Road test: 2014 Pagani Huayra

AUTODROMO MODENA, ITALY — It’s hard to know where to begin. Do I start with some pithy comment detailing Horacio Pagani’s melding of art and aerospace technology, the Argentine-born Italian’s blend of the visual and the mechanical certainly automobiledom’s most imaginative? Do I run with the hyperbole of a giant 6.0-litre Mercedes V12, twice turbocharged to 730 horsepower, which only has to propel 1,350 kilograms, the resulting acceleration more than a match for the hyper-hybrids — the Porsche 918, McLaren P1, etc. — that are all the rage these days? Or do I point out that, given the enormous effort and uncompromising attention to detail — every Huayra requires some 80,000 euros worth of titanium bolts to assemble, every single one with Mr. Pagani’s signature etched on them — that it’s little wonder his eponymous creation costs US$1.4-million?

2014 Pagani Huayra

The 2014 Pagani Huayra looks dramatic from every angle.
Darren Begg, Driving

A day after flogging the mondo-horsepower beast around the Autodromo Modena, I still don’t know if it’s jangled nerves — 50 laps of continually trying to brake from full throttle in a supercar will do that to you — that is the takeaway from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or is it complete admiration for a passion so consuming that it propelled an impoverished engineer (Mr. Pagani and his wife arrived in Italy some three decades ago with nothing more than two bicycles and a tent) to create what are possibly the most phantasmagorical supercars on the planet? This much I do know: I am in awe of both man and machine.

Consider this: in a building not much larger than some mom-and-pop auto restoration shops, Mr. Pagani has developed a material he calls “carbotanium,” essentially the melding of lightweight titanium with even lighter-weight carbon fibre. With titanium filament woven into the very fibres of the carbon weave, this latest “unobtanium” offers all the strength of carbon fibre with at least some of the malleability of metal, all while retaining carbon’s incredibly light weight (again, the Huayra, despite being luxurious enough to rival a Bugatti, weighs but a ton-and-a-half). So strong is carbotanium that, fortified with extra layers of pure carbon and Kevlar, the fuel tank is said to be bulletproof.

Gallery: The Pagani Huayra’s exquisitely crafted interior and mechanical details

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

PHOTO: Darren Begg, Driving

Not impressed yet? Well, how about the fact the M158 6.0L twin-turbo V12 that AMG supplies to Pagani is the only engine Mercedes-Benz sells to an outside supplier? Or the fact that one of the reasons Mercedes doesn’t build a supercar is that, a) it has a presence in that field by its association with Pagani, and b) the German giant is not completely convinced it could build a significantly better supercar. Or, how about this? One of the reasons the Pagani/Mercedes relationship is so strong is that it was forged by the personal request of Juan Manuel Fangio, fellow Argentinean and arguably the greatest Formula One champion of all time.

OK, so you don’t give a flying you-know-what about heritage and technology. You’re a nouveau riche dilettante and the primary reason for owning an extra-super-duper supercar is to lord your wanton riches over the undeserving masses. Well, there’s absolutely no car better in the world than a Pagani. Exterior styling is, in a word, extreme. Imagine a Le Mans prototype car married to a McLaren P1, all wrapped up with an Italian flair that outshines, well, even other Italian flairs.

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And that’s just the outside. The interior of a Pagani is — there is simply no other word for it — art. I’m not talking automobile art, as in for a car this thing is beautiful and, holding our noses, we’ll deign to put it in the Guggenheim. No, the inside of a Huayra is undeniably art by any standard. The centre console is worthy of any museum in the world and the transmission selector would not be out of place in a luxury yacht. Mr. Pagani also designs high-end stereo systems — they make Bang & Olufsen look like some house-brand boom box.

OK, so you’re not some attention-seeking dilettante or anorak-wearing technocrat. You’re a true sports car driver. Exclusivity and style are all well and good — you’re not above a little adoration, per se — but it’s all wasted if it’s not backed up with some serious supercar bona fides. If it doesn’t get around a racetrack tout de suite and sail along a high-speed autobahn with anvil-like stability, all that carbotanium and machined aluminum is nothing but the proverbial tart’s handbag.

Video: What exactly does “Huayra” mean?

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About David Booth