The Bugatti Chiron is the unquestioned king of speed as a prototype production version of the French-built hypercar hit a top speed of 304.773 mph on the Ehra-Lessien high-speed track in Germany's Lower Saxony. Not only was that good enough to set a new world record for a production car, but it also made the Chiron the first-ever road car to cross the 300-mph barrier. Amazingly, Bugatti says the Chiron can go even faster.
The Chiron itself is maxed out for speed. The version of the hypercar used for the record-setting run was modified for all-out speed with revised aerodynamics and a tire specially designed and tested by Michelin to withstand the forces of travel at more than five miles per minute. So, changing out components on the record-setting Chiron wouldn’t have netted a higher top speed, but Bugatti claims a change in venue would have.
The Ehra-Lessien test track where the Chiron made its record setting run is located just 164 feet above sea level, which means the air there is very dense. That’s less than ideal for a top speed run since more air pressure means more wind resistance for whatever is trying to move through it.
Because of that fact, Bugatti says it considered attempting the Chiron’s top speed run at a test track in Nevada instead of Lower Saxony. At an elevation almost 3,300 feet above sea level, the air at the Nevada track would have reduced drag on the Chiron’s bodywork by about 12 percent. Bugatti estimates the Chiron would have hit 320 mph in Nevada’s thinner air.
So if Nevada would have netted a higher top speed for the Chiron, why did Bugatti choose the Ehra-Lessien high-speed track? For safety.
“Safety comes first at Bugatti. The route in Nevada is very long and only goes in one direction: security forces would have taken too long to get to the scene in an emergency,” said Stefan Ellrott, head of development at Bugatti. “In addition, the track has a slight gradient of about three percent. It wouldn't have felt right to set a record there.”
Safety concerns aside, it doesn’t appear as though the world will ever get to see a Chiron traveling at 320 mph. Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann says the company is shifting its focus from high-speed runs to other endeavors.
“We have shown several times that we build the fastest cars in the world. In future we shall be focusing on other exciting projects,” he said.