This is not a car review. Strap yourselves in and prepare yourself for a shameless gushfest.
I mean, seriously, no one reading this review is out there shopping for the $2.5-million Pagani Huayra BC, never mind any sort of Pagani. Only 20 of the limited edition BC will be built, and they are already spoken for. All that’s left is to drool and shake my head at the sheer audacity and impossibility of this machine.
Pagani is a relatively recent arrival on the automotive scene and has only produced one model prior to the almost-impossible-to-pronounce Huayra (H-Why-Ra), the Zonda, which came in coupe, convertible and a track-special R edition. Over its 16-year history, the company has only built about 300 vehicles, the very definition of exclusivity. Each car is assembled in an Italian workshop in Modena with individual attention and craftsmanship to rival the bespoke quality of Rolls-Royce, though opulence is not Pagani’s main mission. Many of the parts are handcrafted and no expense is spared to produce vehicles of exceeding passion and capability.
The Huayra’s run of 100 coupes is nearing completion, with a convertible soon to debut, and no doubt a limited version of that to follow. In the interim, Pagani is producing a scant 20 examples of the Huayra BC coupe with an emphasis on maximum capability and maximum speed. The BC stands for Benny Caiola, the first customer to buy a Pagani, who became a friend and inspiration to Horacio Pagani.
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More Power, Less Weight
Engineering has tuned the bi-turbo V12 built by AMG to about 800 hp and over 800 lb-ft in this prototype, and cars delivered to customers could exceed even that. It unleashes monstrous power, delivered with unfettered ferocity, the manifolds sucking air in through the massive intakes, turbos shrieking and the V12’s wail surely pleasing the Incan wind god for which the car is named. It seems a cross between a race car and an alien invasion chittering in your ear and ready to steal your face and organs.
At the other end of the spectrum, Pagani removed as much weight as possible from the Huayra BC while still serving up a street-legal road car, unlike the Zonda R, which was a track-only special edition. The radio is gone, luggage compartments dumped, parts lightened, exotic materials embraced, carbon fiber unlacquered and every part optimized to save ounces and bring the BC down to 2,756 lb from 2,980 lb for the standard coupe. To put that into perspective, the pint-sized MX-5 weighs 2,332 lbs, and the Corvette Z06 is a heavyweight by comparison, weighing 3,524 lbs and making a paltry 650 hp and lb-ft.
With enough power to break free of Earth’s orbit, the Huayra BC launches to 60 mph in under 3 seconds and claims top speed of 238 mph, driven exclusively by the rear wheels and a seven-speed single-clutch automated manual. This single-clutch gearbox, developed and built by Xtrac, is 40 percent lighter than a dual-clutch and puts power to the wheels via tripod axle drive shafts, a technology lifted from Le Mans prototypes, while the transverse layout aid in compact packaging and carbon fiber synchronizers aid in making gear changes faster and more precise.
Maniacal, yet Civilized
While we did not have the time and space (like an airport runway or drag strip or Circuit de la Sarthe) to put that acceleration or Vmax to the test, its acceleration from stoplights, from low speeds to highway speeds, and license-losing speeds was effortless except for the strain to keep your face from turning into a pancake. Peak power seems to be just about everywhere, and although the throttle seems to wisely have some forgiveness before it unleashes the full extent of the V12’s potency, you’ll be looking for new swear words and perfecting your maniacal laughter and school girl giggles in one heady outburst, because you won’t likely be able to contain the glee that this car’s power incites. Gearshifts slam home with the speed and precision of a combo from Manny Pacquiao when your foot is deep into the throttle, and then you get flattened into the carbon fiber-shelled seats again.
However, the gearbox is also smart enough to ease off when less frantic acceleration is called for, aided by the variable ESP modes of comfort, sport, and track, which will decrease the level of intervention from the machine should you wish it. Perhaps the most surprising thing in a beast like the Huayra BC was its civility; between burst of mad acceleration and diving into corners, the spare-no-expense suspension and titanium-laced carbon-fiber monocoque with steel-tube frame manages a ride that could almost be called comfortable. There is just about zero body roll or dive under braking, but mild road imperfections are summarily damped and even more severe surface changes are felt and then immediately isolated, without any fillings rattled or concussions as you might get from some track specials for the street.
Groundbreaking Aero, Physics-Defying Handling
But you don’t want to hear about how comfortable it is. Likely, you want to hear more about those flaps you see on the front and back. Note the little mini-spoilers on each side front and back, which are active spoilers that stand at attention when you stand on the brakes, aiding the Brembo-sourced carbon ceramic brakes. However, the real party trick is when cornering, where the flaps will act in concert to exert optimum downforce to keep the car level and increase grip for the tractive tires (the first production vehicle to make use of such active aero), while an electronic active differential balances power to the wheels.
But the active aero isn’t the sum total of the Huayra BC’s aerodynamics. The entire car was redesigned to both slip through the air more efficiently and to stick to the road more purposefully. Every body panel has been redesigned after intensive computer modelling, while Horacio Pagani worked to maintain the aesthetic appeal of this hypercar, taking into account the air’s flow over under and even through the car. While the details are stunning and riveting, the overall form is an ode to function, and yet there is a certain appeal even to its awkward profile and slightly creepy headlights. Seriously, I try to avoid looking at those headlights because every time I do I think they’re going to probe me…
Anyhow, taking advantage of the aerodynamic assist from those flaps and the BC’s stupendous downforce, a set of Pirelli P Zero Corsa keeps it stuck to the road, measuring 255/30ZR20 in front and 355/25ZR21, wrapped around wheels milled from a single piece of forged aluminum, the layers peeled away by high-powered lasers until all that’s left is a lighter, stronger wheel. With so little weight and so much power driven to the rear wheels, the thought crossed my mind that it would squirm like a Hellcat on ice (or in the rain or in the cold), but the Huayra never felt out of sorts, putting power down on those fat rear tires, and biting into corners with demonic possessiveness.
Engaging and Soulful
The steering is weighty enough to feel serious, but easy enough to become effortless, and the car responds to your vision seemingly without your hands or the steering system being involved at all, feeling like an extension of one’s body. Focus your attention to it though, and the road beneath is alive in your hands, the tires speaking of their angle and remaining grip with the balance of the vehicle shared through the seat and frame with absolute clarity. This is a car that can be driven easily, and which can easily be driven fast and faster with absolute confidence.
What I wouldn’t give for some more time and a track to see how far I’d be willing to push this machine. The power and the sounds are intoxicating, the craftsmanship flawless, the artistry inspiring, but it is impossible to forget that this masterpiece is built for speed, and I was able to sample only a small hint of its potential, and even that reset the bar far above any vehicle I’ve ever experienced. Massively capable, yet intimately engaging, it’s a gift to automotive enthusiasts from a genius of singular passion, an homage from Horacio Pagani for Benny Caiola, but a tribute to speed unlike anything seen before.
On the off chance that one of the 20 lucky souls destined to take possession of this automotive unicorn is reading, I will say this, please don’t hide them in a climate controlled garage, appreciating in value, but depriving enthusiasts and onlookers the rare chance to see and hear a vehicle of such singular and rare appeal.