Bugatti is about to unleash the Chiron, a monster of a car that's designed for life in the fast lane and those with plenty of cash to splash. By Thomas Falkiner
When it comes to speed, Bugatti is sovereign. Browse the internet, flip through that scruffy Guinness Book of Records lying in your doctor's waiting room, and you'll see that their intergalactic halo car, the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, is still the fastest street-legal production car on earth. How fast? Swallow some brave pills, keep the throttle pressed to the floor on a long stretch of road and you will rocket up to exactly 431km/h. Absolutely insane.
But even the most powerful of monarchs know that their thrones are under constant threat of being seized by upstarts. Which is why Bugatti has been working on an almighty successor to take over the Veyron's reign.
Named after Louis Chiron - a rather dapper Monégasque racing driver who, behind the wheel of a Bugatti (of course) kicked some serious Grand Prix butt back in the 1920s and 1930s - the Chiron promises to take celerity to a frightening new level after it is officially unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in March.
What will it look like? Well with Bugatti understandably keeping a Fort Knox-grade lid on the project, it is impossible to really tell. But I wouldn't be surprised if it resembles a slightly toned down version of the outrageous Vision Gran Turismo concept you see crouching in the photograph below. So, classic Veyron silhouette, just cut with some harder edges and angles and with generally way more aggression.
How powerful will it be? Well with Bugatti president Wolfgang Dürheimer hell-bent on making "the best significantly better", the Chiron will come armed with a 16-cylinder engine force-fed by four turbochargers. Those in the know estimate that this mechanical animal with churn out more than 1100kW of power and 1500Nm worth of torque. Figures that make Lewis Hamilton's championship-winning Formula One car blush. Not even the Le Mans-conquering Porsche 919 Hybrid is able to top it.
Shoehorned into a sleeker and lighter carbon-fibre bodyshell (Bugatti hinting that the parts used in Chiron construction are 90% new), these enviable numbers should - once you have twisted a secondary key to disarm the 375km/h soft-limiter - push this French charger past the 460km/h mark.
Now that's bloody fast. Faster than an F-15 Eagle fighter jet at takeoff, faster than a Shinkansen bullet train. Fast enough to completely clear and reboot your body's sensory cache in one fell swoop. It can accelerate too. With an all-wheel-drive system, you can expect to see 100km/h in two seconds. Yep, if speeding fines were hapless bunnies then the Chiron would be a ravenous apex predator, collecting them at will.
But this would be of little concern to the typical Chiron owner, who will have to fork out around $2.5-million (R41.5-million) to buy one. With Bugatti apparently limiting production to just 500 units, the chance of securing one looks slim. Especially considering that, during a recent top-secret preview at the firm's Molsheim headquarters, no fewer than 100 people placed deposits on what will surely be one of the most exciting, most thrilling cars of the decade.
How long would some of SA's biggest earners need to work to afford a R41.5m Chiron?*
Bernard Fornas: By being frugal with his 2014 earnings of R87,972,000, the joint CEO of Richemont SA could have his Chiron after just 172 days of toil.
Whitey Basson: Based on his R49,972,000 pay cheque for 2014, the boss of Shoprite could have a Chiron in his garage after 303 days of shopkeeping.
Brian Joffe: On his 2014 earnings of R28,289,000, the CEO of Bidvest Group would be looking at 535 days of graft.
Ketso Gordhan: Based on his 2014 income of R2,173,2000, the former CEO of PPC would need to dedicate 697 days to Operation Chiron.
Sizwe Nxasana: With an income of R19,327,000 for 2014, the former FirstRand boss would be behind the wheel after 784 days of hard banking.
*Based on annual gross earnings figures from the latest Sunday Times Rich List, for the 2014 financial year. Bear in mind that these guys also need to pay tax, eat food and pay bills.
Follow the author of this article, Thomas Falkiner, on Twitter: @tomfalkiner111