Is this the world's best supercar?
EDGAR has an exclusive test drive of the Pagani Huayra and hands the key back to Mr Pagani himself.Damien Reid May 11, 2015
Breathless and nearly speechless from a combination of exhaustion after a few very quick, heart-racing laps and genuine admiration, I walked toward the garage removing my helmet and straight to the diminutive, smiling, grey-haired man standing, watching on. “Congratulations Mr Pagani, you have built an outstanding car.”
Do you know how long I have wanted to do that? To hand the keys to one of the world’s fastest supercars, after giving it a proper spanking, back to the man whose name is on the badge? Sure, there’s a hint romanticism in my writing, but our generation of motoring journalists and test pilots are the first who never got to meet the pioneers of supercars like Enzo Ferrari, Ferrucio Lamborghini or Ferry Porsche after driving one of their creations.
In today’s world of global amalgamation where the brand name Bentley belongs to VW and the trademark of Ferrari is owned by Fiat, Pagani the man is Pagani the car and here he was, listening to me of all people and asking what I thought of his newest baby, the Huayra. Everything is designed and built in-house with the exception of the Xtrac transmission and the Mercedes AMG-sourced engine. However the engine is a bespoke unit not shared with any other Mercedes product and even has its own engine number, M158.
There’s no start button, instead, I twisted an old-school key that looked like a model of the Huayra carved from a solid billet of steel. I expected it to bark into life like a ferocious animal before settling to an angry idle but it was completely the opposite. Almost like a jet engine spooling up, it was a smooth whir of starter motor followed by a gentle burble.
On track, the Huayra is simply breathtaking and is one of the fastest cars I’ve driven at Yas Marina Circuit in any form, road or race. Touching 270kmh on the main straight was almost too easy which was probably aided by the fact that it’s so quiet. There’s no ear-shattering snarl from the 6-litre, V12 behind your head, just masses of whirs, fizzes and pops from the two turbochargers.
To save about 70kg in weight, Horacio opted to pass on the industry standard double clutch boxes and go with a single clutch Xtrac unit which gives a meaty smack to the back of the head on up changes and throws you forward with each down click. Apparently, it’s also what his owners like. The giant waste gates in the turbochargers sound like multiple cat sneezes each time you jam the throttle and lift off suddenly as your right foot orchestrates a 12-cylinder, wind instrument behind your head.
- Engine: 6-litre V12 twin-turbo
- Transmission: 7-speed sequential
- Power: 730bhp @ 5800rpm
- Torque: 1000Nm @ 2250rpm
- 0-100kmh: 3.0 secs
- Top speed: 360 kmh
- Price: AED 5,400,000 (est)
The brakes take some time to get used to as the giant carbon ceramic discs need a lot of pressure and you have to push hard to get them to bite. They feel grainy through the ball of your foot, which is reassuring as I liked the connection, but for a moment, getting the thing to pull up, seemed like a task too far and then without warning, they bite. The car stops on a needle and turns in bang on the apex.
The AMG engine pumps out 750bhp, but maybe it’s because of its lithe 1350kg weight that it felt more like a 1000+ of the Veyron Supersport or LaFerrari. However its power and traction out of tight bends seemed superior to either of those hypercars which is amazing considering this doesn’t benefit from all-wheel drive like the Bugatti or the top shelf Lamborghinis. The tight hairpin leading on to the back straight at Yas can snap the tail of just about any car, yet planting the right foot on the apex exit ensured the rear simply squatted as it put its power to the road through the rear wheels and off it went. No catching slides, it just did the job.
Looking over the snout as you jump on the brakes and two air brakes appear in front of you. Watching them flick from left to right as the car changes direction and throttle position is like watching a frill neck lizard preparing for attack. In every sense this car is alive with each corner, reacting in split seconds with every command of your feet, fingers and brain, it’s a car I connected with and felt that I was a part of its performance success instead of simply being the controller behind the wheel.
When I pulled in to the garage, switched off the engine and gave the steering wheel a gentle pat on its Pagani badge in thanks, I handed the key back to the man who breathed life into this astounding creation and his smile, in reaction to my sweaty, adrenalin-pumped, exuberant face was the difference over a Ferrari or Lamborghini. This is his car and it carries his name and it was nothing short of an honour and a privilege. Thank you, Mr Pagani.