Our tester was running on the standard P Zero tires specially developed for the Huayra by Pirelli. The optional P Zero Corsas have proven 20 percent faster on the track, says Pagani, but are 10 percent less efficient in the wet. If I had the money for a Huayra, I'd probably opt for the Corsas to give the car a touch more front end bite on initial turn in, and drive my Bentley Conti GT on rainy days.
Our tester was also only the fifth Huayra ever built. The Pagani shop is tiny and it's production methods artisanal, so development is ongoing. Andrea Galletti, who spent 10 years working for the Ferrari F1 team and helped develop the 599XX, said the variable front ride height settings will be changed to alter the car's angle of attack and improve stability at speed (I mentioned I had been chasing the front end around more than I had expected above 140 mph on the rough autostrada), and that anti-roll bar settings would also be changed to improve initial turn-in response.
A sport + mode is also being developed that will lower the car 10mm, eliminate the auto upshift (which currently happens when you hit the redline in either comfort or sport manual mode), and switch off both traction control and ABS. Galletti also acknowledged that for the typical Huayra customer -- someone who collects supercars and might drive them fast only occasionally -- the transmission needs work to improve comfort and response, particularly when the Huayra is being cruised around town. Among the changes under discussion is a shorter first gear so the engine doesn't rev as high before the clutch engages from a standstill.
Pagani currently holds 14 orders for the Huayra from U.S. customers (out of a total of 95 worldwide), its million dollar-plus price tag notwithstanding. U.S. market homologation, which includes the adoption of two-stage airbags, is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and the first U.S. spec Huayra is expected to be delivered by mid-2013. (The carbon/titanium central tub is so strong it has been used in seven crash tests so far, says Pagani proudly. They simply removed the buckled front and rear subframes after each test, and bolted on new ones.)
Before I drove my first Pagani 10 years ago, an early Zonda, I was a skeptic. I had expected a glorified kit car -- fast, but half-baked. I was surprised at how complete the Zonda felt. It drove and rode and steered like a real car developed by a real car company with thousands of engineers and a basement full of Cray supercomputers at its disposal. The Huayra is no different. Pagani may be tiny -- just 53 people work at the factory at San Cesario sul Panaro, just outside Modena -- but the Huayra is a real car. It has air conditioning and sat-nav and a stereo, all the mod-cons you'd expect in a modern supercar. It's a car in which you could comfortably knock off 1000 miles a day, and feel fresh enough for a chilled Dom Perignon before dinner.
But that's not what makes the Pagani Huayra special. What makes it special is that it's the singular product of one man's singular passion. "We are a design and research company based on the Renaissance theory of art and science working together," says Argentine-born Horacio Pagani. "That's not our idea -- it's 500 years old. We take our inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci." Pagani has thought through every single detail of this car -- his one-on-one walkthrough of the Huayra's technical highlights lasted more than three hours. He is truly autodom's Renaissance man (he named his first son Leonardo): part designer, part engineer, mostly self-taught, totally obsessed.
How else could you explain the fact that every one of the Huayra's 1400 titanium bolts has the Pagani logo etched on it (the pre-production bolt set used on the first five cars cost $112,000 -- per car); that Pagani spent nearly $900,000 developing a unique fuel system designed to eliminate the threat of fires in a crash; that the Huayra has a bespoke battery that's 26 pounds lighter than the one used in the Zonda (the old one cost $125, the new one is more than $1800). There are 1001 other examples I could quote, so just take it from me: The Huayra's detailing and workmanship is simply incredible. It makes a Ferrari look frumpy, a Veyron like a Volkswagen.
A Pagani is more than just a car. It is a rolling work of art, painstakingly created and beautifully rendered. Some Zonda models are now worth considerably more than what their owners paid for them, which perhaps proves the point that great art always goes up in value. But driving the Huayra is a lot more fun than looking at a painting on the wall.