Space & Speed
If you’re driving a car that’s capable of 300-mph-plus (or about 483-kmph) runs, you want it to have a roof. Bugatti never planned an open-air variant of its record-setting supercar stunner, the Chiron Super Sport, but the French marque did realise that buyers of the US$3 million (RM12,555,000) hypercar may want to brighten up the cabin a bit. Enter the Chiron Sky View. Debuted in Pebble Beach in 2018, the Chiron Sky View sees two glass panels inserted in the roof, one above each seat. The result is an airier, more spacious cockpit that enhances the monumental sensation of speed that the 1,479 hp Chiron imparts. How can we be sure? We were fortunate enough to sample it around California’s Carmel Valley recently.
Our test chariot arrived towards the end of The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering. A trio of snarling Ferrari F50s ripped away from the parking lot to reveal a shimmering, all-white Chiron Sky View lurking, a grinning Butch Leitzinger behind the wheel. Leitzinger is a former professional endurance racer who’s notched two class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (in a Bentley EXP Speed 8) and a three-time 24 Hour of Daytona champion. Leitzinger now works as a Bugatti testing and development pilot.
He explains that the roof of carbon-fibre monocoque employed in the Chiron was designed from the beginning to accommodate the addition of the glass panes. “Bugatti originally wanted removable panels, but engineers ultimately realised that wouldn’t work," he shares as we inch our way through the bumper-to-bumper traffic during Monterey Car Week. “There were structural integrity issues, given the speeds the car achieves, so full removal of these panels was too challenging."
Replacing them with glass was within the realm of possible and so two panels, each measuring 2 feet 1 inch in length by 1 foot 5 inches in width, were installed. There are four laminated layers to each piece, which helps stiffen the glass, add a layer of tint to thwart heat and sun damage and ensure the cabin stays quiet at speeds. The inclusion of the panels also affords an extra inch of headroom, perfect for taller occupants who may have found the alternative cabin a mite cramped and claustrophobic. At 6-feet 2-inches, this author – who found the regular Chiron’s cabin decently spacious – was pleasantly surprised by how much of a difference an inch can make. Lastly, while this option tacks on a cool US$65,000 (about RM272,025) to the Chiron’s monroney, the feature also adds some exclusivity among Chiron owners.
The beauty of the Chiron’s interior is its sparseness. This marvel of engineering seeks to achieve a properly timeless aesthetic and the quickest way to show a car’s age is its centre console. The purposeful exclusion of big, digital touch screens in lieu of four small, well-milled metal dials (and one oddly cheap, plasticky hazard light button) means the uninterrupted swath of buttery leather that coats the interior remains at the forefront. The Sky View brings more ambient light to the affair, letting you bask in the leather’s refractive glow.
Traffic eases and Leitzinger finds a lengthy expanse of tarmac free of other vehicles. “I’m going to punch it for a second," he warns. His foot sinks to the floor, the quad-turbo W-16 engine roars, and I am mashed against the tanned leather seat by the relentless 1,180 ft lbs of torque. The Chiron devours the void as passing trees blend into a single green blur beside – and over – my head. As the back of a looming crossover rapidly enlarges in our windshield, Leitzinger drills the stopper pedal and the eight-piston front calipers chomp into carbon rotors the size of manhole covers, yanking us to a halt within metres. He swings the prow into a real estate office parking lot, where I note that our chariot’s value exceeds several of the advertised properties, and hops out. Magical words follow: “Your turn."
The Chiron is a delight to drive, chock with gobs of power that await your unleashing. The accompanying whirs and wheezing from the quartet of turbos add an unrivaled acoustic element to the experience, and it’s easy to giddily mat and lift the throttle pedal to loop the intoxicating soundtrack. Firing over the sinewy Larueles Grade road, opportunities to hammer through some curves arise and the Chiron laps up each turn. “This is the best steering I’ve ever felt in a car," Leitzinger notes, adding that he worked extensively on developing the electronic assist for the steering with Bugatti’s head of engineering. “Normally, power assist robs you of road feel, but with this, you can get an actual feel. You get all the communication you want but the computer filters out all the noise you don’t. It’s a perfect set up." No arguments here.
Rocketing along the dreamy mountain road, I was acutely aware of the different sensation driving the Sky View offers compared to the regular Chiron. In the full hard-top, you’ve got a sense that peering out of the windscreen is like a helmet visor; the narrow-ish field of view here helps to heighten the (likely excessive) speeds you’re realising. The openness of the Sky View makes you feel like you’re sitting on the tip of a launched missile. No matter where you glance, you see something streaking by. If any downside of the Sky View exists, it’s only that electronically controlled glass wasn’t utilised, as found in certain Mercedes-Benz and McLaren models. The ability to go from translucent to opaque with the press of a button would be a nice inclusion.
Leitzinger has logged some 30,000 miles behind the wheels of various Bugattis. My distance behind the wheel of the Chiron Sky View clocks in somewhere around 50 miles. What I wouldn’t give to have 29,950 more.