Now Bugatti Might Do An SUV, but It Won’t Be Based on an Existing VAG Platform
All-electric motivation and a greater emphasis on comfort could take the brand in a new directionby Jonathan Lopez, on LISTEN 10:53
It’s no secret that we’re completely smitten by the Bugatti Chiron, the French brand’s latest and greatest über sports car. But, while the Chiron’s 1,479 horsepower and a 261-mph top speed are very impressive, the super coupe isn’t exactly a long-term product solution for Bugatti. Now, with an industry-wide shift towards EVs and growing demand for practical sport utility vehicles, Bugatti has expressed interest in adding a second model to its lineup, most likely with a new all-electric SUV.
Now Is The Right Time For A New Bugatti Model
|Note: Rolls-Royce Cullinan pictured here.|
Year after year, the number of millionaires and billionaires continues to grow, and in response, the world’s top marques are ramping up their product portfolios to meet increasing demand for ultra-expensive automobiles. Thus we see the emergence of the ultra-luxury SUV segment, and automakers like Rolls-Royce and Bentley are already duking it out with models like the Cullinan and Bentayga, respectively.
With that in mind, the time is ripe for Bugatti to enter the fray.
However, since its resurrection in the late ‘80s, Bugatti has only offered one model at a time, starting with the EB110, followed by the Veyron, and headed by the current Chiron.
And, considering just how successful the Chiron has been thus far (production allotments for both the standard Chiron and the various Chiron special editions quickly sell out, sometimes even prior to the car’s debut), there’s no doubt a new Bugatti SUV would arrive as a complement to the supercar, rather than as a replacement.
|Note: 2009 Bugatti 16C Galibier concept pictured here.|
The rumor that Bugatti might expand its lineup is nothing new. In 2009, Bugatti unveiled the 16C Galibier four-door sedan concept, leading to speculation that the brand was prepping something fresh for the well-heeled public. What’s more, Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann has expressed interest in building a second model on numerous occasions since his appointment in early 2018.
Now, it sounds as though Winkelmann and Bugatti are honing in on the specifics of a new up-and-coming model line, and if the rumors prove correct, we could see it in the metal in just four years.
Starting From Scratch
|Note: TopSpeed rendering of the 2022 Bugatti SUV pictured here.|
According to a recent report from our friends at Autocar, Winkelmann has said he wants a new model with a body style that’s more usable on an everyday basis. The new model would slot in below the Chiron, but be “disconnected” from it, most likely in terms of price and segment.
Winkelmann also said that the new model would need to be “a real Bugatti in the segment, or create one” and that it needs to be “a reference for other manufacturers.”
To achieve these goals, Winkelmann believes Bugatti needs to start from scratch, rather than pull an existing platform from the VAG lineup: “For a brand like ours, we would not share platforms, as I see our next car will be a stand-alone car,” Winkelmann told the Australian outlet CarAdvice. “While this is good for our customers and the future of the brand, it’s also more expensive.”
|Note: TopSpeed rendering of the 2022 Bugatti SUV pictured here.|
Indeed, while a new platform outside the current Volkswagen lineup would be far more expensive to build, it would also make for a more seductive product overall. Exclusivity is paramount in this space, and if the new Bugatti uses the same platform as the Volkswagen Touareg, it might sully the overall image.
Granted, there are many high-end SUVs out there that use a standard VW platform, including the Bentayga, the Porsche Cayenne, and the Lamborghini Urus.
But that’s half the point - Winkelmann wants something entirely new, something to represent the Bugatti brand without any kind of association with an existing product.
To that end, Winkelmann also says production should take place in a dedicated factory in France, rather than in a VW factory among some other VW products.
While the Chiron’s quad-turbo 8.0-liter W-16 engine is indeed monumentally impressive, it really isn’t a long-term solution. Big cities like Paris and London are already implementing new rules to help curb emissions, and for now, it looks as though electric vehicle technology will become the new standard, even among high-end brands like Bugatti.
As such, Winklemann appears to favor electrons over gasoline for the brand’s future. But that preference goes far deeper than simply conforming to regulation - it could also speak to Bugatti’s core values, if implemented properly.
“I would see us doing a battery electric vehicle. There, the balance between performance and comfort is much more important, and it’s about daily usability,” Winkelmann told Bloomberg.
Thanks to characteristics like silent running, less drivetrain vibration, instant torque, and breath-taking acceleration, all-electric vehicles play quite nicely in the high-end automobile segment.
But there are a number of setbacks as well, namely slow recharge times and limited range, both of which could kill a new Bugatti model before it even arrives.
“Electrification is a big challenge but we have to decide what to do next,” Winkelmann told the Australian outlet CarAdvice. “It’s not important for us to be the first or the last but it is important to be there at the right time when people are not only ready for the technology but also the the technology is ready for Bugatti.”
Still, Winkelmann seems bullish on the idea. “This technology will be in our reach,” he toldAutocar.
One way in which EVs could become far more commonplace would be through the development of solid-state battery technology, which offers recharge times and range-per-charge that’s on par with conventional internal-combustion powertrains. When Autocar asked whether Bugatti would offer solid-state battery powertrains in the future, Winkelmann responded by saying “You have to create a car that’s flexible and can be adapted to the latest technology.”
“There will be an acceptance of electrification now the first cars are coming,” he added.
Indeed, it appears as though Bugatti is considering all options.
And with the success of SUVs like the Tesla Model X, it seems as though the tech does have the potential to draw in high-end SUV buyers.
Plus, with models like the Porsche Taycan on the way, Bugatti should have a good deal of know-how to source it’s own EV powertrain developments.
That’s all well and good, but what about a hybrid? After all, hybrid tech is already well-established and highly developed, both in terms of performance and efficiency. However, Winkelmann seems less enthusiastic about hybrids than he does pure EVs.
“Hybridization is good for the time being but it adds 250 kg and returns a range of just 50 km,” Winkelmann told Car Advice. “You have to remove a lot of weight from a car that is already as light as you can make it and then you need to find space for the battery. This is not a long-term solution.”
Which raises another point - materials technology.
Bugatti is already a leader in this space, as evidenced by the Chiron, which means that a forthcoming all-electric Bugatti would likely offer the same carbon-tastic influences as its supercar sibling.
And that’s good news for fans of EVs, as the combination of large battery packs and loads of luxury can make for some rather eye-raising curb weights.
Finally, despite an overarching focus on comfort and usability, a potential all-electric Bugatti SUV would still likely offer some very impressive performance specs. We’d argue that around 600 to 800 horsepower feels about right for such a vehicle, with a 0-to-60 mph time somewhere in the low-3-second range. That’s quick, no doubt about it, but it’s still slower than the 1,500-horsepower Chiron, which can hit the same benchmark in just 2.5 seconds. Should an all-electric Bugatti SUV ever hit the market, it would have the performance needed to compete against nameplates like the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga.
Will Bugatti’s Second Model Be An SUV or a Sedan?
With the 16C Galibier fastback concept already on the books, it’s entirely possible Bugatti’s second model could end up being some kind of sedan. After all, Bugatti has made sedans in the past, and while most of the world is moving away from the segment, ultra-high-end limos and cruisers are still quite popular.
Still, an SUV seems like the safer choice, as the body style is a better fit when it comes to “usability.”
In addition to superlative comfort and luxury, an SUV would have the option to add in an extra dose of practicality too, possibly with seating past the five-passenger mark, plus loads of cargo room to boot. The dimensions of an SUV also make for a more drivable platform compared to a stretched-out super sedan.
Throw in a slew of high-end materials, the very latest infotainment technology, and endless customizability, and the Bugatti SUV starts to take shape.
A new SUV could also provide a fantastic opportunity for autonomous tech to make its debut under the Bugatti banner. Nothing screams luxury like a self-driving luxury apartment on wheels, and with Volkswagen spending huge sums of money to develop the technology, Bugatti could reap the benefits in a big way. Even if it’s absurdly expensive, self-driving tech would be right at home in a Bugatti SUV.
While it’s fun to speculate, we’re still many years away from seeing a new Bugatti, assuming it gets the go-ahead in the first place. If the project does move forward, we probably won’t see it until 2022 at the earliest. As for pricing, a figure around $500,000 to $1 million makes sense. That’s a lot of money, and certainly stretches the imagination of what makes for a “daily driver,” but’s it’s still well below the $3 million starting price tagged to the Chiron.
For now, Bugatti busies itself making one-off versions of the Chiron, including the La Voiture Noire. But Winkelmann seems eager to get going all the same.
“I’m ready. We’ve worked a lot, we want a second model. There is no pressure; there is such high demand from brands in the group. Let’s see,” he told Autocar.
While Winkelmann is obvious gung-ho on the idea of a second Bugatti, there are still many hurdles to overcome - namely the Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG). VAG acquired the Bugatti brand in 1998, and has to give the final go ahead before development can really gain traction. And, as Winkelmann points out, it’s far more difficult to add a new model to the Bugatti lineup than it was to replace an existing model.
“The brand is ready for a second car,” Winkelmann told Autocar, “but it’s not me to decide.”
Assuming Volkswagen green-lights a new Bugatti model, what would you like to see from it, dear reader? Do you want an SUV, or some other kind of body style? Is electric power a good fit? Let us know in the comments section below.
Read our full speculative review on the 2022 Bugatti SUV.
Read our full review on the 2019 Bugatti La Voiture Noire.
Read our full review on the 2019 Bugatti Divo.
Read our full review on the 2018 Bugatti Chiron.
Read our full review on the 2018 Bugatti Chiron Sport.
Read our full review on the 2010 Bugatti 16C Galibier.
Read our full review on the 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Read our full review on the 2017 Bentley Bentayga.