The Redefinition of the Supercar
My respect and devotion to Pagani began one glorious summer over eight years ago when we first attended the supremely premium Top Marques auto show in Monte Carlo. It was during this fateful weekend that we got a chance meeting with Horacio Pagani himself outside the Grimaldi Forum while he personally cleaned his Zonda C12 showpiece in preparation for the show. We immediately warmed up to him because of his humility, beaming smile, and friendliness. Horacio then invited us to his factory in Modena where I could fully immerse myself on my own time and discover the extreme level of detail and craftsmanship of his ethereal products. A couple of weeks later, I was driving the then new Zonda C12S in excess of 300 km/h on the open road!
As time naturally passed, I would make my annual pilgrimage to the Pagani factory to test the results of Horacio’s latest genius, soaking every mind-blowing second behind the steering wheel of supercars that less than 350 people in total worldwide have ever driven. As I write this, less than 250 cars in total, in every variation from the C12, to C12S, C12S Roadster, Zonda F, Zonda F roadster, Cinque, Tricolore, and R, have ever been delivered to customers. The Zonda is that exclusive.
In the traditional idea of tailor-fit supercars, the immediate Italian three would come to mind: Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini, but even they cannot equal a Pagani in this regard, as they have all outgrown their initially boutique infrastructure. These iconic brands now use their own distinct heritage for marketing campaigns, product development, and merchandising. They are not the ultra-exclusive automotive tailors any longer, which work for them and the consumers. All these cars are accessible now through fast-growing manufacturing, international dealer networks, and distributors. These cars can still be customizable to a degree for sure, and they do celebrate this fact, but I am talking about depth and scale.
And to be perfectly honest, even at these mind-numbing levels of cost, performance, technology, and exclusivity, the extremely wealthy buyers will skip the extra steps and effort and apply it to a product that is less available to the general customer. Even with all the crisis and chaos in the worlds, there has never been a time with so many people with vast wealth. A decade and a half ago, I would have never predicted that a Ferrari could be eclipsed in cost and exclusivity. But competition is good and healthy. There have never been as many choices to suit consumer requirements backed up by proper lengthy warranties and even free factory maintenance for up to 7 years for new Ferraris for example.
With Ferrari and Maserati being owned by FIAT and Lamborghini being owned by Audi (whose brethren include both Porsche and Bugatti), these giants can now build super high performance and gorgeous vehicles for markets that their original owners never dreamed possible or even desired. However successful Pagani is and how incredible the cars are, the company is still in its infancy with traditional supercar values still at its purest, for better or for worse depending on the buyer’s perspective.
So even before I got behind the steering wheel of the next generation Pagani supercar series, the Huayra, James and I were introduced to the perfect example of who buys a Pagani. Almost to the point of hilarity, and I truly thought that James and I had driven every single road-going Pagani Zonda version made, Horacio graciously presents us to his newest customer, a return customer at that, hence the US flag along with our Philippine flag on the flagpoles adorning the factory roof, David Heinemeier Hansson. Danish-American David is yet another software guru multi-millionare. He created Ruby Rails web development framework and its partner software development firm called 37signals. He officially owned the very last one-off Zonda Roadster called the HH; the name is deliberate, has very distinctive packaging in Monterey Blue and uses the Cinque’s naturally aspirated 7.3 liter V12 engine pumping out of 678bp and 575lb-ft of torque and drivetrain, which sits in his house in Marbella, Spain. Keep in mind that there was a bit of economies of scale with the 5-car production of the Cinque at over US$2 Million; David did not volunteer how much he paid for his one-off car. You cannot get any more exclusive than having a single car made and named after you!
Since all Zonda’s cannot technically be driven legally in the USA for more than a year with extremely limited mileage and support, David leaves his Zonda HH in Spain to usually drive it on the most exclusive race track in the world, the private 5.4 kilometer Ascari Race Resort in Ronda. James is familiar with the track having driven like his life depended on it during the launch of the BMW M3 (E92) back in 2007. David shares with us that when he got married in Ascari, the backdrop was the Zonda HH. David currently races as a privateer in both the American and European LeMans too, so he is certainly an accomplished driver that can easily enjoy a Pagani to its outer limits. If you don’t envy him by now, you soon will even more.
The 30-year old David along with his young and pregnant wife have driven to Modena to specifically place his order for a more “inexpensive” bespoke Huayra. Funny that I even say that, as all the Pagani cars are bespoke and unique to their owners, no tow road-going Paganis are the same. David didn’t even actually drive from Spain; he had his “normal” car, a black Ferrari 458 Italia, flown in to Italy “to save time.”
Unlike the Zonda line, the Huayra is completely legal in the US, having passed, more like exceeded, every safety and emissions requirements. So Pagani will surely finally become a household name in North America as more of the Huayras are sold through official distributors. So far, 8 have already been ordered counting David. Horacio simply could not handle the financial burden of destroying 15 complete Zondas to meet the strict US standards, so he seriously over-engineered the Huayra so that it could. The Huayra’s new carbon fiber tub is now reinforced with titanium to strengthen the chassis even further while at the same time control weight. The new tub is so strong that Pagani only used 2 tubs for the 15 crash tests! Even the new windshield is so strong that it would only give with an impact exceeding 55 km/h, more than double the standard. The huge fuel tank also sets new standards of safety and balance with the use of ballistic Kevlar reinforcement. In order to establish a near perfect dynamic balance in the car, the new fuel tank sits directly behind the driver where it is safest during collisions too.
There is no doubt that all Paganis are fast from the early 550 bhp cars to the present. But in order to reach out to new customers, meet new global standards, pummel the competition, and finally penetrate the massive US market, the Huayra incorporates vastly more equipment than any Zonda. The Huayra now has proper airbags, navigation, a 400-watt audio/infotainment system, reverse camera, steering wheel controls, cruise control, parking sensors, power everything, stability/traction control, and a quicker standard height adjustment to 110mm which should clear all standard speed bumps in the world with a flip of a switch.
Studying the new car in separate components showed vastly higher degree of workmanship and detail that I already thought Zondas had no equal. All the materials are better, from the exquisite leather used, to all the crafted pieces like the wild instrument cluster and center console, which I appreciate but think is a bit too intricate and bright for regular use. Just like before, Pagani can custom color any component on the car from easy bits like the brake calipers, stitching, switchgear, and dials, to the engine and suspension. So, an owner can address my minute concerns by simple choosing a different treatment, material or finish to the instrument cluster and center dashboard.
The gullwing doors are really cool combined with the glass roof but since my arms are short, I had to gracefully execute a technique by using my right arm first on the door handle, then right foot in the front pedal well, cross over my chest, throw my left leg over, then sit, all in one balletic motion not look like an awkward baleen whale taxed with aged barnacles. The new mirrors look very fragile but work extremely well, rear vision across the car gives the driver a lot of confidence even when driving through very tight city quarters. Sadly, I can imagine some jealous idiot snapping the mirror off out of spite for a souvenir.
The chassis looks similar to the Zonda from afar but when you take a closer study, the level of sophistication and execution is consistent with all the hard work accomplished during the years of development and testing in extreme measures in the cold and in the African desert, our buddy and Pagani chief test driver Davide Testi himself put in over a million test kilometers and genuinely feels that the Huayra is the very best car that they have ever built. Davide is so confident in the new car that he insists that the Huayra is only marginally slower than the extreme purpose built Zonda R which can only be driven on the race track on special tires. On its standard tires, with all its abundant luxury and safety equipment, the Huayra was less than 5 seconds slower than the Zonda R on the Nardo test track which may sound like a lifetime for normal cars but at this level of performance we are discussing degrees of perfection, like the difference between attaining over 369 km/h quicker and sustaining the speed longer.
So, is the Huayra better than the Zonda? The answer is yes, but with conditions! Outright performance, ease of driving, interior comforts (which also includes a bit larger cargo capacity in the two side stowage cavities), and safety are superior in the Huayra despite the slightly wooden feel of the gorgeous aluminum pedals. But the Zonda is still an extremely capable and desirable supercar whose values are only increasing in time. The Zonda model range, even the early models, are the only cars in the world that appreciate as they age year to year without having to wait until they are at least 25 years old to become icons. They are robust, easily serviceable being powered by Mercedes-Benz and durable. Paganis are also quite fuel efficient too by the way. The Huayra is actually the most fuel efficient V12 made on earth at the moment and with 85-liter fuel tank. I cannot wait to drive the car across the 48 contagious states of the US.
But just like the Zonda, the Huayra for all its advancements, still has its compromises. If you have never drove a Ferrari 458 Italia or Lexus LFA, you will certainly concur that the Huayra is absolute perfection, but since we have driven these other modern supercars and more, it is difficult to reconcile with the level of immediacy, user-friendliness, and intuitiveness offered by these other cars compared to the fairly large Huayra that may feel like a Miata only when compared to the Bugatti EB110 and Veyron. The new single clutch transmission with steering wheel paddles work flawlessly from 3rd gear to 7th but the first two gears and reverse have way too much slack going forward and hesitation when reversing so driving slow and parking can certainly become a challenge when you are under pressure on public roads. Even if the Huayra is a better, more opulent, faster, safer, and easier car to drive compared to the Zonda, not many to be able too not only buy the car but really be able to enjoy what it can do. It doesn’t help that almost every road on earth seems to be filled with growing traffic and over population making it more and more difficult to drive at the levels that this car can create.
And that my friends is why Horacio is expanding his factories to not only meet future demands but further research and development to continue the quest for absolute automotive perfection. Horacio is almost there and as crazy as it may sound, these cars should stay practically unattainable to the vast majority of people. I love the fact that his name is everywhere in the car, in over 1,000 separate pieces, taking complete ownership of every single component made guaranteeing the levels of quality of both the materials and its use. Speaking of form, I also love that Horacio now puts his signature moniker on the car’s flanks since he is not only the owner and chief engineer, he is also the designer and the creator of dreams realized. Ferrari has the Pininfarina design house, and Horacio has himself. I am grateful that the Paganis exist, as they become the new benchmarks of performance while simultaneously being representations of human accomplishments.
Specifications – 2012 Pagani Huayra
Engine: 60° V12 Mercedes-Benz AMG M158
Location: Mid, Longitudinal
Cylinder Block: Aluminum
Cylinder Head: Aluminum, dohc, 4 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing
Fuel injection: Port fuel injection, Two Borg Warner low inertia sleeve twin-scroll Tubochargers
Max power: 730 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Max torque: 738 lb ft (1,000 nm) @ 2250-4500 rpm
Drag coefficient: Actively variable from 0.31cd to 0.36cd
Weight Distribution: 44% front 56% rear
Transmission: Transverse 7-speed Single Clutch Sequential Xtrac Gearbox AMT Robotic System with selectable driving programs, Rear-Wheel-Drive, Active Aerodynamics
Front Suspension: Independent, Aspa forged aluminum AvionAl double A-arms, adjustable Öhlins shock absorbers, & anti-roll bar. Remotely height-adjustable to 110 mm (4.3”)
Rear Suspension: Indepndent, Aspa forged aluminum AvionAl; double A-arms, adjustable Öhlins shock absorbers, &anti-roll bar. Remotely height-adjustable to 110 mm (4.3”)
Fuel capacity: 85 liters (22.4 gallons)
Brakes: Brembo® Carbon Ceramic (CCM) Front 14.96” (380 mm) ventilated &drilled discs with 6-piston aluminum fixed calipers / Rear 14.96” (380mm) ventilated & drilled discs with 4-piston aluminum fixed calipers with opposing secondary padded guide, ABS, Traction & Stability Control
Wheels: 9.5J x19” Front/ 12J x 20” Rear Forged Single-nut Aluminum Alloy
Tires: Front-P255/35ZR19 96Y / Rear-P335/30ZR20 104Y Pirelli P Zero™
Weight: (kerb) 1350 kg (2970 lbs)
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 3.1 seconds
100-0 km/h (62-0mph): 2 seconds
20-0 km/h (125-0mph): 4.2 seconds
Top Speed: 370/km/h (230mph)
Fuel Mileage: 23liters/100kms. Overall, Euro 5, 343 g/km C)2
Price as tested: €849,000.00 not including taxes