2021 Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport First Drive Review: The Absolute Pinnacle of Internal Combustion

There will be nothing like this car ever again. I'm sure of it.

Kristen Lee

To be behind the wheel of the 2021 Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport is to embrace chaos, both without and within. 

Without, you're an instant celebrity. People will detour from their busy days to visit the lot where you've parked. Children will point. And nearly everyone around you on public roads will slow their cars, cell phones in hand, and hang out in your blindspots just so they can get the perfect shot. They can't believe what they're seeing. You can't believe how they're driving.

Kristen Lee

Within, you're a mess of emotions. Elated from being able to drive something that had, up until this point, been a mere abstraction that existed on the pages of a magazine or as a photo on the internet. Intimidated that at your very mortal touch is something with unfathomable power. And terrified with the knowledge that the car—which does not belong to you and never will—is worth a few times more than your own life insurance policy.

But as for the Chiron Pur Sport itself, it is calm. Calm in that self-assured sort of way a heavyweight champion would walk down a darked street at night by themselves. Like it's seen it all and knows, inherently, that it can handle itself in just about any situation that might happen.

I didn't know whether to feel reassured or cowed.

The 2021 Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport: By the Numbers

  • Base price (as tested): $3,599,000 ($3,788,900)
  • Powertrain: 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W16 | 7-speed dual-clutch | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 1,479 @ 6,900 rpm
  • Torque: 1,180 lb-ft @ 2,000 to 6,000 rpm
  • 0-62: 2.3 seconds (est.)
  • Top speed: 217 mph
  • Curb weight: 4,340 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 2
  • EPA fuel economy: 8 mpg city | 13 highway | 10 combined 
  • Quick take: For the price for a very nice house in a very nice part of the country, you can get a car that's engineered perfectly for speed.

Weight-Savings

The Pur Sport is the "driver-oriented" version of the Chiron, meaning it's the one best enjoyed on a track or a twisty road, not a high-speed straight. (This also makes me laugh.) As such, its top speed was lowered to just 217 mph and its weight trimmed by 110 pounds. With a touch of negative camber applied (just 2.5 degrees), it also has new suspension joints to accommodate it.

From the outside, it wears a massive rear diffuser and voracious-looking air inlets. A fixed wing, over six feet in length, looms over the rear end that, at speed, generates enough downforce to crush the moon.

Bugatti's own literature will tell you it altered the transmission so overall gear ratios are 15 percent closer together, which means absolutely nothing to anyone who hasn't already driven another Chiron. For our purposes, all you need to know is the dual-clutch certainly does not get in the way of the titanic engine and its power. 

The Drive

The Chiron Pur Sport looks massive in pictures because it's massive in person. I could have stretched out easily along its rear wing for a nap. Walking around it to examine all of its details takes some time. 

This particular Pur Sport was painted a sparkly shade of metallic midnight blue with a naked carbon fiber front splitter, side skirts, and rear diffuser. Even the windshield wiper arms were made from the stuff. But the most striking details were the copper-colored accents: a copper-housed rearview mirror, visible through the windshield; a copper rear-wing logo; a copper-painted engine cover; and the signature, C-shaped bit of trim running from the base of the A-pillar and swooping around to end at the bottom of the door, like a piece of copper-colored hair tucked behind an ear.

As a bit of a programming clarification, the window sticker I shared with you guys in the original AMA post wasn't accurate to the model Bugatti let me drive that day. The blue Pur Sport you see in all these pictures had an MSRP of $3,788,900 and included options such as Nocturne-black painted wheels ($9,000), black brake calipers ($6,000), Sky View ($60,000), EB headrest logo ($3,000), and the Pur Sport interior package ($60,000). 

The Pur Sport's doors are long, but swinging out from their hinges, they are deceptively light in your hand—merely another reminder the thing's made mostly from feathery carbon fiber. Scoot yourself over the expansive sills, drop down into the thin and contoured—yet relaxed—bucket seat, and you're in. Inhale the scent of Alcantara—slightly synthetic, slightly plasticky—mixed with the strangely familiar new-car smell from a reality five or six tax brackets away.

The first thing you notice about the Chiron's interior is how barren of screens it is. In an age where a car's interior is dominated by a high-definition touchscreen, the Bugatti is positively retro. The center console includes the gear selector lever and just four dials for the climate controls. (These turn with muted smoothness in their cradles, as do the air vents.) The driver information cluster is divided into thirds: two digital screens flanking an analog speedometer that tops out at an extremely self-aware 300 mph.

I expected a typical coffin-like feel to the interior, common with nearly all modern sports- and supercars. But the Pur Sport's cabin is surpisingly airy, most likely thanks to the Sky View glass roof and lack of extraneous buttons. Rear visibility is basically nil, however, and you won't forget you're sitting in a car that's long, low, and wide. 

Something that looks as striking as the Pur Sport ought to start up with the appropriate drama. But it doesn't. There's barely a break in the air when the engine turns over with a low thrum of distant thunder. Tug on the gear lever, which offers up just enough resistance to remind you there's action attached to the motion, and you're off.

Or, rather, Butch Leitzinger—a retired professional driver who now works for Bugatti—was off. Leitzinger was the Pur Sport's handler for the day and navigated the most traffic-choked parts of Interstate 95, something I was perfectly happy to let him do so I could focus on how the car dealt with it.

The ride is smooth. I-95 is an absolute dogshit road, but the Pur Sport's suspension isn't tuned so hard that cracks and bumps rattle your teeth in your own head. Rather, each road imperfection helped paint a picture of what was happening under each tire. What affected one corner was felt throughout the cabin, a tell-tale sensation of driving something with a monocoque chassis.

In traffic, the Chiron is not quiet. It makes all sorts of fun noises. It crackles from small stones sticking to the giant summer tires and getting thrown into the wheel wells. There's the low, bassy grumble of the W16 right behind your head. The mechanical snick and whir of the transmission. And the monstrous gasp and sigh of the four turbochargers making their breathing heard if you roll down the windows.

Then the traffic opened up and Leitzinger hit the gas.

I thought I'd experienced peak acceleration behind the wheel of an all-wheel-drive electric car. The immediate, breathless speed that takes your brain a few blinks to process. The Pur Sport leaped forward with the same ferocity—leaving my stomach and kneecaps behind us, gluing me to my seatback—but unlike in an EV, whose power predictably plateaus after a bit, the Pur Sport. Kept. Going. 

Leitzinger put his foot on the throttle for mere seconds, but it was enough for me to understand how utterly much more the Bugatti had left to give. There was so much more power and raw potential left on tap. Like climbing the first few miles of a mountain, looking up, and realizing the peaks still soar scores of miles heavenward above you to stab through the sky itself. Where was the limit? It's enough to make anybody wobbly in the knees.

We switched. I immediately encountered the only physical problem I had with the car: I am a bit too short to comfortably see over the hood. But I adjusted everything else to suit me (the copper rearview mirror is extremely thin but very solid to the touch) and set off. 

Kristen Lee

The steering is electronically assisted but tuned so sharply you'd never know the difference. Its perfect weight told me exactly what the front wheels were up to and did the heroic job of making the Pur Sport feel smaller than it is. Tugging on the left paddle—such machined things, both of them!—brought the gears down sans drama. With this, the engine hummed more loudly than before, at the ready.

Going fast is dangerously easy in the Chiron Pur Sport. I know this comes as no surprise to anyone. You think of a speed, you put your foot down, and you're there. Forty feels like 80 mph which feels like 100 mph. I'm sure that list goes on and on. So planted is the chassis and suspension setup that it feels more like you're driving a small boulder at speed rather than a car. 

Even bringing the Pur Sport off the highway and through town still felt pretty special; just because we were doing school-zone speeds didn't mean things became boring all of a sudden. The Bugatti still made plenty of interesting sounds. It was fluid in stop-and-go. Its air conditioning worked like a charm. Everybody gawked. Peering over its vast body never let me forget what I was driving.

But regardless of double- or triple-digit speed, the Chiron Pur Sport never feels bothered. In this sense, it is a bit emotionless. Its limits are so incredibly lofty that anything you do on public roads won't impress it. The W16, though mighty, is also mighty quiet. Its tone doesn't change much up and down the rev-range. It just gets louder. 

This video is a good example of what it sounds like.

But this lack of drama is what you want. The Pur Sport is designed for such incredibly high performance there's no room for things acting up in ways they shouldn't. Everything must work perfectly with everything else.

Peak Stuff

It's easy to dismiss something like the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport as a mere status symbol for people who have more money than they know what to do with. A part of that, and I don't know how big a part, is undeniably true. But we also should not so easily dismiss all of the wondrous engineering that comes together to make the car what it is. 

So much of what it is to go fast these days is similarly obsessed with the aesthetic of it. The fast cars must look and sound fast, we critics demand. So automakers tune exhausts to shout louder than they need to. They cut grilles that lead nowhere into bodies. Lie to us and cover dual-exhaust pipes with quad-exhaust tips. 

The Pur Sport is above such performative overcompensation. For nearly $4 million, you get a car that doesn't need to cosplay speed; it is speed, plain and simple. It has no competition. Safely traveling at 217 mph rests on a knife's edge. Building something that can do so requires technology honed to the minutest of details. Paint the car whatever color you want. That doesn't change the engineering marvels that live beneath its carbon fiber skin.

Kristen Lee

I have no doubt in my mind what I drove that day is the pinnacle of internal combustion. To be able to achieve such speeds in such little time without the use of an ounce of electrification is nothing short of spectacular. Because of where we stand now, at the dawn of the electric revolution, there will never be another car like it. 

The Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport is not a future. It is glorious. It is earth-shattering in its capabilities. And it is an ending. 

Want to reach out? Hit me up at kristen@thedrive.com.