With sprayed-on designer jeans, featherweight black driving shoes, a black T-shirt, and a chunky Panerai watch on his left wrist, Andrea Palma looks like the Italian test driver from central casting. “Ready?” he says and punches the gas. The open-top Pagani launches like an F/A-18 off an aircraft carrier, the keening howl of the big V-12 at our shoulders accompanied by whooshes and whistles from the turbochargers. Noise, thrust, speed: sensory overload wrapped in hand-crafted carbon fiber, leather, and titanium. Meet the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC.
Quicker and more agile, with a new engine, a new aero package, revised suspension, and a new carbon-fiber chassis, the Huayra Roadster BC is the Pagani that was never meant to be. After the Huayra Roadster launched at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Horacio Pagani was expecting to turn his attention toward the design and development of the C10, the replacement for the Huayra. But as he traveled back to Modena with five completely unsolicited deposits for a BC version of the Roadster, he thought: “Maybe we ought to build one.”
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The BC moniker refers to Italian-born New York real estate mogul and Ferrari collector Benny Caiola, who in 2000 bought the very first Zonda. The Huayra Coupe BC was launched in 2016 as a tribute to Caiola, who had become a close personal friend of Horacio and who died suddenly in 2010. The Coupe BC was designed to be the ultimate Huayra, re-engineered from the wheels up to be lighter and more powerful, faster and more capable. Only 20 were made, all snapped up before the first car was completed.
Drawing on lessons learned from the Huayra Coupe BC, the design and engineering brief for the Roadster BC was straightforward, says Francesco Perini, head of concept and composite design: “What can we do to make it more sporty, more track oriented?” The answer was simple: less weight, more power, more grip. The execution, however, is anything but.
It starts with a chassis that has been completely redone in a special new generation of ultra-light titanium-weave carbon fiber that also delivers a 12 percent increase in torsional stiffness and a 20 percent increase in bending stiffness. “The intention was that the Roadster BC’s chassis would be as rigid as that of the Coupe BC,” Perini says. It is, but at a price: A 450 percent increase in cost compared with the material used for the regular Huayra Roadster chassis. “That was the last piece of information I gave to Mr. Pagani,” Perini says with a rueful smile.
Increased downforce—1,102 pounds at 174 mph—was another key design goal. No surprise, then, that a collection of splitters and flicks, vents, and wings adorn the Roadster BC. But the aero upgrades are more fundamental than mere add-ons. The BC shares no body panels with the regular Roadster. The front splitter is bigger and wider, the front intake is larger, and the redesigned hood allows greater airflow to increase cooling and improve downforce on the front axle. The front fenders feature massive topside vents that help bleed hot air from the front wheelwells and reduce turbulence. The removable roof features two vestigial fins that help direct air toward a gracefully curved freestanding rear wing. (Pagani expects the customers who track their Roadster BCs will do so with the roof on.)
“The front of the car is the trickiest part when it comes to generating downforce,” Perini explains. “At the rear it’s easy because you can have a big wing.” Easy in theory, perhaps. Because the airflow over the Roadster is different from that of the Coupe, the Roadster BC’s wing has a different chord and profile to that of the Coupe BC. And underneath the rear of the car, below the trademark stacked quad-exhaust, is a new blown diffuser, exhaust gases from two additional downward facing outlets used to accelerate the airflow and further increase downforce.
Valves in the titanium exhaust system automatically open the two short pipes leading to the diffuser according to parameters that include the drive mode, throttle opening, and engine speed. In addition to increased downforce, the system also reduces backpressure, helping performance. But there’s also a button in the cockpit that allows the driver to open the diffuser pipes at will “to make some extra noise when you need it,” Perini says with a grin.
That noise comes from a new twin-turbo V-12 that was originally intended to make its debut in the forthcoming C10. Code-named M158 Evo, it’s essentially a heavily upgraded version of the Huarya powerplant, with two throttle bodies, a hydroformed inlet manifold, two bigger turbos, four intercoolers, and a new Bosch engine management system. It’s still made by Mercedes-AMG, each one still hand-assembled in Affalterbach by Michael Kübler, but the branding on the cam covers now reads Pagani, with a single AMG badge and a small plaque with Kübler’s signature the only clues to its origin.
The M158 Evo is said to make 791 hp, 6.2 percent more than the Coupe BC’s engine, and 774 lb-ft of torque from 2,000 rpm to 5,600 rpm, though Perini says those numbers are “conservative.” More important, he adds, the new engine complies with the latest international emission standards, including California’s, without having to resort to a hybrid system.
The new engine is bolted to an upgraded version of the Xtrac seven-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission that made its debut in the Huayra. The transmission’s architecture remains the same—not only is it 35 percent lighter than a dual-clutch transmission, but its transverse layout also means most of its mass is ahead of the rear axle. However, it now features a three-disc clutch that is 40 percent lighter than the previous two-disc clutch, plus a revised control system that delivers 30 percent quicker shifts.
Our brief ride with test driver Palma in a camo-wrapped Roadster BC prototype was enough to confirm the new engine’s noticeably crisper response and the upgraded transmission’s smoother, quicker shifts, even in Comfort mode, one of four settings (the others are Wet, Sport, and Race) that vary engine, transmission, stability control, and damper settings by way of a steering wheel–mounted manettino.
The Huayra Roadster BC is not a small car. But it weighs just 2,756 pounds, almost 70 pounds less than the regular roadster despite having bigger, heavier turbochargers and two more intercoolers. And Pagani’s relentless focus on weight saving—the roof panel is made using a special carbon-fiber weave and layup process that makes it 6.6 pounds lighter than the regular Roadster’s roof, while new forged aluminum wheels save another 8.8 pounds—means it feels almost as light on its feet as a Lotus, yet it corners hard enough to part your hair. New electronically controlled remote reservoir Tractive shocks, revised spring rates, and the widest front tires yet fitted to any Huayra—265/30ZR20 Pirellis—deliver a composed ride and a ton of mechanical grip, up to 1.9 g sustained lateral acceleration, Perini says, with peaks of 2.2 g.
Pagani plans to build 40 Roadster BCs. But don’t bother sending Horacio a check to reserve one. Despite a pre-tax price tag of about $3.5 million, they’re all sold.
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