When you’re a kid playing with LEGO bricks, getting a new LEGO set for your birthday or Christmas is exciting beyond belief. There’s so much hidden play value trapped inside that colorful box–yellow, with the words LEGOLAND stamped on the front, if you grew up in the 80s–that you can’t wait to tear it open and begin building. Chances are, if you’re reading The Brothers Brick, you’re like me and still feverishly tear into new LEGO sets, no matter your age. But every once in awhile a set comes along that makes you slow down and just admire the box for a bit. Not that you’re less excited to build it, but rather that there’s something about this set that makes you want to savor it. Ask the butler to bring you some champagne. Settle into your yacht’s white leather couch, and pull up the Swarovski crystal coffee table. This set is going to be epic, and you can already feel it. LEGO’s second premium Technic set, 42083 Bugatti Chiron, is the best set of this kind yet. It’s based on the French ultra-luxury brand’s newest supercar, a 1,500 horsepower 2-seater that can rocket you to 261 miles per hour in pure comfort, provided you can afford the starting price of $2.7 million. The LEGO version is a bit more modest, however, including 3,599 pieces and retailing for $349.99 USD ($399.99 in Canada | £329.99 in the UK). It is available now.
The box and instructions
Right from the start, this set stands out. Following the LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the Bugatti Chiron is only the second set to feature LEGO Technic’s new premium packaging for its flagship models. The design language is marked by elegant minimalism. The Chiron’s box is rich blue with minimal logos, and weighing in at over 13 pounds, it’s surprisingly heavy, even accounting for the large size.
A Bugatti should always be delivered by a valet with a pristine white tie. Alas, today I only play at being one of the jet-set crowd, but this set makes me believe a little. Opening the box is a bit like opening the hood on a modern luxury car: you won’t see greasy manifolds or whirring belts, but rather a sleek facade overlaying the real machinery. And here we reveal a series of boxes, with the manual laid in atop the center one. A single image lays across five of the boxes, displaying the real Chiron’s front quarter. The sixth box displays the Bugatti’s signature rims, a new element designed specifically for this set. Flip the boxes over, and you’ll see a similar image of the car’s rear quarter. Like the Porsche 911, the inside of the box is decorated with key models from Bugatti’s history, from the 1930s Type 57 Atlantic to last decade’s Veyron.
Each of the individual boxes is stamped with a number on the near-facing side, indicating the order in which they’re to be opened. Immediately I’m reminded of the nearly 8,000-piece Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon and its four inner boxes containing parts packed in random order, necessitating opening all the boxes up front. No such pre-sorting is needed here, and it’s a breath of fresh air. Setting the boxes out reveals that there’s not one but two hefty manuals here, along with a sticker sheet. The inclusion of the sticker sheet is a disappointment, though not unexpected since the Porsche 911 GT3 RS also had one and LEGO rarely prints on large curved elements. What is more disappointing, though, is that LEGO chose to sticker several elements that really should have been printed, such as the Bugatti logos on the grille (a 1×2 tile) and steering wheel (a 1×1 half-round tile). In fact, the only printed elements in the set are the 1×1 round tiles bearing the stylized B for the wheel hubs, and the 1×4 tile with each set’s unique code. Like the Porsche, this code can be entered on LEGO’s website for some special content, though at the time of writing this isn’t active yet.
The two half-inch-thick manuals can be a bit cumbersome to keep open, but they definitely an improvement from the Porsche’s single manual. (For reference, each manual individually is larger than that of the Ninjago City Docks.) Together they carry you through 970 steps across 628 pages. The first twenty or so pages are dedicated to a brief story of how LEGO’s Technic Designer Aurelien Rouffiange and Technic Senior Design Manager Andy Woodman worked with Bugatti’s Director of Design Achim Anscheidt and Head of Tradition Julius Kruta to translate the life-size model into LEGO bricks, punctuated by high-quality photographs of the LEGO and real car. Each section of the car is also given an introduction and a few glamor shots. The images below are a sampling, but we’ve not spoiled everything.
As we settle in for the build, it’s at this point the set takes a turn for the truly unexpected. In order to completely give an immersive experience, LEGO and Bugatti have produced a 9-episode podcast to accompany the build hosted by Danish radio personality Palle Bo. He follows the journey of the both the LEGO and real Chiron from concept to completed model, visiting Bugatti’s headquarters and assembly rooms in Molsheim, France, the German engineering facility that produces the Chiron’s engine, and LEGO’s design offices in Billund, Denmark, interviewing key contributors at every step. The podcast also delves into the history of both companies as they strive to be the best in the world in their respective industries, and it’s one of the most interesting pieces of LEGO-related media I’ve encountered in a very long time. With episodes ranging between 25-40 minutes each, the show should last a fair bit of the build time, provided you pair it with occasional interludes from your personal string quartet.
So, let’s begin by digging into Box 1, which has bags 1, 2, and 3, along with a few loose panels. It’s immediately clear from the vast quantities of gears in the bags that the first section is going to include the transmission.
However, the very first section is the rear frame and suspension. LEGO’s designers agonized, they say, over creating the set to mimic the real Chiron’s two-part assembly. The Chiron isn’t built with a frame (or more likely for a supercar, a carbon-fiber tub) the length of the car, but instead with shorter front and rear frames. So just like the real one, the LEGO Chiron is built with the front and rear frames separated and subassemblies joined to that, then they’re joined together later in what is known as the “marriage” process.
This first section introduces two all-new elements, the disk brake rotors, and a new 20-tooth gear with a Technic pin hole rather than the existing axle-hole type. The brake rotors look excellent, and are a much-needed upgrade from the rotor-less wheel hubs used on the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Bar 3Ls behind are mounted behind the rotors, allowing the brake pads to clipped on later via skeleton arms.
And then, of course, comes the transmission. It’s a marvel of engineering–one of the most complex gear systems ever used in a LEGO set. It mimics the Bugatti’s seven-speed transmission, providing one extra gear for a total of eight, since the designers weren’t able to incorporate an odd number of gears into such a small package. The gears can be switched with the flip of a paddle shifter beneath the steering wheel.
This is facilitated with the help of two more brand new elements; a new style of driving ring extension, in yellow, and a driving ring shifter gear, in orange. In the image above, the dark grey driving rings are mounted to the two center axles, while the orange gears mounted below them slide the driving rings forward and backward as they turn, engaging or disengaging the driving rings from their red or blue gears. Finally, the whole transmission is mated to the frame.
Bag 3 houses the elements for the Bugatti’s engine, that walloping monster with 16 cylinders and producing a positively ludicrous 1,500 horsepower. The real engine can power all four wheels to propel the car to 60 miles per hour in a mere 2.3 seconds, and ultimately all the way to a staggering 261 mph, at which point the Chiron caps acceleration. Bugatti claims this is simply because they were unable to source tires that could withstand higher speeds.
The engine here, like most Technic models, doesn’t propel the car, but rather is powered by the car’s rolling wheels. Like the real car, it’s all-wheel drive, with each piston pumping as the driveshaft turns the crankshaft. Or in this case, as the three crankshafts turn, since each side of the lower four cylinders has a separate crankshaft. Michael T. Jeppesen, the 21-year veteran of LEGO Technic and designer of the Technic car’s engine, notes that this is simply a limitation of the elements, and creating a W-16 engine in a single crankshaft wasn’t possible in the cramped space needed. Once the engine is finished, it’s added on above the transmission, racking solidly into place between the rear suspension and finishing up the first box.
Box 2 is the largest box in the set, sitting right in the middle of the box art’s mosaic arrangement. However, it only contains bags 4 and 5, though each has multiple individual bags. There’s also an unnumbered bag with rods and flex tubing. Setting aside the rear assembly from box one, we begin on the front assembly with the suspension, steering, front differential, and gearbox.
As you build, it’s important to take note of small details in the instructions. The instructions are excellently laid out, but with 970 steps there’s a lot of chances for builder error, and Technic sets are not as forgiving as traditional System sets if you discover a mistake down the road. In the image below, take note of the placement of that green beam mounted behind the front differential–it may be important later.
The paddle-shifter mechanism is introduced in bag 5, with a clever ratcheting system created by a pair of rubber-band tensioned black #3 angled axle connectors pushing against a gear filled with white pin connectors. This allows each pull of the levers (on the bottom right in the image below, as the assembly is upside down at this stage) to turn the gear one-quarter turn with a satisfying clunk. This, in turn, rotates the yellow knob wheel, which ties via the gearbox and a complex series of other gears back into the transmission.Finally, a bit of the cockpit and monocoque shell are added to the front assembly, introducing the first of many of the Chiron’s dark blue elements.
At the end of bag 5, we get to the “marriage” process. This is an exceedingly difficult step, requiring precise alignment of the elements as four different driveshafts span the front and rear sections, traversing between the gearbox and transmission, along with numerous other pins and connectors. Once complete, the build at last begins to take the rudimentary shape of a car.
With the full engine, transmission, and suspension system now functional, we’re only just ready to move on to the third of the set’s six boxes. Box 3 contains Bags 7 and 8, largely comprising quite a lot more of the dark blue cladding, including the large Technic wheel arches first introduced in the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Regular system elements first appear in this section, making up the underlayment for the rear facade. The taillights employ an interesting technique, using quads of black nipple elements paired with Technic half-pins to bridge the divide between System and Technic.
The red ribbon taillight uses another great technique: a red piece of flex tube spans the entire back width of the car, held in place at each end by minifigure stud shooters. This is the first time I’ve seen that element used in a set outside its intended purpose, and it looks perfect here.
The seats and interior comprise Box 4, along with the introduction of the medium azure paneling that covers the Chiron’s front. The seats are an identical pair of dark tan hip-hugging racing seats. Stickers mimic the Chiron stitching on the headrests.
The side panels around the doors are set at a subtle angle to capture the Chiron’s curving surface. Here you can also see the clips that will hold the Chiron’s iconic silver streak that encircles the door.
Now the steering wheel is attached to the rack and pinion mechanism, and the rest of the interior is fleshed out. The Chiron may be a luxury car, but it’s still a supercar, and that means the greenhouse is tiny. There’s not much to it beyond the seats and gearshift, though the dashboard is decorated with a pair of semicircle dark tan stickers to mimic the leather pattern.
Box 5, containing bags 11 and 12, makes up the remainder of the car’s medium azure shell, including the hood and doors. Now is also a good time to circle back to the boxes themselves, which use the same fancy origami pattern to close as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. It’s a subtle touch, but one that elevates the experience another notch and is sorely lacking from sets in the Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series.
Second perhaps only to the silver-lined side intakes, the Bugatti Chiron’s horseshoe grille is the car’s most distinctive feature. It’s certainly the one filled with the most history, dating back to the brand’s earliest years. It splits the pair of “4-eyes” headlights, and is accomplished on the LEGO model with a combination of Technic and System elements. The lights themselves and the bumper and intakes below them are also created with System pieces, and the four 1×1 clear plates make shockingly perfect matches to the Chiron’s light kit.
With the addition of the hood, the car begins to look like its final form, and at last the box-cover mosaic is again finished. Only one more box to go.
The sixth and final box has the four unique rims lined up along its top surface. It’s a neat touch that hearkens back to when LEGO would place significant elements in clear windows behind the box front. The box contains the final bag, number 13. The dark blue rims themselves are extraordinarily deep at just shy of six studs, and are eight studs in diameter. They feature silver printing on outside making the five-petal flower, and have a single stud in the center which is filled with the printed 1×1 round tiles with the stylized B logo. Bag 13 adds the iconic pinstripe around the side intakes, a single piece of light grey flex tube 38 studs long. This final bag also contains the few remaining finishing touches like the A pillars and two-stage turbochargers, along with the car’s few accessories.
Oh, remember that green Technic beam above the front differential in Box 2? This is the step where I discover that the differential was installed upside down, as I attempt to push the finished car and the wheels stubbornly refuse to turn. On a normal two-wheel-drive car, that wouldn’t make any difference. But the Chiron is all-wheel drive, with a differential for each wheel pair. The flipped differential has set the wheels at odds with one another, so when the front wheels are in drive, the rear ones are in reverse. The front differential is at the very heart of the car’s front chassis with absolutely no access points from the top or bottom. Removing it to repair the issue would necessitate rebuilding at least half of the car.
After much hair pulling and agonizing, I had an epiphany–the rear differential is relatively accessible. A quick flip later, and the rear differential is installed backward also, making both spin in the same direction. Moral of the story: don’t be like me. Follow the instructions, and double-check your work. Green part goes down on the front differential.
The finished model
The LEGO model captures the broad lines remarkably well, and the two-tone color scheme is gorgeous. The curves around the taillights are among the car’s most elegant touches. A whole, the model is resoundingly solid, easily picked up with a hand under the front of the roof.
Gaps in the body panels are as much a part of the design language of Technic as pin holes and exposed axles. Nevertheless, there are a few gaps that stuck out to me. Namely, the gaps around the edges of the front wheel arch elements, both in front near the headlights and on top sloping into the hood. Both feel like they’re missing a few elements to bridge the gap. Still, it’s a minor distraction among the overall beauty.
The rear deck has a hollow gap above the engine, for there’s no glass over the engine as many supercars have. The viewport is split with a thin spine, a design touch reminiscent of the center seam running the car’s length on classic Bugattis like the Type 57, whose body paneling was struck in two halves from the alloy elektrum. At the time, no technology existed for welding elektrum, so the engineers added a seam to rivet the halves together, inadvertently creating an iconic piece of Bugatti’s design language.
The Chiron is no normal automobile, and as such it requires two keys, not one. One is the standard, everyday key used for picking up the kids–no, make that kid–from polo practice, while the other, dubbed the “speed key,” is for showing off on the weekends, provided you have a 3-kilometer long perfectly straight stretch of tarmac. Engage the speed key in its slot between the driver’s seat and door, and the car’s full potential unlocks, allowing access to its top speed.
On the LEGO model, the speed key puts the car into speed mode, aka raising the rear wing. There’s a slot above the left rear tire, and turning it raises or lowers the wing.
The car’s other accessory is stored in the trunk up front, which is only just big enough. It’s a small handbag, emblazoned with the Chiron logo. Presumably it’s where you store your white driving gloves.
Inside the car, the steering wheel turns the front wheels (we’d expect no less), and the paddle shifter below the steering wheel rapidly flicks between gears. In the center console, there’s a gear shift to select between high, low, and neutral.
Comparison to the LEGO Technic 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
I’ll come right out and say it: if you own and love the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, you need this car to be its companion in your collection, if for no other reason than that the blue and orange colors complement each other so well. Both are premium sets of very high-end sports cars built in massive 1:8 scale. Interestingly the Porsche is just a hair’s breadth longer, though the Bugatti has about 800 more pieces (and a commensurately large box).
Comparison to LEGO Speed Champions 75878 Bugatti Chiron
This Technic marvel isn’t the first LEGO Chiron–that honor goes to the Speed Champions model from earlier this year, 75878 Bugatti Chiron. Of course, that one is minifigure scale, so it’s no surprise that the Technic model, at approximately 10,000 times the size, is a bit more accurate. We loved the Speed Champions model though and its clever techniques, so even if a 3,600-piece Technic set isn’t in your budget, you don’t have to live like a peasant with no Bugatti Chiron in your LEGO fleet.
Conclusions & recommendation
There’s no question that this car is a looker, as befits a conveyance machine designed for the 0.01%. The Chiron is a synthesis of new and old. It’s named after Louis Chiron, a racecar driver for Bugatti in the 1930s, and the dark and light blue color scheme is a nod to the brand’s early cars like the Type 57. Yet under the hood, it’s as modern a 21st-century automobile as engineering can make. Likewise, the Bugatti Chiron LEGO kit blends old and new; a Technic system that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary is added to with several new elements and a podcast to enhance the building experience. But more importantly, LEGO itself is embracing the marriage of its classic kid’s toy with the notion that yes, adults build LEGO Technic kits too, and want a premium quality set with luxurious packaging and a masterfully complex build.
LEGO raised the bar on what a premium set should be with the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. They’ve just raised it again with the Bugatti Chiron.
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.