Praga Bohema 2023 review – 713bhp/ton hypercar put to the test
Pairing 700bhp with a sub-1000kg weight figure, the Bohema is a £1million-plus hypercar that’s aiming to shake up the establishment...
This is the Praga Bohema. The short version of this story is that the Bohema is another hypercar with track focus and a price tag of well over £1million. Praga hopes to build 89 examples and claims that even on extreme road tyres – Pirelli P Zero Trofeos – the Bohema will deliver lap times comparable to a GT3 race car. It is a familiar tale. But on a cold, sunny day at Dunsfold airfield, this car and its specification has me gripped. It seems real and pragmatic but also outrageously exotic and full of beautiful engineering details.
There are so many questions. Not least of which is, who the hell is Praga? We’ll get to that. First I want to run through a few salient points to prove that this is a serious project, the most encouraging of which concerns the engine. Nissan has never granted another manufacturer access to the 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 developed for the GT-R. Until now. The Bohema weighs 982kg wet, features a carbonfibre tub, pushrod suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes and will run a 700bhp version of the VR38DETT engine (labelled the PL38DETT) in partnership with Nissan and renowned GT-R specialist Litchfield. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that, with Litchfield involved, 700bhp is probably just the beginning…
Today we’re getting a drive in an advanced prototype that has just 550bhp and is around 80 per cent there in terms of chassis calibration. The Bohema might have the spec sheet and philosophy of a race car, but Jan Martinek, Praga’s chief engineer and project leader for the Bohema, is at pains to point out that this is a road car, too. So first he wants us to experience the car on the bumps and pockmarks of the perimeter road, to feel its compliance and road suitability. It’s a nice idea but the fact that there are no real doors to access the Bohema, just pop-up scissor panels that require you to sit on the bodywork and thread your legs into the footwell, before sliding down behind the gorgeous oblong steering wheel, is a strong clue that this isn’t useable in the sense of, say, an 812 Competizione or McLaren Senna.
It feels so special, though. You sit incredibly low (although the fixed-back seat can be tilted to raise your eye-line), the steering wheel is gorgeous to hold and there’s such a purity to the whole environment. The car grew from Praga’s R1R racer, a single-seater, high-downforce car built on the scale of, say, a Radical. ‘We knew there was an appetite for this sort of car,’ explains Jan, ‘but customers wanted a real road car. Something bigger but still light, something focused but without being too intimidating. In the end not a single component is shared, so you could say we went for it! There is excellent aerodynamic performance but we didn’t want to go crazy, so there could be a track pack to come.’
Praga has more than race car experience in its 115-year heritage. It was once Czechoslovakia’s largest car maker before switching to trains, buses and planes. However, in the post-war period the Praga name as a manufacturer disappeared as it became a supplier to other brands. It returned in the 1990s with Enduro motorcycles and now builds Dakar trucks, bikes, karts, the R1R race cars and a recently launched aeroplane.
The Bohema is definitely not about to take flight. Fully adjustable Öhlins suspension can alter the outright downforce achieved, but in a compromise road/track set-up there’s around 900kg at 155mph. That’s more than the new GT3 RS makes at 177mph – and remember the Praga weighs just 982kg. Yet it rides the bumps on that perimeter road pretty well. Maybe it could be a road car, after all. There are even two 50-litre stowage areas in the sidepods.
The sense of ‘refinement’, however tenuous, is partly due to the engine and six-speed Hewland sequential ’box being rubber-mounted to a Chromalloy subframe. Some of the V6’s distinctive tone is gone but in terms of volume this is on the road car end of the scale. Even so, just a couple of minutes into the track drive it’s clear that the flat, angry top-end noise spitting out of the titanium exhaust system provides plenty of drama.
The steering is light and beautifully precise and the Bohema feels as stable and poised as you’d expect. Only braking in a couple of bumpy sections upsets the car, suddenly making it feel a little wilder than its composure under power and through high-speed corners would suggest. It’s fast, too. This car might only be running 550bhp but the way it picks up 982kg is deeply impressive. The engine remains completely standard internally with just Litchfield-specified and supplied internals for the turbochargers. Throttle response is already very good and will only improve as final development progresses.
The sheer capability of the Bohema is tricky to get a handle on in just a handful of short laps, but there’s already so much to like. Traction is strong but the car feels balanced when it does start to slide at the rear, the engine really is full of character and will add that last element of alien-feeling performance when it’s pushing out 700bhp (or more), and it’s such a gorgeous creation to be around. It has the same fascinating quality as a BAC Mono.
For me, the question mark remains over the Hewland ’box. Can a pneumatic race ’box with helical-cut gears and a robotised clutch really work on the road? The execution seems good (the clutch is automated even when pulling away from standstill and performs smoothly) but it still feels more race car than a solution for a viable occasional road car. Otherwise, though, the Bohema is on course to be pretty special. It’s a genuinely unique experience, it looks stunning inside and out, and it has a proven engine capable of delivering huge performance for tens of thousands of miles. We look forward to following this story in the coming months.
Praga Bohema specs
|Engine||3.8-litre twin-turbo V6|
|Transmission||Six-speed sequential gearbox|
This story was first featured in evo issue 305.