Admiring The Bugatti Bolide And The Brand's Design Direction
Discussing Bugatti's past, present, and future with Deputy Design Director Frank Heyl.
Bugatti has been at the forefront of design and performance since the start of the 20th century, with a legendary history of producing cars that not only boast striking appearances, but stack up racing trophies. Cars for the extremely wealthy, those who sought top speeds, and for drivers that wanted to make an impression in more ways than one, Bugatti has taken itself into the 21st century while dramatically raising the bar.
During a recent conversation with Frank Heyl, Deputy Design Director of Bugatti Automobiles, I had a chance to learn more about the design direction of the company. With extensive experience working with Bugatti from development and production including the Veyron Supersport, onto the Vision Gran Turismo, Chiron, and Divo, Heyl's work now looks ahead with the new Bolide.
A Car Enthusiast Who Crafts Modern Icons
As an integral part of shaping the Molsheim, France-based marque's striking design language, I wanted to learn more about his role, some background, and what he looks forward to. Not just an artist in the automotive space, Frank Heyl is one of us. He drives a Porsche 911 GT3, and tracks it regularly. Some of his favorite cars include the McLaren F1, Red Bull's wild X2010, the 1992 Le Mans-winning Peugeot 905 EVO1, the iconic Mazda 787B, and the Aston Martin Valkyrie. After receiving his Master of Arts in Vehicle Design from the Royal College of Art in 2005, Heyl interned at Volkswagen and Audi before landing at Bugatti in 2008.
In 2014, Heyl was promoted to the role Head of Exterior Design, working on projects including the Chiron and Divo. After five years in this role, Heyl was named Design Director Achim Anscheidt’s deputy. Most impressed by design aspects of a car, including its stance, cab relation to the wheels, and its proportions. Performance is obviously another key feature within design, and Heyl has to work within Bugatti's massive 16-cylinder powerplant's dimensions and hardware to get nicely incorporated into a tidy aerodynamic package. Having to include a huge quad-turbo engine's radiators, intercoolers, and heat extraction components into a package that's about the size of a Porsche 911, Heyl and his team are magicians.
From carrying over much of what made the supremely attractive Veyron operate at record speeds, the Chiron took on a new style, with sharper edges and a more impactful stance. With the advancement of the Chiron came the Divo and the Gran Turismo Vision concept, which each went more wild with harder edges, increased flex in the proportions, while still appearing to be a Bugatti at first glance.
Maintaining Signature Features In New Models
Taking classic features and incorporating them into modern shapes and interpretations is a challenge Frank Heyl faces at Bugatti, while also maintaining the company's brand values of excellence, courage, and dedication. From the iconic horseshoe-shaped grille, the central ridge that runs the length of the body, the C-shape on the side, or the two-tone color scheme, any Bugatti produced has to work these elements into its design. Fortunately while attending The Quail and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, during Monterey Car Week, I was able to see these designs on classic Bugatti models, only a stone's throw away from the new cars displayed on stage.
Classic Bugattis were built for the well-heeled motorist--and occasional driver--who wanted to be driven along in extreme luxury, but also for playboy gentleman racers who wanted to take the wheel of the ultimate performance car. Over a century of change, Bugatti still maintains this brand image, now producing the world's fastest production cars that encompass a driver with a cockpit that's meticulously appointed. With the Bugatti lineup on display, it was interesting to see the design details that distinguish the Chiron Pur Sport--which balances its high top speed with an aerodynamic package that makes it more enjoyable and competent on canyon roads or on track--to its new stablemates.
Sharing the stage at The Quail was the new Chiron Super Sport, which puts an emphasis on improving stability on its way to achieving a ludicrous top speed of over 275 MPH. This lighter weight Bugatti's quad-turbo W16 also receives a power increase over the standard Chiron, at a starting price of €3.2 million. Crafting a shape that hit top speed targets while concealing a revised chassis and suspension was one challenge for Frank Heyl and the Bugatti design department.
A key goal of the Chiron Super Sport's design was to increase downforce while limiting drag. Heyl's team designed this new model with a 25cm longer rear end, raising the new diffuser’s trailing edge higher and reducing the rear’s trailing surface. There's also a new exhaust system that sports vertical pipes which give a deeper tone while improving aero. Offering a nod to the Bugatti EB 110 Super Sport, the Chiron Super Sport's fenders include nine exhaust holes which relieve front wheel air pressure while improving downforce.
Exploring Track-Focused Possibilities
During Monterey Car Week, Bugatti officially unveiled the Chiron Super Sport, but also announced the production plans for the new Bolide, which will solely be permitted for use on-track. With a price of €4 million, and deliveries expected in 2024, 40 lucky buyers will be able to experience the ultimate Bugatti. Explaining the technical challenges and goals for the Bolide, Bugatti's Deputy Design Director Frank Heyl was excited to discuss how this new track-oriented hypercar came to life.
Designing the smallest shell to wrap around Bugatti's most extreme drivetrain hooked up to its most powerful 16-cylinder engine--producing 1,850 PS (1,825 HP) and 1,850 Nm (1,365 lb-ft) of torque--the packaging employs dramatic changes while maintaining an overall height of just 995mm. Maintaining the Bugatti signature color split, only 40% of the Bolide's surfaces are painted (in historic French Racing Blue), allowing it to proudly display its functional and striking carbon fiber components.
A challenge on the stylistic front involved transforming the unyielding demands of aerodynamics and lightweight construction into an aesthetic that makes the Bolide easily recognizeable as a Bugatti. With a front end view that's dominated by air ducts you expect to spot on racing cars rather than sports cars, the Bugatti Bolide has air-to-air intercoolers with water pre-cooling for optimal on-track performance, yet still retains the iconic horseshoe grille. A pair of water coolers are placed ahead of the front axle, mimicking radiator setups you'd recognize on F1 cars.
The focus on performance makes its way along the sides of the Bolide, with aggressive lateral components and an aerodynamic floor visible. These features not only allow for greater downforce and cornering stability, but also help force air toward three oil coolers for the W16.4 engine, transmission, and differential. The massive wheels of the Bugatti Bolide feature newly developed and hybrid carbon titanium turbofans which ventilate and cool the racing brake system, and are wrapped in Michelin racing slicks.
At the rear of the Bolide, Heyl's design team at Bugatti crafted a high central wing component that you'd recognize from designs on Le Mans Prototype racers, running from the rear of the cockpit to the massive rear wing element. Under this huge wing, the Bolide has four massive tailpipes, centrally mounted high off the floor. Without the requirement for a license plate and its mounting, like is needed on a road car, this track-only tail-end allows Bugatti to employ a giant rear diffuser that improves airflow and rear-end stability at wildly fast cornering speeds.
Mother of God
What Lies Ahead
No longer battling regulatory requirements for a road car, the Bugatti design team was able to focus on outright performance in the most demanding environments on a circuit, but still wanted to meet FIA safety standards with the Bolide. Does that mean Bugatti aims to take its models racing on the biggest endurance stages? Heyl wouldn't say one way or another, but with results on track as the ultimate goal, Bugatti claims the Bolide can lap the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans in 3:07.1 minutes, and takes just 5:23.1 minutes to get around the benchmark Nurburgring Nordschleife. I'd say the prospects of the Bolide's performance look fantastic, and I'm eager to see these obscenely fast and technically stunning cars take to the circuit.
Recently Bugatti announced its partnership with Rimac, the company responsible for producing the most extreme EV hypercars, boasting massive top speed and horsepower figures, and raising the bar for what's possible in a road car. While Frank Heyl conveyed that it was too soon to discuss what the future holds through this new collaboration, he's excited for the possibilities ahead for Bugatti and Rimac.
Teaming up to incorporate electrified powerplants into the most astounding hypercars, there are new challenges a design team faces. Just like the efforts in packaging a sleek body around Bugatti's quad-turbocharged W16 engine, electric powertrains bring their own technical exercises in cooling and aerodynamics. Whatever the teams at Bugatti and Rimac come up with, I'm certain these machines will be as exhilarating to drive as they are to admire as you gaze upon them.