Bugatti's New Hypercar Reinvents the (Steering) Wheel

the steering wheel and dashboard of a car
Bugatti Tourbillon Reinvents the (Steering) WheelA.J. Baime

Following in the Bugatti Chiron’s footsteps is like being born Henry Ford II, or Elon Musk Jr., not that the latter person exists, to our knowledge. The world would have ridiculous expectations of you. It’s the same with Bugatti’s new $4.6 million Tourbillon, the Chiron "successor," a flagship car walking in such colossal footsteps that it must burst with brilliance and surprises to be anything but a letdown.

“Every part, from a brake caliper to a suspension arm or some kind of bracket, has to be a piece of art,” Bugatti’s CEO Mate Rimac told Road & Track. “Even if the customer doesn’t see it.”

We’ll tell you one thing the customer can see: the steering wheel and instrument cluster, right in their face. It has to be groundbreaking, fascinating, gorgeous. And it is.

the steering wheel and dashboard of a car
The Tourbillon’s fixed hub wheel and instrument cluster, as seen at our private viewing in Los Angeles in March. A.J. Baime

“This is where the art of watchmaking comes into play,” Bugatti’s Director of Design Frank Heyl said in an exclusive interview with R&T. “Our research has shown that our customers are really into watches, mechanical watches. With mechanical watches, the art is in the complications. How many more complications can you put into a mechanical watch?”


It’s also about the watch’s transparency. Because, of course, the wearer wants to be able to see the hand-made complications, to experience the genius.

The new hybrid 1800-horsepower Tourbillon’s speedometer, fuel gauge, pressure gauges, and tachometer were built to resemble, and to function like, a great big mechanical Swiss-made watch. The company created what it calls “a completely analog instrument cluster crafted by Swiss watchmakers and finished with the same care and attention you find in the world’s greatest timepieces.”

Just as important is the novel way this instrument panel is presented to the driver.

“The car has a very special steering wheel—what we call a fixed hub steering wheel,” Heyl explained. “This steering wheel allows you to look at your instrumentation at any steering angle without having the spokes of the steering wheel obscure your vision of the instrumentation. We are running the steering wheel’s spokes behind the instrumentation and airbag.”

When you turn the wheel while cornering, the instrument cluster remains front and center, mounted just above the fixed hub at the center. Naturally, a non-digital instrument cluster, designed to resemble a highly complex mechanical watch, requires a slightly longer time to read than straight-forward and well-lighted digital readouts. So the fixed hub steering wheel is not just nifty, it’s necessary, for safety and functionality, as it gives the driver easy access to the information. (Say, for example, when the car is busting 200 mph.)

Bugatti will only build a planned 250 Tourbillons, with deliveries starting in 2026. The 1800-horsepower all-wheel drive hybrid’s performance stats are promising insanity on wheels. But the comfort and unique design of the interior looks to be an equal achievement. “Every interior decision – just as it is with the exterior – is made with ultimate performance in mind, without compromising in any way on practicality or comfort,” Bugatti said of its new flagship.

The instrument cluster is crafted of more than 600 parts in titanium, as well as gemstones such as sapphire and ruby. The center console blends sapphire glass with a polished aluminum structure milled from a single block of metal. The lightweight seats are adjustable up-and-down, but fixed to the floor to achieve lightweight and a low center of gravity, with the pedal box adjustable to the driver’s frame. Even the weight of the audio system has stressed the need for a new kind of sound delivery, with no traditional speaker systems, but rather “exciters” that turn the interior panels into sound emitters.

But it’s the Tourbillon’s mechanical watch-inspired instrument cluster set above the fixed hub steering wheel that steals the show in this Bugatti’s interior. From the point-of-view of the driver’s seat, the setup makes the new Bugatti a triumph before the engine is even ignited.

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