Max’s Monthly Column: The Bugatti Chiron hits 300mph and Max reviews the VW Golf R

by Sep 17, 2019Blog, News

Max Berry

This is Max’s Monthly Column. It’s September. That’s it, in my mind – call me a cynic all you like, but the brutal reality in this cumbersome month is that the responsibility and business of April and June is no longer diffused and partially reflected by warm summer evenings with the odd cider. Oh no, we’re entering a metaphorical bend in the road, and ahead lies the back straight to Christmas. And unfortunately, un-metaphorically, I’ve already seen several of those annoying adverts you see in the preparation, for the preparation of Christmas.

A Liverpudlian hotel I was in recently had a festive setup on the entrance to its dining room, with a low- quality sign at its side reading “Are you ready for Christmas?” And I’ll be honest, my resounding answer was no. It’s still the summer until the 23rd of September, isn’t it? We’re more than an entire season away from this event, and yet they seem to feel it necessary to ensure I’m aware of such occurrences, before then asking if I’m ready. I suppose we do have Halloween coming up, but I’m afraid I’m not a big enthusiast – and I know many people really enjoy dressing up and spending hours making themselves look like they’ve been caught up in a collision with two cheese graters, but frankly; I struggle to stay interested.

I’m not a big “scary” experience fan really, I mean I’m not a fan of heights, I’m a terrible passenger in a fast- moving car (although I’ve always loved being in an aeroplane), I avoid rollercoasters like the plague and I genuinely cannot do ladders. But the one form of scariness I do, and for a long time have always enjoyed, is driving. As I’ve said, when not in control of a high velocity car, I’m terrified, but when I am, there’s very rarely fear. This is never on the road… obviously. Just in previous years ragging go karts and buggies around incredibly uneven grass (and later muddy) fields. Perhaps I’ll find the perimeter of my driving comfort zone when one day driving a faster car. And thanks to Bugatti (I mean who else?), there’s now an even faster option.

BUGATTI’S NEW CHIRON HITS UPWARDS OF 300MPH

I should start by saying this is no ordinary Bugatti – in fact I’m slightly surprised it’s even regarded as a ‘production car’. It’s a Chiron, which granted – is a completely purchasable, road legal automobile with a 1,479bhp, 8.0L, quad turbo-charged W16 engine (or rocket booster) in it. But this ‘top speed run’ variant is more. Much more, in almost every way. This one has an additional 99 determined German horsepowers, is 25 centimetres longer than its little brother, with a dieted rear end for high speed stability and a single, central driver’s seat with roll cage.

But little of this matters, because it will, or rather has, or rather did, go 300miles an hour, piloted by a man called Andy in August this year. It was 304 point something miles per hour in actual fact. I mean that is a new level of speed all together (and yes, I can see myself laughing at that last sentence in 20 or so years when we have cars that’ll do millions of miles per hour). But for now, for 2019 – that is epic. This is a car which, 100bhp previously, could legally drive to the shops on a Sunday to buy bread.

“This is Bugatti doing what they’re meant to do. Bravo.”

 

– Max Berry

I hope I experience that kind of speed one day; I really do. I hope it’s frightening, but in a different way to anything else. I want it to be an experience, a spectacle – with the sounds of air streaming around the car, with fart-like gear changes, me clinging to the steering wheel as the thing propels me along to new personal top speed heights.

The reality with Bugatti’s creation however, suggests this may be slightly overdramatised. You see the 300mph Chiron, with its slight upgrades handles the speed unnaturally efficiently. According to various Bugatti top speed run freaks, including (and this rather makes my point) James May; all you actually have to do is plant your foot on the loud pedal and keep the wheel straight. There’s no talent required – there’s excitement in plentiful amounts, but no actual skill. But, as a far as I can see, that’s a compliment to Bugatti’s engineering.

I’m really glad Bugatti have got the 300mph production car record (despite being pipped to the post by a highly modified Ford GT which actually achieved 300mph earlier this year). I’m glad because you may remember – you probably don’t – that back in my March 2019 Column, I wrote of a couple of the highlights from this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

This included a fairly harsh run down of Bugatti’s previous world record in the form of the Voiture Noire which sold for more than 15 million pounds: the most expensive new car, ever. As I wrote that month, this was contempt, a marketing ploy – perhaps even a bit of a gimmick. A record which honestly, isn’t overly awe-inspiring when broken. But this speed record breaking of late – getting a car to move along a piece of road faster than anyone else (apart from the crazy guys with their crystal-meth Ford GT) is exactly what they should be doing. This is Bugatti doing what they’re meant to do. Bravo.

Watch the Chiron break the 300mph mark.

A REVIEW OF THE VW GOLF R

Unbelievably, it occurred to me this week that I’ve made very little reference to the Volkswagen Golf in my column since it began at the start of the year. The brilliant thing is, I needn’t say much – everyone knows what a Golf is, what it’s for, and why they work. In fact I reckon almost everyone knows someone who owns one.

If you pop into a dealership ready to buy your next car which, on this occasion you’ve decided will be a Golf; the lovely sales person will welcome you with a complimentary coffee, and the following question –“what’s your price range?”

View Max’s Review of the VW Golf R here.

The options will quickly be outlined. If you’ve got anything up to £26,000 you can have a less interesting, but hugely functional Golf GT or R Line edition. If you’ve got either £28,000 or £33,000 you can have an e-Golf electric thing or gorgeous GTI Performance model respectively (and I know which one I’d go for). But, with just an extra £3,000 you could have the daddy. This is the one you want, as I explain in my video review on YouTube. Although in reality, you’re looking at more like £40K plus with the addition of the vital, in my opinion, Akrapovic titanium sports exhaust which makes changing gear a wonderfully juvenile experience.

The facts are these. The Golf R has what appears to be a fairly standard 2.0L, 4-cylinder engine but it directs more than 300bhp at all four wheels – yes, that’s right. The flurry of power is transmitted to the engine via a DSG flappy paddle gearbox, and the chassis is a toybox of components designed to let you have fun, but not end up in a hedge.

It is fantastic fun. It’s very fast, most noticeable when you bang it down to 3rd on a twisty Hertfordshire road and floor it, and you suddenly realise you’re unleashing almost 100 horsepower more than a top spec GTI. And the DSG gearbox is fabulous to use – like cracking your index finger knuckle. It’s limited to 155mph, the suspension is firm, and the sporty mode and inline 4 engine will remind you of why you like driving.

Max behind the wheel of the VW Golf R

And then there’s the noise from the £3,000 extra Akrapovic sports exhaust, set with two double tailpipes on each flank: and I’m afraid I must direct you to my video review where you can see and hear what I’m on about. It sounds like an angry bear falling into an industrial shredder, with the odd fart on upshift echoing in the background. It was a huge amount of fun. And yet, during my drive in the north east of Hertfordshire, as we approached a built-up area with children and cats and nuns, having relaxed the car into comfy mode, it was as civilised as a Chesterfield Wingback chair. In this mode it’s as easy as driving the standard car, with the suspension absorbing the road and the gearbox now in fully automatic.

The Golf R is also practical, because it’s a Golf. It’s everything that we love about the standard car, but with sports car level power. And what’s not to love about that?

Well according to some, quite a lot. The Golf’s critics, hiding in dark alleyways, suggest the R is too proper, too down the line, and that actually it would be better if it were a bit worse. They say it isn’t fast enough – a Mercedes A45 AMG or Audi RS3 will make mincemeat of it in a straight line. They say it’s too dull aesthetically – the new Honda Civic Type R or Ford Focus RS have far more Hot Wheels wings and detailing to suggest they’re a bit hotter than your average hatchback. And this is quite true – 40K plus for a fiery hot hatchback that doesn’t shout it from the highest rooftop is a lot of money. But actually – that’s the Volkswagen’s party piece.

As I outline in my video review, the Golf R offers a balance of adolescence and maturity in quantities that are pretty much unparalleled. As I’ve already mentioned, there are plenty of fast, hot, sticky hatchbacks that go very quickly, but what many of the competitors struggle to do is become such family-friendly, quiet, practical, comfortable and genuinely useful machines at the touch of a button, as the Golf can. It can be an eye watering maniac when you want it to be, but when you don’t, it isn’t. And that, I think; is a far greater achievement than “making it look fast”.

Make sure you take a look at Max Berry Productions’ YouTube Channel by clicking here.

 

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