Pagani Huayra BC Prototype Review


The Pagani story is an extraordinary one. Horacio Pagani was a longtime Lamborghini employee and designer, styling the oft-maligned but spectacular 25th Anniversary Countach. During his time at Sant’Agata he led a new composites department and worked on the Evoluzione project, a strange silver and black beast that looked like Judge Dredd’s version of a Countach. A test bed for Kevlar and carbon-fiber composites, the Evoluzione shed some 1,100 pounds over the base Countach and performed extraordinarily in crash tests (yep, the one and only example was destroyed). Horacio had seen the light. Literally.

Incredibly, despite what the Evoluzione revealed about the benefits of carbon-fiber construction, Lamborghini decided that steel and aluminium were the future. Pagani saw things differently. He felt he had to explore carbon fiber’s vast potential. So he left Lamborghini, taking the autoclave he financed and used for the Evoluzione project with him. Soon after, he was supplying carbon-fiber parts to a range of automotive clients including Lamborghini and Ferrari.

Pagani Huayra BC Rear Three Quarter 660x438

Then, in 1999, Pagani launched the Zonda. (Imagine the distant thud of a large meteor hit.) At a stroke, the Diablo’s Jurassic construction techniques looked absurd, and the likes of Ferrari and Porsche had no answer. Even more amazingly, this wild-looking machine had attracted Mercedes-Benz as an engine supplier and offered a dynamism that felt almost Lotus Elise-like. With its sonic V-12 engine, outrageous styling, and divine attention to detail, it nailed the supercar romance. (Calling Modena, Italy, its home didn’t hurt either.) From out of nowhere Pagani made the most desirable supercar on the planet.

Slowly the world caught up. Ferrari launched the Enzo, Porsche the Carrera GT, then the Veyron arrived. Pagani improved the Zonda, made it faster, and louder. Then in 2012 the new model arrived, the Huayra (pronounced Why-ra). To get through California emissions tests the hulking 7.3-liter V-12 was gone, replaced by a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12. The manual gearbox had also sadly departed, replaced by a single-clutch paddle shift box.
The Huayra still looked otherworldly though, and it was built with a unique love and craftsmanship. With 730 horsepower and weighing just 2,976 pounds, it was screaming fast, too. Well, until the LaFerrari showed up. And the 918 Spyder. And the P1. Now, in 2016, it’s Pagani’s turn to catch up, and he’s banking on the Pagani Huayra BC as the car to do it. Lighter still, more powerful, featuring radical aero and more sophisticated suspension, updated brakes and tires, the BC is the next chapter. Just 20 will be made at around $2.65 million a copy, plus local taxes.
Pagani Huayra BC Rear2 660x438

The “BC” refers to Benny Caiola, a renowned car fanatic and collector. Caiola was Pagani’s first customer, a serial Zonda buyer and something of an inspiration to Horacio. He passed away in 2010, and this car is a tribute to the man and his passion for extreme supercars. Pagani’s aim was to create a Huayra with the authentic track focus of the old Zonda R (a track-focused Zonda along the lines of the Ferrari FXX) but to retain its worldwide road homologation. A Caiola sort of car.

The spec sheet suggests they may well have achieved exactly that. The BC weighs a scant 2,685 pounds and its 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 produces roughly 800 horsepower and 811 lb-ft of torque. (Engine supplier Mercedes-AMG is still finalizing the mapping.) Pagani thinks this is “enough,” and we’re inclined to agree. Without batteries and electric motors to lug around, it actually has a superior power-to-weight ratio to a McLaren P1. Downforce figures haven’t been announced yet, but the BC retains the Huayra’s movable aerodynamics on the hood and at the rear, supplemented by a huge new front splitter, venturi system, and fixed rear wing. Dallara collaborated on the aero concept, and we’re promised it offers significant downforce and, crucially, a very stable aerodynamic balance.

I listen earnestly to all this stuff. Nod convincingly when I’m told about the carbo-titanium chassis (carbon fiber with titanium strands weaved through it for extra strength) and new e-diff. I ask questions about the new lighter Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes and the revised suspension and the four-way adjustable hlins dampers. We discuss the relationship with Pirelli and the benefits of its new P Zero Corsa. Then I see it. Part supercar, part sculpture, a big pinch of endurance racer and with an outrageous dollop of Hot Wheels toy thrown in for good measure. It’s not love exactly, but I’m instantly rendered speechless. The Huayra BC hits the same buttons as a Countach did way back when.

We’re in Sicily, and it’s fair to say the BC is not built for this little island’s narrow, craggy roads. Even so, it’s a vivid, unforgettable experience. From the moment you pull down the gullwing door, everything is unique: the highly stylized interior with its perfect black weave, slivers of titanium, and beautiful exposed sequential gearshift mechanism. The view ahead over fenders cut with aero slashes and the exquisitely delicate arcs of carbon fiber that support those elegant teardrop mirrors. Everything is just so, a joyous mix of art and engineering.

Pagani Huayra BC Motion From Above 660x438

Sadly the first experience of the new Xtrac-supplied seven-speed gearbox (mounted transversely) slightly upsets the picture. At low speeds it doesn’t have the polish of the best dual-clutch transmissions, and the BC lurches if you’re hesitant with the throttle. The ride is sweetly judged, though. The guys at Pagani have always understood that a supercar needn’t be harsh, and the BC has a familiar feeling of fluidity. A new, quicker steering rack shows another Pagani trademark, coupling smooth response with subtle but detailed feedback. But just beneath the creamy polish to the controls and poised ride is steely resolve, and you can feel it in the way the BC snaps between direction changes, clean and alert. Body roll is virtually nonexistent and the car’s lightness pervades everything, from the way it traverses the surface to the intense agility.

The engine almost feels slightly at odds with the lightness of touch so evident in the chassis because it emits a deep, heavy roar and snorts, chuffs, and whistles as the BC strides between corners. It has masses of torque, pulling hard from as little as 1,500 rpm and then throwing the Huayra along with a mighty shove as it passes 3,500 rpm. Pagani says the engine is down on power right now, running around 760 horsepower, and it doesn’t quite have the frenzied bite you’d like at the very top end of the power delivery. Boy, it hits hard low down, though. Cycle into Sport or Track modes by pressing the ESC button on the steering wheel, and the traction control is slightly more permissive and allows the engine to run free enough to get the wheels spinning just faster than road speed in a straight line but not fizzing out of control. It’s a great feeling—you’re looking the T. rex in the eye, but it can’t clamp its jaws around your neck.

Slowly you get used to the power and grow to trust the traction control and then you can start to enjoy the BC’s chassis. It sounds strange to say, but its great trick is to make all that power accessible. It’s not in a locked down, uptight sort of way, though. Rather the engine and chassis work together to allow you to exploit each. The BC is super-stable under braking, helped by a self-levelling electric motor that acts on the front dampers to reduce dive, then turns in flat and composed. There’s some understeer, but with that huge hit of torque and excellent traction control setup, it’s relatively easy to just edge the tail wide as the corner opens out and then blast onto the next straight with the engine snorting and bellowing behind. Extreme doesn’t quite cover it.

While it’s clear there’s still some work to do with the BC, the fundamentals are already sound. I still pine for that glorious old naturally aspirated V-12, and I hope they find a bit more top-end energy for the BC, I’d still have a six-speed manual over the paddle shift any day of the week, and I think the car needs a bit more front-end grip and some interior tweaks (primarily some clear shift lights to help connect with the bruising engine, which sounds similar from 3,000 right up to over 6,000 rpm). But already the BC is unique, exciting, and exquisitely executed. The fairy tale continues.

Pagani Huayra BC Prototype Specifications

On Sale: Sold Out
Price: $2.65 million (est)
Engines: 6.0L DOHC 48-valve twin-turbo V-12/800 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 811 lb-ft @ 4,000-6,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed single-clutch automatic
Layout: 2-passenger, 2-door, mid-engine, RWD coupe
EPA Mileage: N/A
L x W x H: 181.3 x 80.2 x 46.0 in
Wheelbase: N/A
Weight: 2,685 lb
0-60 MPH: 2.8 sec (est)
Top Speed: 217 mph (est)

 



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