Small, and almost perfectly formed

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The thing that strikes you about the EB110 on first appearance is just how small it is. A super-short supercar. It’s been likened to some sort of exotic Lancia integrale — function determining form in a similar way. Given the density of mechanical componentry within the carbon fibre tub, it is difficult to envisage how it could possibly all fit in.

There’s a 3.5-litre quad turbo VI2 nestling behind the passenger compartment, and it puts its 552 bhp through to all four wheels via a six-speed gearbox and an assortment of diffs.

It’s an unconventional sort of supercar in all sorts of ways. Snick the catch that brings the driver’s door up vertically, climb inside and the view is not the usual claustrophobic nightmare. Yes, you’re still aware that you’re sitting pretty low and that there is more width than is comfortable, but you can see out of the thing, there’s plenty of headroom and the dash layout appears quite normal.

Likewise the clutch and gearshift don’t require the peculiar balance of delicacy and Herculean strength demanded by many of this ilk. The lever just slicks its way round the gate as if this were a BMW 3-Series. The engine, for all its awesome power, doesn’t stir with the sort of growls, rumbles, barks and screams that are the stuff of Italian legend.

Instead it’s got a smooth whirr which just increases in pitch as the revs rise, accompanied by the swish of the turbos. Those turbos — despite their tiny size — have some lag which spoils response a little, apparently something to do with their incompatability to the exhaust catalysts and which the factory is working hard to eradicate.

Because of the lag, and quite a tall first gear, the performance doesn’t feel quite as mindblowing as expected when the first tentative getaway is attempted. Give it some serious throttle next time though, get that VI 2 deep into its power band, and yes, then the acceleration is truly spectacular, the car pouncing savagely forward with no drama, no loss of traction. Bugatti claims a 0-62 mph time of 3.46 secs and a maximum of 212 mph.

Back off again though, forget the towering performance for an instant, and the EBI 10 returns to being a most untypical example of the genre. The ride is downright comfortable, like a quality saloon’s, swallowing surface imperfections wfth ease whilst still giving exemplary body control at higher speeds.

There is also a general lack of road noise, something for which the carbon fibre tub takes much of the credit. Cruising at 120 mph down the autostrada, in relative silence, with a comfortable ride in a comfortable seat, with good visibility, it becomes quite a feasible notion that this car could be used for fast cross-continent trips in much the same way as a BMW 7-Series. Always assuming you have your luggage sent ahead.

The four-wheel-drive system is set up with a 73 per cent rearward bias and so the handling can be entertaining, or frightening, depending on the circumstances. With a short wheelbase, playing powerslides in low speed corners requires the driver to get the steering correction on quickly.

In higher speed corners the balance is actually very forgiving, with a gradual build up of shallow understeer, readily adjustable with gentle throttle modulation. The EB110 is a very surprising supercar. Staggeringly effective, it can produce the sort of numbers that leave most of this exclusive club breathless. But it does it with very little of the fuss that many find so much part of the appeal. Instead it excels in areas where no such car has ever excelled. — C T W

Three EB110s have been sold in Britain since the model became available in January.