Bugatti did two things to create a compact engine capable of producing 1,000 hp. The first and most obvious thing is turbocharging.
If you have read How Turbochargers Work, you know that one easy way to make an engine more powerful without making the engine bigger is to stuff more air into the cylinders on each intake stroke. Turbochargers do that. A turbo pressurizes the air coming into the cylinder so the cylinder can hold more air.
If you stuff twice as much air in each cylinder, you can burn twice as much gasoline. In reality, it's not quite a perfect ratio like that, but you get the idea. The Bugatti uses a maximum turbo boost of 18 PSI to double the output power of its engine.
Therefore, turbocharging allows Bugatti to cut the size of the engine from 16 liters back down to a more manageable 8 liters.
To generate that much air pressure, the Bugatti requires four separate turbochargers arranged around the engine.
The second thing Bugatti engineers did, both to keep the RPM redline high and to lower lag time when you press the accelerator, was to double the number of cylinders. The Bugatti has a very rare 16-cylinder engine.
There are two easy ways to create a 16-cylinder engine.
- One way would be to put two V-8 engines in-line with each other. You connect the output shaft of the two V-8s together.
- Another would be to put two in-line 8-cylinder engines beside one another.
The latter technique is, in fact, the way Bugatti created its first 16-cylinder cars in the early 20th century.
For the Veyron, Bugatti chose a much more challenging path. Essentially, Bugatti merged two V-8 engines onto one another, and then let both of them share the same crankshaft. This configuration creates the W-16 engine found in the Veyron. The two V's create a W. You can see exactly how this looks in a set of beautiful videos available on the Bugatti Web site (click here for instructions on how to access the videos).
Then, Bugatti started piling on features to make the engine even better...