Ultra high-end luxury cars are common today, with the likes of Lotus, Porsche, and even Ferrari offering four-door crossovers. But three decades ago, the most expensive and technologically advanced cars in the world were all sports cars — your F40s, 959s and Diablos. Then along came Bugatti with the EB112 concept, a four-door sedan with supercar bones.
Unveiled at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show, the EB112 caused quite a sensation. Partially it was due to the extremely polarizing styling. Styled by design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, it translated the look of early 20th-century Bugatti classics like the Type 57 Galibier to early 1990s bar-of-soap aesthetics. References to classic Bugattis like the Type 57 SC Atlantic came in the form of a subtle spine along the dorsal line.
"The EB112 in many respects was a dream car and a forerunner to what we today know as high-performance fastback models," Giugiaro said. Squint and you might see shades of Porsche Panamera or Tesla Model 3 in the profile. Some found it beautiful, others found it hideous.
What's less subjective is the cutting edge technology beneath its controversial skin. The underpinnings were heavily based on Bugatti's EB110 supercar introduced in 1991, such as aluminum panels draped over a carbon fiber monocoque.
Power came from a 6.0-liter V12 designed with Volkswagen's help, a bit of foreshadowing about the company's future. Each cylinder had five valves for a total of 60, and the engine was mounted in a front-midship design aft of the front axle. The unit generated 460 horsepower at at 6,300 rpm and 435 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm, which was fed through a 6-speed manual transmission to an AWD system similar to the EB110's with a 38/62 front/rear torque split.
Bugatti's own tests said the EB112 could reach 0-100km (0-62 mph) in 4.3 seconds. Its top speed is said to have broken the 300 kph (186 mph) barrier as well.
Unfortunately Bugatti, then owned by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, went bankrupt in 1995 and the EB112 never saw production. Venturi owner Gildo Pallanca Pastor purchased what was left and found three partially finished EB112s, two of which he completed with spare parts, though these hand-built units each had minor differences.
Volkswagen bought Bugatti in 1998 and continued to evolve the EB112. In 1999 they debuted the EB218 concept, equipped with a W18 engine and a Lamborghini Diablo VT's AWD system. Another Bugatti sedan, the 16C Galibier, was proposed in 2009 and subsequently axed.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the concept's debut, and August 7 was Giorgetto Giugiaro's 85th birthday, The EB112 may not have made it into production, but today Bugatti sees it as the "spiritual predecessor" to cars like the Veyron and Chiron. With automotive trends what they are, perhaps a four-door Bugatti could still be a reality someday.