Development work has begun on a follow-up to the nine-year-old Bugatti Veyron, with the firm looking to raise the lofty performance of its hypercar with a new 286mph successor.
The Veyron replacement is set to adopt a heavily updated version of its predecessor’s turbocharged 8.0-litre W16 engine. It will incorporate hybrid technology and produce in the region of 1500ps (1479bhp), officials involved in the new car’s development have revealed.
The new Bugatti is currently undergoing initial conceptual engineering tests in a programme aimed at unveiling the car in 2016 prior to a planned start to customer deliveries the following year.
The eagerly anticipated replacement for the Veyron is set to build on the key strengths of its successor by offering “the fastest top speed of any series-production road car, together with the sort of driveability to allow you to use it every day”, according to company officials.
Although senior officials at Bugatti parent Volkswagen have attempted to play down plans for a successor to the Veyron while order books for today’s model remain open, sources close to Bugatti have revealed that early test mules for the new car exist and have already been pressed into action in an early round of testing.
“Five developmental prototypes with differing powertrain combinations have been constructed up to now,” said one insider. “They are based on the existing car but use various solutions that are being considered for the new model.”
As with the car that it replaces, the new Bugatti has been conceived around a carbonfibre monocoque that provides seating for two in what is planned to be a highly luxurious cabin, complete with all of the very latest in connectivity technology.
The heavily revised powertrain, which receives electric assistance, is mounted to the rear bulkhead in a traditional mid-engine layout, with drive channelled to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and multi-plate-clutch four-wheel drive system.
Earlier plans by Bugatti to replace the mid-engined Veyron with a production version of the front-engined 16C Galibier saloon concept were cancelled following consultation with customers, who are said to have favoured a more extreme sports car with the performance to outrun the latest crop of high-end supercars.
Since the launch of the original Veyron in 2005, the hypercar ranks have been transformed with ever more advanced contenders.
The emergence of battery-propelled hybrid drive systems and dual-clutch automatic gearboxes, along with the continued development of lightweight construction technologies and advanced active suspension systems, has resulted in an explosion in performance potential as well as unprecedented levels of efficiency, as seen on recent arrivals such as the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari, all of which Bugatti has set firmly in its sights.
Although secrecy surrounds exactly what specification of engine the as-yet unnamed Veyron replacement will receive, Autocar can confirm that it is based around the same quad-turbocharged 8.0-litre W16 powerplant as its predecessor.
The engine is due to receive a series of revisions. Among them, a new direct-injection combustion process will replace the multi-point injection system that has been used up to now. This will be part of efforts to enable the engine to comply with more stringent Euro 6 emissions standards and dramatically reduce fuel consumption. The economy of the fastest Veyron derivative, the 1183bhp Super Sport, is put at just 12.2mpg.
Further changes are also said to be in store for the induction system. Nothing is official at this stage, but there are suggestions that engineers at Volkswagen’s engine development headquarters in Braunschweig, Germany, are looking to equip the unusually configured unit with electric turbochargers.
Such a move is aimed at boosting the engine’s already prodigious low-end torque as well as enhancing efficiency levels through improvements in thermal qualities.
However, the big news centres around plans to provide the new Bugatti with hybrid drive by way of a disc-shaped electric motor mounted within the gearbox housing and a lithium ion battery.
Together, the petrol engine and electric motor are said to deliver up to 1479bhp. By comparison, the Veyron Super Sport has 1183bhp. Autocar sources suggest that torque will be capped at 1100lb ft for the sake of gearbox reliability.
Major efforts are also being made to ensure that the weight of the new car remains well below that of the 1840kg Veyron Super Sport, despite the adoption of hybrid drive.
“Much of the early construction work has been focused on the carbonfibre monocoque,” said an insider. “We have a lot of expertise centring around lightweight construction within the [Volkswagen] group and we’re drawing on this as we begin to lock in various engineering targets. ”
Also playing a big role in the development of the Veyron successor will be a series of new active aerodynamic functions that aim to provide varying levels of downforce depending on the driving mode chosen by the driver.
Among the performance benchmarks being targeted by Bugatti with its new model is the Super Sport World Record Edition’s official 0-62mph time of 2.5sec and 268mph top speed. Although it’s early days, officials have already advised prospective customers that the new car will be capable of eclipsing both existing benchmarks in production trim.
Nothing is official, but a 0-62mph time of 2.3sec and a 286mph top speed are said to be within the realms of possibility, according to one insider privy to early computer simulations.
However, proving the top speed could be tricky due to the challenges in finding a test site long enough and for tyre technology to support such a high-speed run.
The styling of the Veyron replacement is unlikely to stray too far from that of the current car, as indicated in our exclusive artist’s impression. This is partly because of the engineering complexities of such a model requiring the same mechanical layout and basic shape, but also to make it recognisable as a Veyron successor, with family lineage.
In readiness for the arrival of the Veyron replacement, Bugatti has already begun to prepare an upgrade of its assembly facilities in Molsheim, France. Among the planned developments is additional production line capacity and a larger warehouse – both aimed at speeding up assembly time in a bid to reduce waiting times, according to one high-ranking Bugatti official.
Although returning Bugatti president Wolfgang Dürheimer has yet to officially confirm plans for a new model, tentative moves have already been made to advise existing Veyron owners. As with today’s car, production will be limited to about 450 units.
Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below: