New car announcements typically generate a fair amount of excitement amongst fans of the brand doing the releasing. Perhaps no new releases generate more hype and excitement though than those by Bugatti. Since September 2005, only two distinct Bugatti models, the Veyron and Chiron, and a smattering of model variants have been produced, so any new Bugatti is bound to be greeted with enormous fanfare.
What’s more, the outlandish prices, speeds and specs that Bugattis possess are manna for automotive publications that review them and car enthusiasts that can only dream of owning one, thus heightening the furor. So, here we are, in late summer 2018, and Bugatti has once again grabbed the headlines in the automotive world with the release of their newest creation, the Divo.
Designed and produced under the auspices of parent company Volkswagen, and named after the French racing driver and two-time Targa Florio winner, Albert Divo, who won many races in Bugattis, The Divo had its worldwide debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in northern California.
A development of the Chiron, Bugatti’s goal with the Divo was not to advance the Chiron’s already ludicrous power, speed and acceleration numbers, but instead to create a car whose emphasis was squarely on handling.
“The Divo is a further example of our design philosophy ‘Form follows Performance’,” Achim Anscheidt, director of design of Bugatti Automobiles, says. “In this case, the engineers and designers aimed to create a vehicle focusing on cornering speeds and lateral dynamics.”
Contrary to common perception, handling is not one of Bugatti’s main fortes. Despite Bugatti’s freewheeling use of lightweight carbon fiber, magnesium and aluminum throughout their cars, the massive powerplants and other mechanical subsystems have routinely resulted in cars that tip the scales at a weight considered enormous for a hypercar of diminutive dimensions.
Just how heavy? Well consider this: the Bugatti Chiron tips the scales at a corpulent 4400 lbs, the same as a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, despite the fact that the Challenger is some twenty inches longer!
As we all know, mass is not your friend when it comes to direction change in a vehicle, so with this in mind, Bugatti shaved 77 pounds of mass off its previous hypercar by incorporating lighter wheels, installing a lighter audio system, and using a carbon-fiber intercooler cover.
Additionally, it removed a considerable amount of sound-deadening material from the interior of the car and reduced the size of several stowage compartments in the cabin.
Why not more weight reduction? “Of course we would like to reduce weight more, but this is very difficult if you start with a car like the Chiron where nearly everything is carbon fiber,” reflects Pierre Rommelfanger, the Divo’s project leader. “There is always the thinking to find the right balance of how much to do because we want to give a car to the customer which still can be used for driving long distances. You could have done some things more extreme, but I think that’s not matching our customer expectation. ”
Bugatti didn’t stop with weight reduction. They designed a new, aerodynamically improved exterior, that while keeping some hallmarks of Bugatti design seen in the Veyron and Chiron such as the horseshoe-shaped front grille and the Bugatti signature line on the vehicle’s side, is distinct and easily identifiable as a fresh model.
The aggressive, stealth fighter-esque nose reduces drag, while at the same time improving airflow. The new front spoiler generates higher downforce and directs air to the front inlets, improving the car’s cooling.
Functional inlets at the front, a NACA duct on the roof which helps force cool air into the engine compartment, a fin that runs along the car’s center to enhance directional stability, and a six-foot-wide, manually or automatically adjustable rear spoiler that can also double as an air brake are just some of the aero changes.
A new rear diffuser aimed at reducing drag while accommodating the car’s quad tailpipes is also present.
Bugatti says all these features add 198 pounds of downforce at speed as compared to the Chiron, bringing the total to 1,005 pounds.
To maximize the efficacy of these changes, Bugatti also opted to revise the suspension from the Chiron, adding wheel camber and other tweaks to a retuned steering system.
In terms of the drivetrain, the Divo shares the Chiron’s massive 8.0 liter, 1,479bhp, quad-turbo and intercooled W-16 engine and 7-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox. The brakes and bespoke Michelin tires, capable of safely handling the car’s extreme speeds, are carried over as well.
While many of the Divo’s exterior features serve aerodynamic purposes, other exterior elements are purely for aesthetics. And what an aesthetic it is.
The headlights are best described as not much more than a diminutive, horizontal LED strip augmented by a larger daytime running light that wraps around to the fenders for a unique look.
The rear grille is made up of a collection of 3D-printed fins, over forty of which of which are illuminated to form the taillights. Thicker fins towards the outer sides and thinner ones towards the center create an interesting blended effect.
“Our task was to develop a vehicle which would look different from the Chiron but still be immediately recognizable as a Bugatti,” explains Achim Anscheidt, Bugatti’s design director.
The Divo’s two-tone color scheme is also notable. The majority of the car is painted in a matte finish Titanium Liquid Silver, while Divo Racing Blue, a bright turquoise shade developed especially for the Divo, is used on the car’s lower extremities, most notably the front splitter, rocker panels and the air outlets at the rear of the car. The air outlets themselves, rear spoiler and diffuser have a carbon finish.
The color scheme and materials used on the outside of the car are continued in the interior. Extensive use of carbon fiber is evident, here in a matte finish as opposed to glossy nature on the Divo’s exterior.
Of note is the fact that the interior’s colors are split down the middle, with a preponderance of Divo Blue with Divo Gray accents dominating the driver’s side, while the opposite is true for the passenger side, where the blue is the omnipresent tone.
The seats, door panels and dash are covered in Alcantara, while the center console is a mix of the aforementioned matte finish carbon fiber and various metals.
A new seat design offers greater lateral support, and the redesigned Alcantara covered steering wheel has larger paddles fitted, used to shift the semi-automatic transmission in manual mode. As one expects in a Bugatti, a nearly fanatical attention to detail is present, and all operating switches, knobs and levers are crafted from the finest materials with immaculate finishes.
So what do all these changes amount to? A much more aggressive and attractive looking Bugatti than both the Veyron and Chiron to my eyes, with a touch of Batmobile angularity and seriousness of purpose. Gone are many of the rounded surfaces of the earlier modern Bugattis, replaced by sharp creases and edges.
For my money, this is the first truly beautiful automobile from the current iteration of the house of Ettore and Jean.
As for performance, Bugatti claims that although the new car’s top speed has been reduced to a mere 236 mphfrom the 261 mph the Chiron is capable of, this is done solely as a concession to improved handling. The numbers bear out the new car’s improved track prowess, having lapped Volkswagen’s Nardo test circuit an astonishing eight seconds faster than the Chiron.
“The Divo has significantly higher performance in terms of lateral acceleration, agility, and cornering: the Divo is made for corners,” Stephan Winkelmann, Bugatti’s president, notes.
Alas all of this incredible engineering and design come at a cost, and that cost is very dear indeed. Like $5.8 million dollars dear. And the worst part is, even if you have that sort of cash laying around to blow on a car, you’re still out of luck, as Bugatti has announced that all forty examples of the Divo already have a home.
The Bugatti Divo is truly the car you can’t have.