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Italy's gullwing supercar flies

2011-01-26 18:21

JUST HOT WIND?: Set to retail for more than R10-million is Pagani’s second-generation production supercar.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Pagani
Model Huayra
Engine 6l, V12 bi-turbo
Power 552kW
Torque 1 000Nm
Transmission Seven-speed
Zero To Hundred 3.3 seconds
Top Speed 370km/h
Seven years in the making, so Horacio Pagani’s Zonda replacement carries an unenviable burden of expectation.

The Argentinian remains in control of the last independent Italian supercar nameplate (his own) and has a tiny research and development budget compared to, say, Lamborghini or Ferrari.

Despite this, Pagani is firmly entrenched in the consciousness of supercar acolytes.

The original Zonda was a stunning hand-crafted design. Unfortunately its replacement, the Huayra, is not quite as fetching to look at.


The Huayra, designed with American-market homologation in mind,  is larger and more ungainly in appearance than the Zonda and its most fundamental styling trait is its gullwing doors, which unfortunately don’t have quite the same elegance when applied to a car of mid-engined proportions as Mercedes-Benz’s long-nose SLS.

By far the Huayra’s most unhappy styling feature is its nose, which features an odd wedge and is underscored by a horrible air intake covered in large mesh. Although it undoubtedly has outstanding airflow management properties, it looks badly out of place.

Pagani’s engineering frame of reference is strongly influenced by aviation technology in terms of material use and aerodynamic efficiency so the Huayra’s surfacing is carbon-fibre, wrapped around a carbon-titanium tub that helps to keep kerb weight down to 1350kg. It may not be pretty, but the technology employed by the Huayra is pretty clever.

The car’s surfacing is designed to mimic the properties of an aircraft wing, able to manipulate its shape to manage airflow. To this end the Huayra features four moveable aerodynamic flaps (one at each corner of the car) to add downforce and vary that force actively at each wheel corner when cornering at speed.


Powering the Huayra is a six-litre V12 developed by long-standing Pagani engine supplier AMG. Although the engine block is shared with the SL65 Black Series, Mercedes-Benz (and Pagani, in fact) is at pains to detail that this is a vastly different engine. It's the first forced-induction engine to power a Pagani and AMG addressed the company’s turbo lag concerns by slotting in new pistons, adding less-restrictive cylinder heads, recalibrating the turbochargers and crafting more flow-friendly manifolds.

The result is 522kW and 1000Nm going to the rear wheels through a seven-speed transverse transmission developed specifically for the Huayra by British racing specialist Xtract. Pagani claims the drivetrain is good for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.3sec and a top end of 370km/h.

Harmonising the Huayra’s dynamics is a host of components carried over from the last incarnation of Pagani's Zonda, the ‘R’. The carbon-ceramic brake rotors (380mm in diameter front and rear) are always at working temperature thanks to some very ingenious engineering, where the brake units are fed 50-degree air from the intercooler when ambient and wheel arch temperatures are low.

Suspension is double-wishbone all-round, as one would expect from a top-flight supercar. Öhlins adjustable dampers able to lift the Huayra’s nose to clear chin-spoiler scraping driveway entrances and underground car-park exits. The car’s active shocks also negate nose-heavy handling foibles when employing full deceleration from high speed.

As one of the last remaining supercars available in rear-wheel drive only, the Huayra’s traction and stability intervention systems are a question not so much of traction on a snowy gradient driveway but more of survival. Pagani’s fitted a three-stage stability control system specially developed by Bosch to ensure its customers (and cars) don’t grab headlines for all the wrong (macabre) reasons.

ALL RIGHT INSIDE: The exterior styling may be seen as a regressive step yet inside the Huayra’s cabin it is business as usual – exquisite yet tastefully executed, a supercar interior unlike any other…

Inside, Pagani's impeccable hand crafted signature remains in the architexture, design and trim of the Huayra's cabin. The car has satnav, a touchscreen (colours rather lurid ) infotainment system and auto aircon. An unfathomable list of features for most early Zonda owners.

Whereas the Zonda was a classic European supercar, the Huayra has been unashamedly designed with the American (and Chinese) market in mind.

The upgraded crash protection features (Pagani now offers seat sensors properly matched to the air bags) are a boon and its performance potential is beyond reproach.

Somehow, though, something has been lost in translation from Zonda to Huayra, despite the fact that both names trace their origin to the winds of the Andean mountains.

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