SAN CESARIO SUL PANARO, Italy—The mood was more dramatic than you might expect for the debut of the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC, a hypercar which at first blush sounds simply like a choptop version of the dizzyingly complex coupe.
As the lights dimmed on the piazza-style factory floor of Horacio Pagani’s headquarters in Motor Valley, waves of dry ice crawled across Italian tiles while factory workers stomped to the syncopated march of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”—pomp and circumstance indeed, with an extra dose of operatic occasion thrown in for good measure.
Mr. Pagani gathered the half-dozen or so gathered media after the reveal for an explanation of the car, and it turns out its creation was no mere decapitation. He explains that the Huayra Roadster BC project was instigated not by the boutique carmaker but rather because an esteemed and unnamed customer plunked down a—presumably massive—deposit for the engineering and execution of an open-air version.
“We were already developing a Huayra replacement,” project leader Lorenzo Kerkoc explained, “[but] our sense of responsibility grew because [the] customer’s expectations were so high.” Because Pagani says he feels he must deliver a certain number of surprises with every new car, a freakish amount of rethinking went into the BC Roadster’s details.
For starters, this was to be Pagani’s first open-air model lighter than its closed coupe equivalent, so the engineering team worked to redevelop the chassis so it could maintain both stiffness and lightness. The BC’s monocoque consists of five sections, at the center of which is a carbon-titanium composite, a.k.a. Carbo-Titanium HP62 G2, which was first used in 2009’s Zonda Cinque roadster. In order to compensate for the removed roof, a hybrid material dubbed Carbo-Triax HP62 was implemented. When notified that the new composite meant a 450 percent increase in cost, Mr. Pagani apparently believed the benefits outweighed the added expense— which might help explain the Roadster’s €3.085 million cost, which translates to $3.43 million as of this writing.
The team didn’t stop at the chassis. A new twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter AMG V-12 was implemented, claiming 800 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 774 lb-ft between 2,000 and 5,900 rpm. The future-friendly powerplant complies with Euro 7 emissions standards (which should take it through 2025) and incorporates bigger turbochargers, a pair of throttle bodies versus one, and four intercoolers versus two. Also upgraded is what many have cited as the Achilles heel of the Huayra: the automated single-clutch gearbox, which Pagani says is 35 percent lighter than a dual-clutch would be. By reworking the transversely-mounted Xtrac transmission, the seven-speed ’box now shifts 30 percent quicker. Also key to the Roadster BC’s improvements were suspension and aerodynamics upgrades, which Pagani says involved the responsible work of adding downforce without simply lowering the car to create more suction to the road. While maintaining workable road clearance, the Roadster claims a staggering 1,102 pounds of downforce at 174 mph.
For a firsthand experience of the Huayra Roadster BC’s dynamic capabilities, we spent the afternoon right-seating test driver Simone Tarozzi during hot laps at the nearby Autodromo di Modena, a test track frequented by team Pagani and other nearby manufacturers. The proceedings began as auspiciously as you’d expect, with a heavily camouflaged test mule peeling out of the regional racetrack’s pits, laying luridly lengthy strips of Pirelli rubber on the smoking-hot tarmac. Track temperatures were sky high due to a particularly nasty heat wave, resulting in surface temperatures of up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Roadster turned a dozen or so spirited laps before it was my turn. After strapping into the open-air cockpit and glancing at the hot-to-touch milled-aluminum surfaces, I was impressed the Pagani had been maintaining the elevated pace considering the ambient temps. Launching out of the pits, the first thing that hits you is the sound: Although the big V-12 inches behind your head is turbocharged, the blast of aural energy is piercingly immediate and sharp, thanks in part to two exhaust pipes routed directly from the catalytic converters to aim smack at the pavement below. Incidentally, those are in addition to six titanium exhaust pipes, and all together they deliver a fabulously evocative wall of sound that defies the powerplant’s forced-induction setup.
Gearshifts feel noticeably quicker than before from the passenger seat, and the engine exhibits no perceptible hesitation as it escalates through the powerband. Also obvious is the slippy-slidey effect of summer tires reaching and quickly surpassing their optimal operating temperatures, yielding quite a few driver-instigated drifts throughout the first few corners of the 1.5-mile circuit. Claimed to deliver a maximum of 1.90 g on the skidpad, the Roadster BC is clearly capable of spine-bending lateral forces, not to mention longitudinal ones courtesy of its fearsome acceleration and crisp stops aided by active aerodynamics. The edges of these performance limits feel razor sharp from the passenger seat, especially since this two-person beast claims a dry weight of only 2,756 pounds. But halfway into the second lap of redline shifts and aggressive slides, we reached the thermal limits of what the bellowing V-12 could handle, forcing us into a more terrestrial pace before we pulled into the pits.
With a planned production run of just 40 cars—actually a considerable production endeavor for a tiny outfit like Pagani—the Roadster BC is unlikely to see a similarly taxing flogging at the track during 100-plus-degree days. Conversely, we also hope its few proud owners will make the effort to exercise their carbon-bodied beasts. As Horacio’s son Christopher explains, the second Pagani Zonda ever produced was the legendary “La Nonna,” which accumulated some 77,000 miles under its first owner. The car, which has been repainted several times and has since racked up a staggering 310,000 miles, is now a part of the Pagani museum collection and is regularly run. “It is really quick because it has been used a lot,” the junior Pagani says, proof that when it comes to hypercars constructed from sheer grit and pure unobtanium, form and function still overlap beautifully.