Its gullwing doors are just the tip of the iceberg.
It was codenamed the C9 during development, while its official name comes from the language of the ancient Inca Empire. The Pagani Huayra, unveiled in 2011, is the culmination of seven years of work. The Zonda, which began its own development in the early 90s, was put under a microscope; everything was examined with only one goal in mind: improvement. This also involved knowing everything possible about the competition at the time: Bugatti Veyron, Porsche Carrera GT, Ferrari Enzo, and Mercedes-McLaren SLR.
The Huayra, meaning "God of the Winds" in that ancient tongue, premiered at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. It immediately stole the show. Just look at it. It’s literally a rolling piece of artwork, only one that goes well over 200 mph. As was the case with all previous Zondas, the Huayra is completely hand-built, made of more than 4,000 individual components – not including the engine and gearbox. Once again, those Mercedes AMG engineering wizards were called up for duty. A new hypercar required a new engine from scratch. It was put through a grueling development process that involved extreme weather testing in Death Valley and the Arctic Circle.
It was also homologated to meet the strict environmental standards for both Europe and the US. The two-stage fuel supply system features two microprocessor controlled pumps feeding fuel to the engine with the second pump only activated when necessary, thus lowering the energy required to run the fuel pumps. This eliminated the waste of excessive fuel from being transported and heated in the fuel lines. To achieve the desired performance while abiding by emissions standards, the use of a turbo was required. Turbo lag was eliminated, allowing for linear acceleration. The final result was a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 with a total of 730 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque.
Power is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed sequential gearbox with a single clutch that weighs only 212 lbs. A dual-clutch was simply too heavy, yet performance was not hindered. 0-62 mph happens in three seconds flat while top speed is clocked at 238 mph. Pirelli developed a set of bespoke P Zero tires specifically for the Huayra. As was the case with the Zonda, Horacio Pagani himself served as the Huayra’s chief designer. Think of the Huayra as an aerodynamic wing. It can modify the properties of a wing by varying the front ride height and by adjusting the four control flaps on each of the car’s four corners.
The goal was for neutral vehicle behavior at regular speeds while body roll was to be controlled by aerodynamic means, hence the flaps. Get this: those flaps are managed entirely by a control unit which receives information from the ABS brakes and engine control unit (ECU). That data consists of everything from the car’s speed, yaw rate, lateral acceleration, steering angle and throttle position. Welcome to the world of active aerodynamics, which wasn’t available for the Zonda. Exterior styling is unlike anything else out there. The Huayra can’t be mistaken for anything other than a Pagani. Every shape, every curve serves a purpose.
For example, the two engine air intakes behind the occupants’ shoulders are not only a tribute to the supersonic aircraft from the late 1950s and 1960s, but also to enable the engine to breathe without disrupting air flow. Speaking of which, the flow of air through the Huayra was vital to understand. For the best aerodynamics possible, the Pagani team angled the radiators to contribute downforce and provide the best flow of hot air to be extracted. Air from the side radiators is also channeled to ducts cooling the brakes discs and wheel hubs. Why isn’t there a rear spoiler? Because the rear clamshell engine cover already provides enough airflow to the radiator without having a negative effect on aerodynamic drag.
Movable flaps can thus take the place of the spoiler. Just another example of active aero. As was the case with the Zonda, the Huayra is a carbon-fiber showcase inside and out. Pagani’s very own invention, carbo titanium, is used extensively throughout. But looking at a Huayra simply isn’t enough (gullwing doors rule), one must also sit inside because there is no better car interior in the world. Period. Everything – and we mean everything – looks like fine jewelry. It’s all almost too pretty to touch, and when you do you’ll find yourself wiping off any smudge marks almost nearly right away. OK, so it’s blatantly obvious that we love this car.
Pulitzer Prize-winning auto journalist Dan Neil, summed up the Huayra to us perfectly at Geneva a couple of years ago: "There’s the Pagani Huayra, and there’s everything else." So what’s next for the Huayra? Speaking to Pagani Communications Manager, Luca Venturi, while researching this story, we were told that a special Huayra coupe will be revealed at Geneva in March. Chances are it’ll be the high-performance version we recently saw being tested in a spy video. The Huayra Roadster, however, will be unveiled in late July at the same time Pagani opens its brand-new factory. Expect to see the Huayra Roadster make its American debut at Pebble Beach next August.
Pagani Automobili was founded in 1992, only 23 years ago. In that relatively short period of time, it’s managed to develop and hand-build some of the finest hypercars the world has ever seen – with only 55 employees. Has Horacio Pagani’s vision of art and science been realized? Without question. But for the man at the top, his longtime love of art and science working hand-in-hand will always be a never-ending work in progress. He is the Leonardo Da Vinci of our time.