The wind of change is blowing through the supercar world, and its name is Huayra. Pagani’s new supercar takes its appellation from the ancient Argentinean god of wind and, like the Zonda before it (also named after a wind), it’s poised to set new benchmarks for the world’s fastest and most exclusive road cars.
It’s pronounced ‘why-eera’ (we have this on good authority from none other than Horacio Pagani himself), though the actual sound that escapes your lips might well be ‘phwooar’. Because the first time you see the Huayra in the metal – or rather in the carbon, aluminium and titanium – I guarantee it’ll bring out the small child in you. This is a supercar in the very best sense, dripping with advanced materials, packed with new technologies, powered by a sensationally powerful twin-turbo V12 engine, and clothed in bodywork of quite stunning proportions and exquisite detailing.
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I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Huayra was originally planned to appear almost two years ago, at the 2009 Geneva motor show. But when I visited the Pagani factory in December 2008, Horacio confided that he’d decided to delay the launch. With the world economy in turmoil, he said, it wasn’t the right time to be unveiling a glitzy new supercar.
‘Damn!’ was my first reaction. I’d been close to the project for a while and we’d set a number of pages aside for the big reveal. But in fact the decision made perfect sense. For a start, it meant the car would be fully compliant with Euro 5 and LEV II (the equivalent US emissions regulation) right from launch. And since actual production wasn’t due to start until 2010, customers wouldn’t have to wait so long for their cars to arrive. Canny businessman, Mr Pagani.
Now wind the clock forward to December 2010 and I find myself at the Pagani factory once again, but this time there’s a real buzz about the place. Apparently the Huayra test programme has been going spectacularly well, the car proving to be even quicker and even more dynamically accomplished than they’d hoped. I’ve only been inside the factory for a few minutes but Horacio is just itching to show me his new baby in all its glory.
He ushers me into the inner workshop, where a finished Huayra is hiding under a fitted cover. Even like this, the proportions and stance look fantastic, the shape Zonda-like but much smoother and, from what I can tell, with no obvious spoilers to muddle the lines. Horacio and test driver Davide Testi each grab a front corner of the cover and begin to peel it back…The jewel-like headlights appear first, then the exquisite teardrop mirrors, seemingly hanging in space from the slimmest stalks imaginable. So far so Zonda, but with each emerging panel the Huayra reveals itself to be a radically different design and very much its own thing.
The overall effect is less showy than some of the more recent Zondas. Subtler, classier. Every single aspect of the car is quite beautifully finished, be it the forged and polished wheels (different right-to-left so the spokes curve in the direction of the wheels’ rotation on both sides of the car), the single titanium nut that clamps each wheel to its hub, the unique front and rear lights or the distinctive titanium quad exhaust tips poking from beneath the rear cover. Everywhere you look there’s another gorgeous trinket to enjoy – the leather straps, carried over from the Zonda, that hold the front and rear covers to the central tub. The Cinque’s titanium exhaust cans, just visible through the rear grille. So much to take in…
According to Horacio, the overall shape was inspired by an aircraft’s wing and its fundamental ‘rightness’ in terms of design. That’s why the nose section of the Huayra looks slightly odd at first. Instead of having a protruding front splitter, two large scoops channel air beneath the Huayra’s prominent nose. At first glance, I’m not convinced this is a good idea. Surely these scoops will only lead to lift under the front axle, while the bluff front will increase drag. Horacio quickly organises an air-line to be rigged up and instructs me to hold a scaled-down replica of the Huayra’s front section a few millimetres above a workbench. As soon as the air blasts out, the front section is sucked downwards – not what I was expecting at all. But then, as Horacio says, air never does what you expect; it only does what it wants.
The lack of a conventional front air dam isn’t the only surprise in the Huayra’s front section, as just behind the leading edge of the nose, sitting flush with the surrounding bodywork, are two moveable flaps. These hold the key to the car’s clean profile, as the Huayra sees the introduction of advanced active aerodynamics to the world of supercars. There are two similar flaps at the rear of the car and all four are controlled by a powerful ECU, which constantly monitors speed, yaw, lateral acceleration, steering angle and throttle position and then moves the flaps independently, according to whatever aero load is required.
If you’ve ever sat overlooking a wing on a plane then you’ll have noticed that the flaps on the wing’s trailing edge seem to have a life of their own, especially when you’re coming in to land. Well, the flaps on the Huayra work in an identical way. When you’re braking, the rear flaps will pop up to increase drag and act like an air brake. But it’s when you’re cornering that it all gets a little weird. Say you’re going through a tightening left-hander. You might expect all the flaps to pop up to help increase overall downforce, but in fact only the inside flaps are raised as that’s where the extra downforce is needed, to increase grip on the inside tyres and also to keep roll to a minimum. The way these flaps work in practice won’t become entirely clear until we actually drive the car later this year, but I love the fact that they have enabled the Huayra to have such a clean and uncluttered profile along with an excellent Cd figure of 0.3, rising to a maximum Cd of 0.5 when all four flaps are deployed.
There’s one more trick to the aerodynamics. Adjustable-height front suspension allows the gap between car and road to be controlled by this new ECU, so under heavy braking, for example, the suspension is raised to counter the forward weight transfer.
The rear of the Huayra is also a much cleaner design than the Zonda. The rear track is 20mm narrower, while the wheelbase has been stretched by 70mm, giving the new car a much slimmer look than its predecessor. Just behind the doors are the two intakes for the mid-mounted engine, designed specifically so the occupants get to enjoy the aural sensations as the new twin-turbo 6-litre AMG V12 turns air and petrol into 700 thunderous horsepower. The engine is visible from outside the car via a window just behind the passenger cell, with the gold-coloured finned air intakes to the inlet manifold dominating the view, while other details glint in the background. What you probably won’t notice is that surrounding this engine window is the air intake for the gearbox cooler that sits behind the engine.
From directly behind the car you can see how much taller the rear haunches are compared with the Zonda’s, and how uncluttered your view to them is thanks to the absence of a fixed spoiler. The rear grille (there to help vent the engine compartment) is in the same Pagani-signature oval shape as on the Zonda R, while the rear venturi looks simpler than before but apparently delivers even greater downforce.
Go to take a peak inside the Huayra’s cabin and initially you don’t realise that the door is a gullwing design; when closed, it looks just like the conventionally opening door on a Zonda. Only when you pull on the catch do you twig that it doesn’t pivot outwards but wants to rise vertically instead. As it does, it reveals probably the most spectacular interior you’ll ever see.
It’s hard to know where to start, as everything in here is new. The cockpit is bigger (70mm longer and 50mm wider to be exact) and although the seats look familiar, they are in fact an all-new design offering greater lateral support. But it’s what sits between them that defines what this car is all about…
The owner’s manual probably calls it the ‘gear selector’, but if you ever wondered if a mechanical object could be described as art, look no further. Suspended in mid-air, the lever pivots around a single rose-joint that is gripped between two horseshoe brackets mounted on the end of the central tunnel. Push or pull the lever and you can see it operating the chromed rods protruding from the tunnel below. Sadly, you’ll only use this lever to select Drive, Reverse or Park – the Huayra comes exclusively with a seven-speed automated manual gearbox with paddles for manual shifting – but it’s a thing of utter beauty nonetheless.
Just like the Ferrari 458, the Huayra gathers lots of minor controls on the steering wheel, including lights, wipers, indicators, even Pagani’s version of the manettino switch, which alters both the electronic stability control and gearbox settings, allowing the driver to choose between Normal, Sport and Race modes (in Race the car will record lateral acceleration and lap times, as well as speed). One surprise is that the gearchange paddles are now mounted on the wheel itself, rather than on the column (as in the Cinque), after the development team decided they were easier to use in this position.
More evidence of the fanatical attention to detail that has gone into this car are the Huayra’s instruments, the facias for which are not the normal printed plastic affairs but are hand-made for Pagani by a Swiss watch-face maker in metal, with the numerals and markings cut from the metal face itself. They take days to create and instead of costing the industry standard of around 4 euros, they come in at over 2500 euros a set!The central console sports an LCD screen, which displays navigation, ventilation, audio and phone functions. Below this is a row of manual controls for the ventilation, and below those the slot where the new ‘key’ that Pagani has designed for the Huayra needs to be inserted. Shaped like the car itself and made from aluminium, not only is it a key, it also doubles as a music storage device, so every time it’s plugged into the car, all of your music stored within it becomes available. And no, there isn’t a starter button in sight.
As you might expect, the finish inside the Huayra is amazing, especially when you consider that the car complies with all known safety regulations, including those in the US. That’s why the steering wheel now has an airbag and the passenger seat comes equipped with a load sensor, so the two-stage passenger-side airbag can be deployed at the correct level. There are even Isofix child-seat mounting points on the passenger seat – that’s because it’s a legal requirement in certain countries. Even so, I can’t see many Huayras being used for the school run…
Delve under the carbon bodywork and you’ll discover even more engineering cleverness going on. For example, rather than venting the hot air that leaves the front-mounted radiator over the bodywork, Pagani has flowed the majority of it into the front wheelarches. The thinking here is that it will keep the carbon-ceramic brake discs above ambient temperature and therefore the pad material doesn’t have to be compromised for cold-disc performance as the discs are hardly ever stone-cold. There are also pipes that take air from the back of the air-to-water intercoolers on either side of the front section and direct it straight onto the discs. According to Horacio, this allows the discs to be kept at around 50 degrees C, which is the perfect temperature for the ceramics not to have any unwanted cold-braking performance characteristics.
The suspension front and rear is a double- wishbone arrangement, with near-horizontal dampers, and again it all looks utterly beautiful. Taken almost directly from the Zonda R, the components have been machined individually from solid pieces of aircraft-grade aluminium before being anodised in their final golden finish. The suspension is attached to incredibly strong chrome-vanadium front and rear subframes, which in turn are bolted directly to the new carbon-titanium central tub. Pagani is rightly very proud of the inherent strength offered by this tub, which enables the Huayra to pass all of the current and impending crash tests around the world with flying colours.
The engine remains at the heart of a Pagani, though, and this new one certainly delivers. The twin-turbocharged, 5980cc AMG V12 is bespoke (it has its own Mercedes part number, M158) and produces over 700bhp at 5000rpm and 811lb ft at 3500rpm, yet it will be rated at below 310g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle, a remarkable result for a 700bhp supercar (for comparison, the 562bhp V8-engined Ferrari 458 Italia comes in at 307g/km).
Combine this amount of horsepower with the new seven-speed Xtrac gearbox (bespoke to Pagani and said to be super-smooth-shifting) and the performance promises to be astonishing. At the time of my visit the final figuring had yet to happen, but in initial tests the car has proved so fast in a straight line (235mph+) that there’s talk of having to limit the top speed to avoid the need for the kind of incredibly expensive, bespoke tyres that Veyron owners have to put up with. Speaking of the Veyron, acceleration is expected to be a match for the 1000bhp hypercar thanks to the Huayra tipping the scales at around 1390kg with fluids – that’s over 550kg lighter than the mighty Bugatti.
Horacio explains that to get the kerb weight this low took real determination from the outset, with every single component scrutinised before being used. That’s why every fastener on the car is made of titanium and etched with a Pagani logo and a unique number that relates to an individual stress-test.
It’s also why the Huayra was never going to be equipped with a fashionable dual-clutch transmission, as Pagani thought them too heavy to be worthy of consideration, as well as being uninvolving to use. Horacio explains that the slight acceleration advantage you might get with a DCT would be nullified by the extra weight, adding that the Huayra’s single-clutch system has a maximum rating of 811lb ft while weighing 54kg less than the dual-clutch transmission in the Ferrari 458, which is only rated up to 442lb ft. Altogether, the engine/gearbox drivetrain in the Huayra weighs in at 395kg, some 25kg lighter than the Zonda’s drivetrain, while the centre of mass is 40mm lower thanks to dry sump lubrication.
So much to take in… I reckon that what we’re seeing with the Huayra, along with Aston’s One-77, is the birth of a new genre of supercar, one that brings much more to the table than just the exceptional performance that is almost a given today. Unique features; bespoke components; fastidious detailing…
Of course, all this beautiful engineering doesn’t come cheap. The final price of the Huayra has yet to be finalised, but there’s talk of it being over 800,000 euros plus local taxes – call it a million pounds in the UK, give or take. Then consider that some even more expensive variants are likely to follow (Horacio is already talking openly about a Roadster version in a couple of years’ time). Supercars were always expensive, but since the Veyron arrived a £1million-plus price tag is not so unusual.
Is the Huayra going to be worth it? For people like us, that will come down to how it drives. My only reservation lies with the engine, and then only because the naturally aspirated 7.3-litre V12 in the Zonda, howling its way up to its 7000rpm limit, is one of the great wonders of the automotive world. Will the Huayra’s turbocharged unit have the same charisma? With maximum power at 5000rpm and a red line at six, I’m not sure, but then I bet there’s plenty of tuning potential and perhaps even an ‘S’ version waiting in the wings. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Already I sense that there’s more to enjoy here than with the Veyron. The Huayra has more soul somehow. Each component is machined by hand with absolute precision; it’s as if Pagani was originally a watch manufacturer that turned its hand to supercars. The Huayra feels like it should be sold on Bond Street rather than from a car showroom. Yes, the price may be stratospherically high, but so is the quality of the construction. Horacio Pagani has a favourite saying from the great Leonardo da Vinci: ‘la perfezione è fatta di dettagli’. Roughly translated, it means ‘perfection is made by details’. That’s the Huayra all over.