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Monday, 14 February 2011

Pagani Huayra - Supercar 2.0

Front view. Note the gullwing doors, a first for Pagani
I think it only right to christen my new blog with this car, as it is also a new beginning. In fact, this is quite possibly the most exciting supercar - and therefore the most exciting car - of 2011.

A quick back story: the Pagani Zonda has been around since all the way back in 1999. Horacio Pagani planned to replace it in 2003, because he thought it would be outdated by the new generation of supercars (Murcielago, Enzo Ferrari, Koenigsegg, Carrera GT and so on). It wasn't, so in 2004 he merely updated it with the Zonda F.

Now though, after countless special editions of varying insanity, the Zonda really has run its course, and so the 7.3 AMG V12-powered Wondercar is sadly now in its death bed. The replacement which ended up being designed and developed over 7 years must now come into the light: Enter the Huayra.

Powered by a bespoke 6.0 V12 BiTurbo (made once again by AMG) which produces around 730bhp and an Earth-spinning 811 lb/ft of torque, the Huayra (it's pronounced H-wy-ra, which TopGear can't seem to grasp) can hit 60mph from rest in around 3.5 seconds and charge onwards to a top speed of 235mph. Compare that to the Enzo Ferrari and the upcoming Lamborghini Aventador LP700 that'll hit 217mph, or the Zonda F which topped out at 215mph. In fact, it's just as fast as the rule-ignoring, race-grade Zonda R! Any faster and you're up there in the stratosphere with the Koenigseggs and Bugatti Veyrons of the world. That's fast. Really bloody fast. Despite this, the huge V12 engine coughs up less CO2 (at <310g/km) than a V8 Ferrari or Corvette ZR1, and can manage about 25mpg on a combined cycle. It's no Polo BlueMotion I admit, but for an engine like that it's very impressive.

The bespoke V12 engine has its own unique part number at AMG (M158)
But this is no million-euro dragster. The CarboTanium construction (carbon fibre woven together with titanium wire for a very high strength-to-weight ratio) and carbon ceramic brakes were first used in the Zonda R. The single-clutch paddleshift gearbox is also derived from the concept racer, only it's a little softer in this road car. Not slower, just smoother. They decided to forego the trendy Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) that most cars use these days in order to save 65kg, and this attitude to every aspect means that the whole car weighs around 1350kg, the same kind of weight as a Lotus Evora, a Ferrari 458... or a Volkswagen Golf. In fact, it's a whopping 500kg lighter than a 270mph Bugatti Veyron SS. This along with advanced pushrod suspension and bespoke Pirelli P-Zero tyres gives it the potential for truly track-shredding cornering ability. But there's more to go with it...

Between the headlights and tail lights sit aerodynamic flaps. Each of the four (two front, two rear) are computer-controlled using input readings from the pedals, steering wheel and speedometer, which are gained from ESP and ABS systems, and raise or lower accordingly. Yup, this production road car has "Active Aerodynamics". Very clever, and the sort of technology that wouldn't be allowed anywhere near a racing car, for fear of race domination.

But what's it for? Well, here's an example: you're about to head into the first corner of the TopGear test track, a 2nd-gear left hander. The 2 rear flaps flip up under hard braking, acting as an air brake. At the same time, the front suspension is raised slightly, all to counter the weight transfer to the front and stop the tail sliding out or otherwise losing stability (which even Gran Turismo 5 will teach you is crucial when you're really going for it in a sports car). As you ease off the brakes, you'll start steering left and the rear flaps drop. The left flaps front and rear will then rise as much as necessary, raising downforce on the inner side of the car and keeping the line tight, as well as counteracting body roll. As you take some steering angle off and gun it, all the flaps lower to keep drag to a minimum (Cd = 0.33), as low drag is what helps any car cut through the air more cleanly and achieve a higher top speed. All this makes for a tight and tidy line through the corners, meaning you can take them faster and faster, shaving precious tenths off your lap times.

This potentially outrageous performance is balanced with sumptuous luxury and pure mechanical art, and art really is the word - Horacio wanted every part of the car to be worthy of display in a museum, which is why beauty runs all the way through this car. The interior is a stunning and leathery place to be, with all your basic creature comforts (stereo, a/c, sat nav, bluetooth hands-free, etc.) controlled by a big touchscreen in the dashboard. The gear selector is exposed, but because every detail is so exquisite, it doesn't look shoddy, it looks like utterly fantastic artwork that moves in and below your hand. The two-tone weave typical of carbon fibre is weaved to make a V-shape that runs through every part, the lines matching up from panel to panel, and the €2,500 dials (!) are handmade by Swiss watch makers. Just to look nicer. This extreme level of detail is part of why this will cost around €1m (~£860,000). The other part is the super-high-tech engineering and hand-crafting of each car, of course.

Handbrake probably not available in any fleshy colours...
The exterior styling has been surprisingly divisive, with some comparing it directly to the Zonda F and calling it "bloated". Harsh, really. Sure enough, the nose is higher to meet US crash regulations, so Americans can't really complain, but I think that while the front bumper takes a little getting used to (and, if I'm picky, the tail lights look a little bit prototyp-ish), the lines and creases and shapes all flow together so well that the Huayra looks utterly gorgeous, and to be honest, one may be picky when merely judging pictures on the internet and in magazines, but when you see shots of it outside rather than in a studio, you just know that when you see a Huayra in front of you, either on a road or at a motor show, it's going to do special things to your insides and turn you into that giddy 7-year-old that just saw a red Ferrari for the first time. The lack of spoilers and the less extreme lateral proportions (it's not so much wider at the back this time) give it a cleaner look than the outgoing Zonda, too.

The ride is designed to be perfectly comfortable for a road car so that you could sit in it for an hour or more and not get a numb behind, more Maserati GranTurismo than McLaren F1, and it has an 85-litre fuel tank for doing long journeys with, so in theory it does what all sports GTs should be able to do: perfect schizophrenia. One moment it's a sublime luxury car, the next it's a mind-blowing racing car. Yet in truth, it's a supercar, comparable to all those hard-to-see-out-of red pointy things with vertical doors that you look at and think "that'd be fun for a weekend, but it must be a nightmare to live with". The Huayra might not be, although of course I haven't actually driven it - nor has anyone outside of Pagani Automibili as of yet - so I can't say for sure.

In summary, the Pagani Huayra takes supercars to a whole new level, incorporating racing technology with a continuous focus on making a road car to end up with a genuinely comfortable long-distance GT car that can out-drive the very best cars in the world. Ironic, really, as this actually is one of the very best cars in the world. It may be a daring claim, but the new Lamborghini V12 has just been overshadowed.

(P.S. I promise not all posts will be this long!)

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