I have driven all three modern-era Bugattis—the Chiron, the Veyron, and the EB110. The Chiron and Veyron were the result of VW Group boss Ferdinand Pich's steely determination to build the fastest, most powerful supercars in history. The EB110, of which just 139 were built between 1991 and 1995, was a more quixotic proposition.
Unveiled on the 110th anniversary of the birth of Ettore Bugatti, the EB110 was the brainchild of Italian businessman Romano Artioli. He built a factory just outside Modena, Italy; convinced Marcello Gandini, the man who designed the Miura and the Countach for Lamborghini, to sketch a concept; and hired a team of engineers to build a car to outperform the Ferrari F40.
Like the Chiron and the Veyron, the EB110 had four turbochargers and all-wheel drive, but instead of a hulking 8.0-liter 16-cylinder engine, it was powered by a jewel-like 3.5-liter V-12. Like all high-performance Italian V-12s, the EB110 engine loved to rev despite the 450 lb-ft of turbocharged torque it developed at 3,750 rpm. Peak output of 552 hp came at a dizzying 8,000 rpm.
Read our First Drive review on the 2018 Bugatti Chiron right HERE.
"Above 6,000 rpm it accelerates like an F16 on afterburner," I wrote of the EB110 GT I drove in early 1994. "The V-12's basso low-speed growl changes to a hard-edged scream as the revs build, punctuated by the metallic fissst-pshaw of the wastegates blowing off excess boost as you lift off to shift." Zero to 60 mph in less than 3.6 seconds and a 209-mph top speed might be run-of-the-mill supercar territory these days, but 25 years ago it was breathtaking. Only the McLaren F1 and Jaguar's XJ220 were faster, and not by much.
I also remember the EB110 GT as easy to drive. Fast or slow, on a winding road or a crowded city street, the Bugatti was smooth and civilized, the ride remarkably compliant and the power steering beautifully weighted. The all-wheel-drive system's 27/73 front/rear torque split helped deliver prodigious traction and near-neutral handling with just a touch of controllable oversteer right on the limit.
A quarter century on I sense distant echoes of the EB110 in the coolly composed Chiron. Then it clicks: Loris Bicocchi. The affable Italian test driver who helped tune the Chiron's chassis—and has sorted supercars for Lamborghini, McLaren, Pagani, and Koenigsegg—also worked on the EB110.