The story behind Bugatti’s incredible W16 engine

The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 engine changed the history of engines. It was in 2005 when 16 cylinders, a displacement of 8 liters and 1.001CV They broke the rules of the game. Never before had a production vehicle had an engine so powerful, yet so compact and easy to drive that it could break acceleration records.

Its power output was unmatched at the time. It accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in just 2.5 seconds and reached a top speed of over 400 km/h.. When the Veyron 16.4 entered production, it marked a milestone for Bugatti and created a whole new class of car in the process: the Veyron was the world’s first supercar. And that wouldn’t have been possible without the W16.


Bugatti Veyron top speed test – Top Gear – BBC

Bugatti presented its successor, the Chiron, in March 2016. And once again he achieved the unexpected. What was once considered unattainable power in a road car, in the Veyron, has been surpassed by about 50 percent in the Chiron.

yes it was a 8.0 liter W16And yes, there were four turbochargers, just like the Veyron, but reaching new levels of performance meant revisiting every component.

Most importantly, larger turbochargers and a duplex fuel injection system with 32 injection valveswith increased use of carbon and titanium to help offset weight gains.

With an initial power of 1,500 hp, later increased to 1,600 hp, and a maximum torque of 1,600 Nm, the W16 engine once again changed the course of performance car history.

The genesis of the W16 engine

Its development has been a long process. In 1997, the eminent engineero Ferdinand Karl Piechchairman of the board of directors of volkswagen AG at the time presented the initial idea to VW engine development chief Karl-Heinz Neumann, drawing it on an envelope while driving the Shinkansen at high speed. train from Tokyo to Osaka.

His idea was a 18 cylinder engine, but later it will be modified to become the W16 that we know today. A well-deserved tribute to the self-developed 16-cylinder engine Ettore Bugatti.

Gregor Gries, who was one of Bugatti’s first employees when it was reborn 20 years ago and, until February 2022, was the company’s director of technical development, he recalls: “At the time, nobody really believed that there could be a 1,000 hp vehicle. We wanted to show that we could build an engine that was not only powerful, but also easy to handle.”

The engineers started from scratch. “We had to get involved in the basic development of each component; every part of the vehicle had to be rebuilt and tested, even the engine test bench. The only thing we haven’t changed are the pencils we were drawing with,” laughs Gregor Gries.

“We feel like Ettore Bugatti in the past: he also always developed his own tools”, he added.

Engineers took Ferdinand Piëch’s idea sketched on an envelope and turned it into a production reality. No bigger than a V12 and weighing around 400 kg, the engine has the unique arrangement of cylinders in a “W” configuration to thank its compact size.

Two blocks of eight cylinders are placed at an angle of 90 degrees to each other, powered by four exhaust gas turbochargers. But the challenges that Karl-Heinz Neumann and his team faced to make the W16 a reality were immense.


Bringing the engine to life required more than 3,500 individual parts, each assembled by hand and the work checked at all times by test computers. During its first test in 2001, the twin-turbo engine reaches the 1001 hp required from the start: the theory and execution couldn’t have been better.

But the performance leaps were such that the engine test bench and traditional ventilation systems could not cope with the new W16: in particular, new systems had to be developed.

There were also new requirements that had not previously been placed on a production vehicle, such as the fact that very hot exhaust gases had to be channeled. A one-scale titanium exhaust system never seen before in the automotive sector was finally part of the solution.

With performance assured, engineers focused on smoothness and reliability. What a 16-cylinder configuration offers naturally smooth operation, detecting a misfire or knock in the engine by traditional methods would not be reliable.

Thus, the brand has developed Bugatti Ion Current Sensing (BIS) to monitor the ion current flowing through each spark plug. If the system detects knocking combustion or a misfire, the ignition timing is reduced, the cylinder is deactivated, or the boost pressure is reduced.

Absolutely crucial to the continued reliability of the W16 engine was your cooling system and, unsurprisingly, it was designed on a scale never seen before in the automotive industry.

A complex water cooling system, with two water cycles, keeps the W16 within the required temperature range, even at extreme peak loads. 40 liters of water they cycle through the high-temperature cycle with three coolers up front to keep the engine at its operating temperature.

Engineers have continued to optimize the engine over the years. With enlarged turbochargers and many other modifications, the W16 delivered 1,200 hp in the 2010 Veyron 16.4 Super Sport.

That same year, the Super Sport set a speed record of 431.072 km/h as the fastest road-legal production supercar, earning entry into the legendary Guinness Book of Records.


The BUGATTI W16 engine – The last of its kind

The 1500 hp engine arrives

Bugatti’s improvement was a constant and the only aspects the engineers kept for the new models were the compact shape of the engine. and the pitch of 73 millimeters; everything else developed again.

The result was a quiet, efficient and powerful new engine with 1500 hp, with more direct response capability and power delivery like never before. This is equivalent to a 50 percent power increase on the development of the original Veyron 16.4 base engine and an increase of approximately 24% over the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport.

The initial power increases to 1,500 hp and, for the Chiron Super Sport and Centodieci, an additional 100 hp to 1,600 hp, requires four exhaust gas turbochargers. Each charger should provide sufficient airflow for approximately 380 hp.

This is possible thanks to the two-stage supercharging (sequential turbocharging) in which two turbochargers come into play one after the other. These are 69% larger than those of the Veyron.

Only when all four turbochargers, two on each cylinder bank, are used does the engine achieve full power. In the Chiron, the always-on exhaust turbocharger and the switchable exhaust turbocharger are the same size, ideal for a consistent torque path without noticeable dips.

The exhaust gas valve which is part of this operation must be able to withstand temperatures of 980 degrees Celsius while remaining completely mobile; therefore, Bugatti uses a special high-temperature material alloy for the main components.

The development work paid off, with the Chiron Super Sport 300+ breaking a speed record in 2019 to become the first production car to break the 450 km/h barrier. With a speed of exactly 490,484 km/hthe Chiron Super Sport 300+ is the fastest production sports car there is.

Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+.


16,000 hours of testing

Bugatti tested the 16-cylinder engine before production using computer simulations and on a newly developed engine test bench. The Chiron engine has been running for more than 16,000 hours during development.

Additionally, they completed more than 500,000 test kilometers in the vehicle so that the engine lives up to Bugatti’s rigorous quality standards. The engine is made in Volkswagen engine plant in Salzgitterin a separate room reserved exclusively for the construction of the W16 engine.

It takes two experts six days to meticulously hand-assemble the 3,712 individual pieces engine. The finished engine is then carefully packaged and transported to Molsheim, where the engine and transmission are assembled as the first step in the final assembly of the Chiron at the Bugatti workshop.

Leave a Comment