The new Bugatti Bolide is an “experimental study” set for the track.

Bugatti Bolide

Bugatti announced a new car on Wednesday that could challenge the world speed record just set by the SSC Tuatara.

The Bugatti Bolide is a skeletal-looking coupe with a massive rear wing and the scooped-out body style of a Formula 1 racer. Like its sibling, the Bugatti Chiron, it carries a W16 engine and all-wheel-drive. But with an extremely lightweight body that weighs just 2,733 pounds (roughly half that of a Chiron) and 1,824 horsepower (in excess of 200 hp more than the Chiron Super Sport), it can reach a top speed of 310 mph, according to a Bugatti spokesperson, who declined to offer further details on the transmission.

In good conditions, such specifications could compete against the Tuatara, a U.S.-made car that set a world speed record of 316.11 mph (508.73 km/h) near Las Vegas on Oct. 10. A spokesperson for Bugatti says he can provide no details at this time about attempting a speed record. When the Chiron Super Sport 300+ debuted last year, brand executives said at the time that they would withdraw from the competition.

A Critical Time

Bugatti’s announcement comes at a critical time for the 111-year-old French brand. Parent company Volkswagen AG has been holding intense discussions recently about selling Bugatti to Rimac Automobili, a Croatian electric-supercar startup. It is presumed that a sale to Rimac would help VW preserve cash and refocus as it navigates economic shocks from the novel coronavirus and contemplates increasingly strict standards in many urban centers, which would boost currently low demand for electric vehicles.

The talks come two years after VW combined Bentley and Bugatti into a brand group led by Porsche—a move designed to make the worlds largest automaker more agile in controlling a dozen brands, including Audi, Ducati, and Lamborghini. VW’s Porsche unit holds a 15.5% stake in Rimac.

More recently, on Oct. 6, Bugatti announced that it had halted plans for a second supercar, due to pandemic woes. This would have been the first major production car to join the family after the $3.5 million Chiron, which debuted four years ago at the Geneva Auto Show.

Despite the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak and vehicle postponement, Bugatti chief Stephan Winkelmann later told Bloomberg TV, the brand will generate record revenue for 2020. This year “may be the best year ever,” he said. More than 70% of cars planned to be built for 2021 have already been sold.

No Production Plan, Yet

None of those will be a Bolide. That’s the big difference between it and the Tuatara: While the record set by the SSC came via a production car owned by a Philadelphia-based physician named Larry Caplin, Bugatti’s Bolide is simply an “experimental study” illustrated by computer-generated images, not photographs. The name, pronounced “Beau-lid,” is a French slang term that roughly translates as “It’s a fast car.”

Company executives said in a written statement that they haven’t yet decided whether the Bolide will ever reach series production.

“We are presenting our interpretation of a Bugatti track car of modern times to Bugatti enthusiasts all over the world and finally make their most fervent wishes come true,” Winkelmann said in a press statement. “For the first time, we are showing what the W16 engine is really capable of.”

Bugatti Bolide

Innovative Pedigree

Regardless of its future, the Bolide would come with plenty of Bugatti signature touches. Like the Chiron and the  Veyron that preceded it, the Bolide has two exterior paint colors (blue and black). Its small, horseshoe grille on the front matches the standard grille that has marked Bugattis since the Type 35 race cars of the 1920s.

The car also has massive vents to channel air along the top and sides of its body and big white X marks over where the headlights would be. Its unusually wide tires (400 mm on the rear axle, compared to 355 mm for the Chiron) are wrapped around big, black wheels that hide racing brakes with ceramic discs and coatings; four tail pipes stacked in a square at the center of the tail lights also cross in a big X.

The doors are hinged in front at an angle so they fold up when opened. Inside, the steering wheel is open at the top, like a video game handset. The cabin, lined in carbon fiber and blue suede, comes with two seats.

Even if the Bolide is never produced, consumers may see some innovations it contains in other, future vehicles.

In an industry first, Bugatti says it has fabricated a “morphable” outer skin for the air intake scoop on the Bolide’s roof. If the vehicle is driven at a slow speed, the surface of the scoop remains smooth; when the car is driven fast, a field of bubbles emerges. According to Bugatti, the shifting effect is good enough to reduce aerodynamic drag of the scoop by 10% and overall lift by 17%, making sure the hypercar stays grounded at high speeds.

The Bolide reportedly has a 5:23.1-minute lap time around the infamous Nuerburgring track in Germany—well under the 6:44.97 posted by a Lamborghini Aventador in 2018 and just behind the 5:19.546 posted by a Porsche 919 Hybrid EVO that year.