It’s the last of its kind: the world’s only 16-cylinder engine. With this clue you will have guessed who is the protagonist of these lines: the 8.0 liter W16 engine of Bugatti. Now that the brand is about to write the last point in the history of Bugatti Chirontook the opportunity to unveil some of the secrets of its exclusive engine.
As you can imagine, building a W16 is a long and tedious process. Bugatti explains that the engine is manufactured in a special room located inside the factory that Volkswagen has in Salzgitter (Germany). Over there, two people spend six days assembling the 3,712 individual parts which compose it and when they have completed their mission, the thruster heads for Molsheim (France). A delicious process that we can now witness in first person thanks to the video that accompanies these lines.
The Bugatti W16 story begins with a mission to relaunch the brand… with success. A responsibility that fell to Ferdinand Piëch, then boss of the Volkswagen group. And to achieve this I knew that I had to do something completely different from what already existed: this differentiating element was born, in 1997, from a drawing he made on an envelope during a trip from Tokyo to Osaka by high-speed train.
Exceed 1,000 horsepower
Although the original sketch had 18 cylinders, they were reduced to 16, retaining both the iconic ‘W’ design and the over-thousand horsepower level. Eight years later, in 2005, Bugatti surprises everyone with the Bugatti Veyron: a sports car whose 8.0-liter W16 with four turbochargers develops 1,001 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and has maximum torque 1,250 Nm between 2,200 and 5,500 rpm.
The engine met the power requirements set by Ferdinand Piëch, but The number of propellers mounted on the Bugatti Veyron has increased over the versions and new models. The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport delivered 1,200 hp, the Bugatti Chiron reached 1,500 hp thanks, in part, to larger turbos, and the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport offered 1,600 hp.
different from everything
This engine was unlike anything seen before in a production vehicle. As Gregor Gries, former technical development manager at Bugatti, explains, they had to do a development for each component: “We had to build all the parts from scratch and test them.” Even the engine test bed was new: “The only thing we haven’t changed are the pencils we used to draw.”
It was also smaller than a V12 thanks to its double row of eight cylinders and its operation was smooth as silk. So much so that they had to develop a special system called Bugatti Ion Current Sensing (BIS) to eliminate engine knock, because it was so fine that even a misfire was hard to detect. So special was that the exhaust system installed was made of titanium and they had to design a unique form of cooling, which used more than forty liters of water.
The last of his kind
The W16 is the Bugatti powertrain that is still in production today, but alas, his days are numbered. The market trend is directing manufacturers towards smaller blocks, hybrid systems and electrified. Everything indicates that there will no longer be many technical marvels like the one signed by the French brand. It is the last of its kind and will be remembered as one of the great moments in motorsport history.