Bugatti unveils the $4.1M Tourbillon hybrid hypercar

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(NEW YORK) — Welcome to the new era of electrification.

Bugatti, the 115-year-old French marque known for its powerful W16 engines, unveiled its first electrified hypercar, the Tourbillon, on Thursday at the company’s atelier in Molsheim.

A naturally aspirated V16 engine and three electric motors replace the prodigious W16 powerplant and four turbochargers found in previous Bugatti models. The Tourbillon’s all-new hybrid powertrain generates 1,800 horsepower, up from 1,500 horsepower in the Chiron, the last model to showcase the W16.

The $4.1 million Tourbillon, which is currently in the testing phase, can also reach a top speed of 248 mph.

Emilio Scervo, Bugatti’s chief technical officer, said choosing a hybrid powertrain over an engine-less design was the “most important decision” for his team.

“We chose the hardest option, creating a powertrain from scratch and pairing it seamlessly with a complex system of e-motors, a new generation eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and more, all developed from the ground up,” he said in a press release. “But it was important to us that this car retain that pure and raw analogue feel of a naturally aspirated combustion engine.”

Bugatti’s move to produce a hybrid over an EV mirrors the reversal taking place in the automotive industry. A growing list of automakers are delaying their electrification plans as sales of EVs weaken and demand for hybrids heats up. When Matt Rimac, the founder of electric sports car maker Rimac, merged Bugatti with Rimac in November of 2021, analysts largely expected to see a fully electric Bugatti by the end of the decade. Insiders are now heralding the company’s transition to hybrid and expect Bugatti to sell all 250 units of the Tourbillon.

“I’m delighted that Bugatti chose to make an entirely new engine in a world turning to electric motors,” Tony Quiroga, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver and co-host of the magazine’s “Into Cars” podcast, told ABC News. “That it’s powered by an 8.3-liter, V16 that revs to 9000 rpm makes it entirely unique not only today, but in the history of street cars. Bugatti’s decision to build an internal-combustion engine that makes less power than its quad-turbocharged predecessor may have been driven by the desire to prioritize engine sound and characteristics over horsepower.”

Pairing an electric motor to a gas-powered engine is becoming more common among automakers; the latest examples include the Corvette E-Ray, McLaren Artura and Ferrari SF90 Stradale. Bugatti, however, is the sole automaker to offer a 16-cylinder hybrid powertrain. Adding electric motors to an internal combustion engine — hypercar or not — maximizes performance and can produce eye-popping horsepower. Drivers get instantaneous torque without spewing too many noxious gases. For a Bugatti Tourbillon owner, there’s not much to dislike.

“You get the efficiency gain of a turbo but with the low-end throttle response of a larger engine, an appreciable performance step,” Larry Webster, senior vice president of media and editorial at Hagerty, told ABC News. “From an enthusiast perspective, this is a great application of electrification and a trend I think we’ll see continue.”

He added, “Electrification has opened up entirely new ways for engineers to squeeze more power into the same amount of space. The horsepower war is in full swing and shows no sign of abating.”

The Tourbillon’s 8.3-liter engine makes 1,000 horsepower and the car’s three electric motors produce another 800. The car, including the added weight of the large battery pack and its electrically actuated dihedral doors, still weighs less than the Chiron, which the company attributes to the lightweight materials used in the engine and chassis.

The electric motors — two in the front, one at the rear axle — are powered by a 25 kWh 800V battery that’s stationed behind the driver and passenger. The car can travel more than 37 miles on electric power alone.

The interior of the Tourbillon has been totally redesigned as well. There is now a small touchscreen that can display vehicle data and Apple CarPlay. There’s also the option of keeping it entirely hidden; a mechanism deploys the screen if the driver so chooses.

The instrument cluster was built by Swiss watchmakers and contains more than 600 parts, titanium and gemstones such as ruby and sapphire. Bugatti’s designers reworked the interior to be more spacious, “making it ideal for longer trips and daily use,” according to the company. There’s even a frunk — a front trunk — now for extra storage space.

“It is crazy to build a new V16 engine, to integrate with a new battery pack and electric motors and to have a real Swiss-made watchmaker instrument cluster and 3D-printed suspension parts … but this is what Ettore [Bugatti] would have done,” said Rimac.

An electric Bugatti may be coming one day, but for now, a hybrid Tourbillon still satisfies the needs of the uber wealthy who can afford it, Webster said.

“I certainly never thought we needed all-electric sports cars for maximum performance and pleasure,” he said. “An internal combustion engine is a major contributor to the personality of the car thanks to the sound, the throttle response, and the motive power.”

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