Talking about this year’s Geneva auto show in my previous column, I noted Palexpo’s halls were “full of various electrics that either resembled Italian supercars or were Italian supercars—but with electric propulsion.” This car, the Pininfarina Battista, is neither the best nor the worst of that panoply, but it does possess the distinction of coming from the most prestigious and respected of the few remaining Northern Italian carrozzerie (even though it belongs to Mahindra & Mahindra of India now). The Battista is beautifully made, as are all hand-built Pininfarina cars, known for almost nine decades for tasteful classicism tempered by elegant innovation, even on pure racers.
Named in honor of the firm’s revered founder, this one is unfortunately more a generic Italian supercar than an example of the Pininfarina’s traditional design mastery. Its shape does not express electric propulsion in any perceptible way, not with ample inlet area adequate for a powerful V-12—required, be it noted, for the five radiators dealing with heat from brakes and 1,800-plus-horsepower in electric motors.
Battista is basically a symbol, not a car. Supercars like this—perfect exemplars of Thorstein Veblen’s 1899 concept of conspicuous consumption—are best enjoyed as objects of desire, not in actual use. Dangerously low in today’s SUV-dominated traffic, they’re difficult to enter or exit gracefully despite part of the roof opening. There’s little luggage space, the tremendous performance cannot be realized responsibly on public roads, and parking is always a huge risk. But they look good and sound great. Except for electric supercars, which are pretty much silent; that trait is a virtue for luxury limousines, not so much so for GTs.
Irrelevancies aside, let’s consider the visual details of the Battista, built on the Croatian Rimac chassis. The sharp peak of the front fenders, beginning inboard of the small headlamps and curving around to join the windowsills in plan view, is a strong positive. A hard profile line starts just behind the front wheelhouses and rises to a peak all the way at the rear of the body, well inboard after circumscribing gaping inlet wells alongside the upper’s teardrop form. To control the profile, a line is imposed into the outboard rear fender surface to create a perceived undulating line front to rear, emphasizing an impression of power.
A slot running under the wing-shaped nose cap continues up into the headlamp apertures and outlines the main full-width frontal air inlet, while a concave section of skin above that opening is separated into seven inlets. The multilayered rear fascia includes a two-part automatic airbrake joined centrally. Taillights are simple horizontals, a purity that would be greatly welcomed throughout the composition. If Battista lacks the hallmark cohesiveness of past Pininfarina work, it may well be because there were such strong constraints. Remember that Automobili Pininfarina, the manufacturer, engaged the entirely separate Pininfarina design service to shape this car and imposed many severe requirements, the most stringent of which was that “the car not be at all like a Ferrari.” That’s tough. Especially for Pininfarina.
1. The second of three air outlets across the front is followed by a black panel that tends to shorten the nose visually.
2. There’s a great deal of sculpting going on in this area with a transition from a convex section behind the wheel to a concavity in the rear of the door inboard of a sharp line.
3. Where that sharp line turns inward toward the rear, a soft radius arises . . .
4. . . . and leads to another sharp line that appears without a particular source. It defines a fender profile over the rear wheel then disappears into the aft surface before reaching the taillight.
5. The body-side surface is a big concave section swelling outward to the sill below, aft to the wheelhouse, and upward to the hard line that fences a major air scoop, with a diagonal cut in the surface defining a brake-cooling scoop at the bottom. Complex but graceful shaping.
6. Starting at the plan view bend in the nose, this surface carries a concavity back to the wheel opening. A great deal of play between convex and concave sections characterizes the Battista.
7. The emphasis on the giant “mouth” gives an overall impression of a sharklike front.
1. This U-shaped slot across the front provides visual interest and ingests more air.
2. For that air to take heat away from the mechanicals, no fewer than three transverse outlets spill the ingested air out of the top of the front body.
3. OK, it doesn’t look like a Ferrari. But it doesn’t look very good, either. This reminds me of some SUV C-pillar treatments.
4. This elegant, long curve is deceptive; it expands outward in plan view then defines itself as a wing and sweeps inward almost to the body’s centerline.
5. To get a wheel-embracing fender shape, this arc is pressed into the skin, diffusing toward the outer ends of the taillights and picking up the profile of the transverse shelf under the wing-cum-airbrake panels. Subtle, elegant, and presumably aerodynamically efficient.
6. Quite a lot is going on here. The painted accent line rises and moves inward, the base plane is fixed, and as the body side swells outward to cover the rear wheel, it creates a triangular inlet for more air. Nice work, indeed.
7. Derived from the transverse portion of the slot, these crisp lines help establish a fairly complex side treatment, from surface modulation in front to a freestanding transverse wing in back.
8. The lower lip of the front end is rather like the baseplate of GT race cars and gives the profile a definite sharklike look.
1. Boomerang-shaped in plan, taillights are refreshingly simple, straight lines in direct rear view.
2. This flat shelf across the width of the rear is unusual but quite agreeable.
3. The airbrake flaps curve nicely at their outboard edges.
4. These air inlet wells may be black holes, but they are carefully shaped to have a harmonious profile.
5. The baseplate remains straight and flat, but the body side turns inward to allow air to flow into the rear brakes. Notice the painted portion of the body skin on both sides of the wheel opening stays above and visually separated from the baseplate.
6. You see this same sharp break between body sides and the rear fascia on many vehicles, even on SUVs, always for the same reason: It reduces aerodynamic drag.
1. If you have to hang big mirrors up and outboard because legislators won’t let you use cameras, it becomes a design obligation to create nice sculptural forms for them. Done.
2. Tiny transverse ribs are just perceptible in the perimeter slot ahead of the fixed-wing shape.
3. This crisp surface break is a key part of the design, with consequences all the way to the rear wing.
4. This rib is modeled beautifully, seen from any angle.
5. Whatever its true function, this little scoop under each front corner looks very serious.
6. Parallel diagonal struts in each side of the inlet define specific air channels.
7. This wing looks as though it could be movable, but it’s probably fixed in place.
8. Sharp surface-break lines provide a source of the break in the plan-view front-end shape, and the slight bends in the bright trim piece separate the front wing shape from the panel behind it.
1. Twin screens are not the usual big rectangles but have nicely curved lower perimeters below pure horizontal tops.
2. Not exactly a Formula 1 rectangle or aircraft yoke, the wheel is flattened top and bottom. And why not? Looks good, works fine.
3. It’s not a new idea—Lamborghini did it decades ago—but contrasting upholstery is still smart and agreeable.
4. Leather on both seats carries the same embossed triangles pattern, unifying the look.
1. This fender peak visually carries back the side profile line that has twisted inward just ahead.
2. The sharp transition between horizontal and vertical planes creates this hard line that interrupts fender peak lines that are visually, but not physically, connected to the profile elements.
3. The profile line resumes as a vertical hard separation between body side and rear surfaces.
4. A larger recapitulation of the front lower scoops exhausts hot air on either side of the central diffuser.
5. A tricky detail here, where a line that begins as a surface change behind the front wheels morphs into a vertical wall and twists inward to become a horizontal wing with incorporated braking flaps.
6. The gentle bends in the transverse plan-view perimeter are similar to, but less pronounced than, the front end.
7. The red line across the rear opening carries through the rising color accent line on the body sides.