aerodynamic and cooling benefit, often simultaneously.

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Bugatti Tourbillon: A timeless interior

Bugatti’s hypercars are, of course, just as much about travelling in style as they are about munching miles at 200mph. And in keeping with the timeless philosophy of the Tourbillon, the interior has been designed with the concours d’elegance lawns of 100 years’ time in mind.

Analogue authenticity is the focus here, portrayed perhaps most obviously by the analogue instrument cluster designed and built by Swiss watchmakers and comprising more than 600 parts made from materials including but restricted to titanium, sapphire, and ruby. It’s a thing of beauty, not only in construction but also implementation. Built into a static central hub of the steering wheel that remains in place as you turn the rim of the wheel around it.

The centre console is crafted from a single block of anodised aluminium and crystal glass and houses a pull switch to start the engine. There is a touchscreen, which is hidden away unless you ask it to appear atop the dashboard in either portrait or landscape orientation. It’s loaded with Apple CarPlay and will also show vehicle data at your request.

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In terms of driver comfort, the seats are fixed to the floor to keep them as low to the ground as possible, the pedal box is, however, electrically adjustable. Those who for some reason would rather mask the sound of the V16 engine will also be able to enjoy a bespoke speakerless sound system that will instead use the shape of the interior panels to amplify sound around the cabin.

It’s always a big moment when Bugatti reveals its latest work of art, and the new Tourbillon looks like exactly that. At this stage we have no doubt it will once again transform the understanding of what’s possible in a road car, and we can’t wait to see and hear more of what this new 1,800PS (1,323kW) hypercar has to offer.

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