It’s dark when we first saw it.
Parked in the courtyard of Sicily’s beautiful Eremo della Giubiliana hotel, under hazy yellow lights no brighter than a single struck match in a dusty cellar. The detail is lost but there’s no hiding the grand gestures that define the Pagani Huayra BC: those vast centre-lock wheels with impossibly slender spokes, the swept-back wing with shark-fin supports and the deep venturi at the rear, the huge, contoured front splitter, the dive planes and the intricate aero shapes that run the length of the body and pump up the Huayra’s stance. And carbonfibre. Everywhere. For that wing, the splitter, the bonnet and the moveable aero devices that sit within it, the entire canopy and engine cover… It’s a spectacular sight and announces that Pagani is back, ready to show its own lightweight, artfully constructed hypercar with the attitude and track focus to answer the likes of the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari.
In reality Pagani hasn’t been away, but it feels like an age since we last drove a Huayra, and the glut of new hypercars has rather put the company in the shade. However, while the big boys grabbed all the headlines, Pagani has been busy producing cars, finishing a new factory and developing new concepts. Car 94 of the planned 100 Huayra coupes is currently under construction, the Huayra roadster is near completion and has been homologated for worldwide sales (including crash tests for the US) and, of course, Pagani has been readying this, the Huayra BC.
As ever with Pagani, it’s the meticulous attention to detail and the extraordinary materials of the BC that are key to its appeal, and they’re evident even here in this early prototype, which is only around ‘60 per cent finished’ according to Horacio Pagani and his engineering team. But before we start drooling over carbotitanium and the like, let’s cover the basics. First, the name. ‘BC’ refers to the very first Pagani customer, Benny Caiola, who went on to buy four Zondas in total to add to his collection of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and pretty much anything else you can imagine. He also became a great friend to Horacio and something of an inspiration. I think we would have liked Benny, who died in 2010 but regularly exercised his Ferrari FXX Evoluzione and other supercars right up until the end. It seems he liked pretty extreme driving experiences and the Huayra that bears his initials should be a fitting tribute.
Pagani’s aim with the BC is to create a road-legal but very much track-focused car inspired by the Zonda R and Cinque models. Key to this is reducing weight, increasing aerodynamic efficiency and downforce, and, of course, finding a bit of extra power. In the regular Huayra, the AMG-supplied 6-litre twin-turbo V12 produces 720bhp and 737lb ft of torque. Today this prototype is running probably 760bhp, but in final trim Pagani is expecting around 800 PS (789bhp) with 811lb ft of torque. Big numbers, but in a world of P1s, LaFerraris and, shortly, the Bugatti Chiron, Pagani remains a little behind the hypercar curve in terms of raw power.
Don’t despair though, friends, for the BC has a secret weapon of the very best sort. It’s light. Really light. Pagani claims a figure of 1218kg dry. That’s a 132kg saving over the standard Huayra. For comparison, McLaren quotes 1395kg dry for the P1, and although Ferrari initially claimed 1255kg dry for the LaFerrari, owners have weighed their cars at 1500-1600kg with fluids, suggesting that dry claim may be optimistic. It’s the BC’s featherweight build that means it’s right on the pace in a straight line. It should pay dividends on track, too.
Our time with prototype two of five tomorrow will be limited and on narrow Sicilian roads, but it should provide a real flavour of what the BC might come to be. Beyond the prototypes just 20 BCs will be built, each priced at 2.35million euros plus local taxes. They’re all sold, destined for existing Pagani owners. In fact each customer put down a 50 per cent deposit on the basis of nothing more than a sketch by Horacio. That’s some vote of confidence.
Andrea Galletti, Head of R&D, has a laptop plugged into the BC the next time I see it, and the car is surrounded by people cleaning, polishing and generally making a fuss. The rear clamshell is open and the V12 visible beneath the carbon intake system, cradled in a delicate lattice of chrome-moly-vanadium steel. It sits way forward in the chassis and the seven-speed single-clutch automated manual gearbox is mounted transversely to further compress the masses within the wheelbase.
Mr Pagani gives us a detailed walk around the car and it’s clear this is much more than a Huayra with the boost turned up.
That seven-speed ’box is still built by Xtrac but it’s all-new and the BC also benefits from an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. The Brembo carbon-ceramic brake setup features new front calipers developed to apply more even pressure on their six pistons apiece. The front subframe is entirely new and revised to allow for greater airflow through the radiators and intercoolers, and the wishbones, wheel hubs and carriers are also revised, strengthened and lightened. There’s a faster steering rack, too, the spring rates have been revised, and there are new Öhlins dampers, although this car is running on revalved standard Huayra dampers rather than the four-way adjustable items that the production BC will feature. The front dampers are supported by electric motors that combat dive, keeping the BC as level as possible – key to ensuring consistent aerodynamic performance.
‘Each of the 20 customers put down a 50 per cent deposit on the basis of nothing more than a sketch by Horacio’
Pagani and Dallara worked closely on the aerodynamics of the car and though neither is mentioning any downforce figures today, both are extremely happy with the BC’s aero balance and predictability, even on rough surfaces. So although this prototype is a work in progress, Pagani is confident that we’ll like what we feel. And hear. The titanium exhaust is much freer flowing and weighs just 2.9kg from the catalytic converters back. There’s also a beautiful bluey-purple oxide creeping over its every curve.
My first experience of the BC is from the passenger seat with new Pagani test driver Andrea Palma, racer and former development driver for Lamborghini’s racing arm and Maserati. It’s a stretch up to the gullwing door but it feels feather-light and clicks down into place with a light zing. The interior of the Huayra is ornate to say the least, but the BC’s black Alcantara, raw carbonfibre and red highlights tone it down to create a much more minimalist, focused environment. It’s pretty tight in here and my legs are cramped even with the beautifully sculptural seat pushed right back. The V12 is a good distraction, though. The noise is big, bassy and overlaid with all sorts of Darth Vader sound effects. It’s not musical, but the noise has substance, and just the right edge of intimidation. It’s a step up from the slightly nondescript ‘base’ Huayra, which requires you to crank the windows down to hear the turbo-rush.
Despite the stripped-back vibe of the interior and the industrial noise, the BC has a polish to its ride – a fluency that’s familiar from every Pagani I’ve ever experienced. The car feels long, wide and stable even from the passenger seat, and when Palma weaves from side to side to demonstrate the more direct steering and greater front-end response, there’s an almost violent reaction. Violent but controlled, the BC exhibiting little body roll and snapping left then right with utter composure. On the short drive to our photography location, Palma switches from Comfort to Sport mode (you do this by pressing the ESC button on the steering wheel) and the gearshift feels faster and smoother than I remember, if still lacking the intensity of a 430 Scuderia ’box or the precision of a dual-clutch. The latest Bosch stability control system feels superb in the more relaxed setting, allowing the engine to get the wheels spinning but then perfectly metering the torque to give you a sense of this car’s monstrous performance without just smoking up those massive 21-inch rear Pirelli P Zero Corsas.
Palma is clearly proud of the BC and protective, too. ‘This is my baby, so be careful,’ he says when I’m handed the huge Huayra-shaped key.
It’s always a special moment when you sit silently in a Pagani and know that soon you’ll be in control of this extraordinary device. The beautiful materials, the crazy teardrop mirrors held aloft on arcing slivers of carbonfibre and filled with those hungry intakes and, this is new, the end plates of the new fixed wing. Dead ahead you can see the slatted wheelarches, the tops of the moveable aero on the bonnet, the silver-faced dials with a speedo reading to 415kph (that’s just shy of 260mph) and, if you glance up, a red anodised toggle switch marked ‘Launch’ mounted on the carbon canopy. The whole environment is outrageous.
Palma’s words ringing in my ears, I decide to start slowly. Within a few moments I learn that the steering is heavier than you might expect of a 1218kg car but that it’s laced with sweetly detailed feedback. The gearbox is relatively quick and decisive but it remains a frustration at low speeds and makes this amazingly sophisticated car feel, at times, slightly clunky. Forget automatic mode, don’t spend too long in Comfort and instead select Sport. Now upshifts are more measured and the downshift blip is aggressive, precise. Sport also brings a throttle map that’s maybe a shade too responsive, but it still feels like the BC’s natural setting and the immediacy of the engine is matched by a chassis that’s ultra-responsive but still very intuitive. Confidence builds very quickly in this near-800bhp, rear-driven carbonfibre arrow.
The torque is extraordinary. Select sixth gear with little more than 1500rpm on the dial and the BC still responds with real muscle. There’s much more to come, though, and the delivery turns into a torrent at around 3000rpm, the rear tyres just about coping and then flaring into little spikes of wheelspin as the force grows in intensity through 4000 and 5000rpm. Peak power arrives at 6200rpm, but if there is a disappointment it’s that the delivery seems to flatten off slightly at the top end. Maybe it’s just the sheer volume of performance in the mid-range that leads you to expect a frenzied rush to the limiter, but instead the V12 just maintains its push rather than finding even more savagery. That deep industrial noise also lacks a clean, howling finale, meaning it’s tricky to know exactly where you are in the rev range. I think there needs to be a sequence of shift lights to help you engage with the engine. Little tweaks that are probably on the way already.
The fundamentals are pretty much nailed, though. The brakes are gorgeous. The pedal requires a bit of muscle but the reward is fantastically gritty feedback. It’s almost as if they’re unassisted, such is the information that streams back through the pedal. More impressive still is that the car feels so malleable in terms of its balance. That’s not an easy thing to achieve with so much mechanical grip, and it speaks volumes about the confidence the BC breeds. Stability under braking is superb and you can really feel that the car doesn’t dive onto its front tyres. Because it stays so flat, Pagani can dial the brake bias further back than would normally be possible and, similar to the sensation provided by a McLaren airbrake, you can feel that all four contact patches are working to decelerate the car. It also means the turn-in phase feels effortless as the car is always perfectly poised and ready to change direction.
‘delivery turns into a torrent at around 3000rpm, the rear tyres just about coping then flaring into little spikes of wheelspin’
Surprisingly, the BC will push into understeer even at relatively sane road speeds, but this is a conscious decision by Pagani to ensure that the car is safe in its base setting (customers can ask for a pointier setup). Of course, with all that torque, any understeer that you might experience is easily quashed, and once again the Sport setting for the traction control is a real help here. Get on the power nice and early and the BC quickly regains front-end grip as the rear tyres are loaded up with torque. Keep squeezing the throttle and the tail just pushes wide. It all sounds a bit high-risk in a multi-million-pound supercar, but in fact the BC loves to adopt a small, efficient yaw angle, exiting corners with its rear wheels over-speeding and being lightly massaged by the traction control. Turn off the electronics and you realise what a good job they’re doing. The strong traction remains but 811lb ft always wins the battle on these slippery Sicilian lanes.
I’ve been expecting it for ten minutes but when Pagani’s PR manager Luca Venturi calls, I’m still disappointed. Our time is up and I’m only just getting to know the BC. I love the accessibility of its chassis and the sheer drama of being in or around it. I love the little dance of its aerodynamic bonnet blades as you whumphf along the road, and the sensation of the rear tyres struggling to contain all that torque. It feels focused and yet remarkably friendly. With the trick new Zonda R-style Öhlins dampers, progressive spring rates and even more power, I’m sure it’ll be an intensely exciting experience.
For me the Huayra BC needs a more tactile solution for switching between its different driving modes (something like Ferrari’s manettino rather than a little ESC button) and – most important of all – a sharper, fiery top-end rush. The Zonda set the bar so high with that amazingly sonic 7.3-litre V12 that I can’t imagine the 6-litre twin-turbocharged engine will ever feel as special, but I hope they can add a flash of energy for when you want to wring it out fully. I can’t wait to try the fully finished car, and perhaps on track to get a feel for the Dallara-honed aerodynamics. However, my excitement is tweaked still further by an off-the-cuff remark by Horacio before we leave. He tells us that the number-one demand from customers the world over is… a manual gearbox. And it’s coming. Maybe not for the BC, but Pagani is working to develop an all-new H-pattern ’box. ‘All the bigger manufacturers I talk to are facing the same requests,’ he says. How fitting that this Renaissance man should be leading a return to the fully immersive driving experience.
Pagani Huayra BC
Engine V12, 5980cc, twin-turbo
Power 790hp @ 6200rpm
Torque 1,100Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission Seven-speed automated manual, rear-wheel drive, LSD
Front suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes Ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 380mm front and rear, ABS
Wheels 20in front, 21in rear (19in front, 20in rear for track use)
Tyres Pirelli P Zero Corsa (P Zero Trofeo R for track use)
Weight (dry) 1218kg
Power-to-weight (dry) c658bhp/ton
0-62mph 3.0sec (estimated)
Top speed 224mph+ (estimated)
Basic price c£2.2million
On sale Sold out
If you thought Pagani had been left behind by the recent spate of hypercar arrivals, think again. The Modenese firm has been developing a new version of its Huayra that can square up to the very best of them. We drive the prototype.
by jethro bovingdon | PHOTOGRAPHY by aston parrott