PASADENA, California — If you’ve ever played Gran Turismo or watched Top Gear, you’re familiar with Pagani. The tiny boutique builder builds one of most desirable — and unattainable — cars on the planet, the 740-horsepower, carbon-fiber-bodied Pagani Zonda. To real driving enthusiasts, the purity of the Zonda, not the excess of the Bugatti Veyron, represents automotive perfection.
Pagani builds cars in numbers that likely can be counted on your fingers and toes. That makes them almost unattainable in Europe and Asia and completely unattainable in the United States, where it has never passed emissions or safety testing.
Pagani is bringing its latest supercar, the $1.2 million Pagani Huayra, to the United States in 2013. The car, pronounced “wai-rah” and named for the ancient Andean wind god Aymara Huayra Tata, made its North American debut last week at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Company execs said they plan to build as many as 40 a year and they expect to sell between five and eight in the United States annually.
“For the first time, we will also be accepting orders from the United States,” Horacio Pagani, the company’s soft-spoken 55-year-old founder, said through a translator.
Pagani had hoped to introduce the car in the United States next year, but federal regulators put the brakes on that plan last week by denying the automaker’s request for an exemption to rules requiring advanced airbag systems. Pagani says it had anticipated the denial and sped up development of the system so it can begin selling the car here in 2013.
Aside from accounting for U.S. regulations in its design, how has the Huayra been changed to suit American tastes? The plush interior, complete with sumptuous leather seats, billet aluminum accents and that rarest of supercar amenities — roominess — provides a clue.
“We have made it a comfortable vehicle to drive everyday,” Pagani, a self-made supercar impresario, said.
Pagani designs each Pagani personally, something the company drove home by staging the debut at the country’s premier automotive design school. In addition to the car, the automaker also announced a $20,000 scholarship for Art Center’s transportation design program.
But it’s not the newly be-winged style of the Huayra that will have people forking over briefcases of cash for one. It’s the performance.
Equipped with the same 6.0-liter, twin-turbo Mercedes-Benz AMG V-12 as the track-only Zonda R, the Huayra makes 700 horsepower in street-legal trim, enough to propel it to 60 mph in close to three seconds. Top speed is said to be in the neighborhood of 230 mph. The car’s 3,000-pound curb weight — due in large part to the carbotanium monocoque — contributes to that utterly bonkers straight-line performance. The Huayra can pull 1.5 G in corners.
Like the Zonda, those numbers aren’t enough to make the Huayra the fastest or best at any one thing. There are cars with better numbers. But Pagani relies on exclusivity and experience to set it apart from the competition.
Photos: Sean Smith
The Huayra is full of delicious details.
The luggage is almost as nice as the carbon-fiber compartment that holds it.
The only soundtrack we’re interested in is the wail of the V-12 unleashing 700 horsepower.
The steering wheel.
Yes, you’re right, that mirror does look fragile.
Pagani made it pretty much impossible to get a shot of the entire car. Here are some nice stock shots so no one complains.