Pagani Huayra Codalunga Drive Review : Beauty is the Beast
Modena, Italy - The correct response to the question, "Which Pagani model would you like to drive?" is, "Yes, please!"
Maybe I've been lucky, but I've only had the best experiences meeting my heroes... and this recent visit to the Automobili Pagani atelier in Modena during the brand's 25th Anniversary Year would prove no exception.
It's a tale as old as time, because there's something about every Pagani that has left me shaken and stirred ever since I first clapped eyes on a Zonda in Singapore almost two decades ago.
Horacio Pagani's sublime creations see the perfect intersection of art, science and emotion, which elevates them from mere performance cars to performance art.
Naturally, Paganis aren't for everybody, least of all if you can't get an allocation...
In the niche of hypercars, some brands have too much science, others feel like they're designed by committee and the rest are over-engineered as if to prove a point by having the loudest record-breaking bragging rights.
However, very few of those contenders thrill and tickle this author's fancies like any one of Pagani's epic theatrical productions continue to.
As electric powertrains enter the fray (with the accompanying access to ready and easy electric performance), the hypercar segment has gotten increasingly crowded.
As far as we're concerned though, emotion always trumps empirical – especially in such a rarefied segment – where it is arguably more important to be seen to have taste, as opposed to just having money.
Long-time TopGear Singapore readers will recognise that emotional quotient is something the author has always valued above mere hard stats.
Not that performance figures aren't important, but should they really be the be-all-end-all to a hypercar?
As rapid improvements to technology drive a hypercar's performance, today's record breaker is already yesterday's news.
So if there's nothing else other than technology going for it, it is the 'classics' like the Zonda, Huayra (and now the Utopia) that never fall out of fashion.
Of course, it still depends on how you interpret the 'hypercar' genre. If you're easily impressed by tit-for-tat performance snipes and bombastic superlative figures, there are several candidates you can gravitate to of both the ICE and electrified varieties.
In this realm though, it's not just about price, performance and (perceived) pedigree, but more so the less tangible elements (such as those evidenced in Pagani's achingly beautiful works of art) that stir the soul and stoke the flames of one's passions.
If you think Pagani's 50 cars a year production figure is 'too many' (!!), there's recourse to the Pagani Grandi Complicazioni (previously known as Special Projects) programme to commission one-off (or if you're feeling expansive, up to five units) creations.
It was certainly a treat exploring the Grandi Complicazioni section of Pagani's pristine atelier – a temple to art, science and perfection – because we spotted one-offs that boggle the mind with the superlative levels of technical customisation involved.
Naturally, with such one-off examples (the Codalunga we drove sees just five tailor-made units built) and their intensely private owners involved, no photos were allowed and we'll have to make do with the memories from the mental images caught by our mind's eye.
This author first saw a Pagani IRL in the mid-2000s, when the then-dealer hosted the media at its facility as it introduced Singapore to the avant-garde Zonda, an exotic beast of operatic proportions.
Less than a decade later in the early-2010s, I would attend a wedding where the bridal car was a Zonda Cinque, incidentally Pagani's first Grandi Complicazioni model.
Fast forward to present times, we're bludgeoned into insensibility by shock and awe as we bask in the presence of the brand's latest Grandi Complicazioni model, the exquisite and eminently elegant Huayra 'Codalunga' (or Longtail in English).
A derivative of the Huayra Coupe, the bespoke Codalunga was commissioned by two Pagani collectors with the intention of participating in Concourse events, as well as to serve ballistic continent-crushing cruising duties.
The clean, sinuous form is formed from lightweight composites, with the hand-worked aluminium alloy caressed and coaxed into shape by the science of speed and aerodynamic dark arts, which result in a design (and semi-matte / matte colour choices) inspired by the timeless, low-drag-high-speed 'long-tail' Le Mans race-cars of the 1960s.
A massive 3.7m2 rear engine cover conceals the monstrous V12, while further back, the brand's ubiquitous quad-exit titanium exhaust tailpipes are ceramic-coated and left exposed in all their glory in true motorsports fashion.
Mind you, Grandi Complicazioni models aren’t just about the science, the speed and the soul, but the nitty-gritty elements that ensure such cars can be road-registered as well.
The Codalunga has been engineered to be homologated anywhere in the world, which is no small feat given the complexities and differences in the legislation across jurisdictions.
Like the legendary Zonda Cinque, just five units of the Codalunga have been produced, with this demo-car we're driving the factory's own that sits outside of the tally.
There's no need to talk-up specific performance figures for any Pagani, because they take a back-seat to the glorious details that stun you into giddy euphoria as you take in the visual and tactile treats to your senses… and that’s even before you fire-up the V12.
As you open the gull-wing door and slide into the driver’s seat, take some time to compose yourself, because the level of attention to every intricate detail in the Codalunga requires introspective exploration… and you certainly don’t want to be driven to distraction by the exquisite cabin elements when you’re on the move.
The twin-turbo’d V12 erupts majestically to life before settling into a grumbly idle.
This certainly isn’t the sort of car that likes sitting idly by, especially given the 840hp and 1100Nm on tap.
You engage first on the sequential gearbox using the open-worked gear-shift mechanism and begin the familiar courtship ritual with the Codalunga that eases you into its good graces... before deciding how much liberty you'll want to take with her on the winding roads!
As we exit the factory gates, it only takes a short while to get used to the Codalunga's longer proportions.
Despite its size, it feels remarkably light on its feet, which should come as no surprise given it tips the scales at well under 1.3-tonnes dry.
With its clean-swept aesthetics, this beauty cleaves effortlessly through the air as we go with the flow and wind our way to cleaner, curvier roads, ever-mindful of the V12 beast lurking in the shadows as it waits to be unleashed by the command of the right foot.
We slink out of the city confines at pedestrian speeds in the light drizzle, but the V12 makes its elemental presence felt, as anything more than a quarter throttle resulting in a furious flickering of the traction control as it admonishes you.
It heaves and huffs as you work your way up through the gears, before taking a deep breath to blow you away when you finally put your foot down.
The Huayra Codalunga may grudgingly serve its role as civilised cruiser when it chooses to, but there's a reason it shares its name with the Andean 'God of Wind'.
We ride the storm into the hills, with the throttle pedal angle wreaking havoc with the Beaufort scale.
Light breeze instantly transforms into thundering typhoon as the Codalunga rocks and roils you like a hurricane, even as it allows you to chart its course through any series of corners with pin-sharp precision.
Driven hard, the chassis and touch-points of the Codalunga are engineered to deliver feels of the analogue variety.
The driver sits within the eye of the swirling V12 hurricane and attempts to tread that fine line between balance and bazinga, because you don't want to get swept away in the face of its mighty onslaught.
The Codalunga may be tamed, but only barely so... After all, this isn't a trifling storm in a teacup for one to easily keep a lid on, but a furious force of nature that is capable of terrorising tarmac by spitting huge chunks of asphalt out in the wake of its passing.
Even with the sticky PZero rubber, it's difficult to bring the full wrath of the V12 to bear on the slick, serpentine roads, but the brief tickle from the quick afternoon drive holds the whispered promise of the Codalunga's potential for ultra-violence under more perfect driving conditions.
It's often easy to dismiss such automotive art-pieces as pose-worthy, picture-perfect gallery exhibits that are best appreciated sitting pretty, but that would be selling the Codalunga short.
Pagani's emotional masterpieces are meant to be driven... and driven hard at that... and the Codalunga's soulful, restorative salve is just the sort of beauty we petrolheads can appreciate.
PHOTOS Francesco Ferrarini / Automobili Pagani
Pagani Huayra Codalunga
Engine 5980cc, V12, twin-turbo
Power / rpm 840hp / 5900rpm
Torque / rpm 1100Nm / 2000 - 5600rpm
0-100km/h est. < 3secs
Transmission 7spd sequential manual
Top Speed est. 270km/h