how was its iconic 8-liter W16 engine born?

Bugatti’s beating heart for almost 20 years, the 8.0 liter W16 has become signature of the Molsheim brand in the 21st century. Let’s go back in time and the history of this somewhat crazy mechanism, from its creation to its development, to better understand all its symphonies…

Veyron, the one who showed the way…

By announcing, 2005the engine characteristics of its new Veyron 16.4, Bugatti entered a new dimension, and at the same time change the situation with respect to prestige cars. The performance was then immeasurable: 2.5 seconds to go from 0 to 100 km/h with a top speed of over 400 km/h.

By launching the production of Veyron 16.4is the brand a true pioneer of a new era, that of “hypercars, caressed with the finger of the previous decade by models such as the EB110, McLaren F1 or Ferrari F50.

In March 2016, Bugatti presented the next generation of the Veyron: the Chironto higher power levels by … 50% thanks to a complete overhaul of all the components that power the W16 and now the cavalry is spitting 1600 horsepower ! To compensate for the increase in weight, the manufacturer has used lighter materials such as titanium and carbon.

W16: creation of an engine that is unique in the world

In 1997, Ferdinand Karl Piechthen chairman of the board of Volkswagen AG, present at Karl Heinz Neumannhead of engine development at VW, sa first idea about W16originally envisioned with… 18 cylindersdraws it on a single envelope while traveling between Tokyo and Osaka.

Gregor Griesone of the first employees to join Bugatti when it was reborn 20 years ago and director of technical development for the brand until February 2022, recalls: “At the time, nobody thought we could develop a 1000 HP car that could drive on the road. We wanted to prove that we were able to design an engine that was not only powerful, but also with good handling. “

The engineers started from scratch. “We had to develop every component of the W16. Every part of the vehicle had to be rebuilt and retested, including the engine test bed. The only thing that hasn’t changed are the pencils we used to draw. », he’s joking. “We felt like Ettore Bugatti in the past. He too has always developed his own tools. »

The 16-cylinder mid-engine, no bigger than a V12 and weighing only around 400kg, owes its size to the unique ‘W’ shaped cylinder arrangement. Two block of eight cylinders form a 90 degree angle to each other and are vented by four turbochargers. The challenges that Karl-Heinz Neumann and his team had to overcome to bring this W16 engine to life were enormous.

“At that time we had no literature, no empirical data on engines with more than 12 cylinders and production vehicles that could reach more than 350 km/h.” explains Neumann. “The most difficult thing was to make sure that the car did not take off and that its power remained on the road – which is not easy at such speeds. But to be able to prove that we were able to produce such a powerful engine was truly extraordinary. We felt a real sense of achievement when the W16 was finally up and running. »

W16: 3500 parts to bring it to life

To bring this engine to life, 3500 pieces were collected with the hand. During the first test in 2001, the twin-turbo engine immediately delivered the Veyron’s 1001 hp. However, the engine test bench and the ventilation system are problematic: they are not designed for such power and must be reworked for the W16.

New requirements are added, such as the need to channel the very hot exhaust gases. The team will finally opt for a titanium exhaust system with a dimension never seen in the automotive industry.

Engineers then turned their attention to vehicle reliability. Bugatti has thus developed the system Bugatti Ion Current Sensor (BIS) to monitor the ion current flowing through each spark plug. that Cooling system he too was absolutely crucial to the reliability of the W16. A system with two water circuits keeps it at the desired temperature, even at full load.

“Getting on the road with the W16 is to experience a sense of limitless, almost infinite power and performance. No matter what speed you’ve already reached, no matter what the situation, the engine always has enough to keep you going. Going from cruising speed to fast driving in seconds, the W16 remains smooth and stable. It is this absence of limits that seduces our customers. »Explain Pierre-Henri RaphanelOfficial Bugatti Driver.

As the years go by, engineers continue to do sooptimize the engine. In addition to enlarged turbos and many other improvements, the W16 is capable of since 2010 and the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, 1200 hp. In the same year, Supersporten established a speed record of 431,072 km/h.

The development of the W16 for the Chiron

With Chiron, engineers must now develop one new model even more luxurious and efficient. They want to make the W16 more powerful, quieter and more refined, pushing the limits of what is achievable again. “In addition to the increase in power – with corresponding engine dimensions and weight – we also wanted to improve acoustics, fuel consumption and emissions”, Remember Tilo Furstenberg then head of engine development.

The engineers kept only the compact shape of the engine and its size of 73 mm. Everything else will be completely rebuilt. The result : a new block of 1500 hp, with a more direct response and a power increase of 50% compared to the Veyron 16.4 and around 24% compared to the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport.

A novelty: the sequential turbo

Much of the new engine performance can be attributed exhaust turbo with a new sequential turbo. The transition to 1500 hp initially, then to 1600 for the Chiron Super Sport and Centodieci, required four.

In 2019, this development work bears fruit, the Chiron Super Sport 300+ becomes the first production car to cross 300 miles per hour. At exactly 304,773 mph (490.484 km/h), it is still to this day the fastest production sports car in the world. At the same time, Bugatti is raising electronic limitation at 440 km/hwhich had never been allowed before…

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