Pagani Huayra Roadster – mega-rare £2m hypercar now available as convertible

Pagani Huayra Roadster 
How do you pronounce Huayra? 'Wira' is pretty much the closest you'll get Credit: Jeff Gilbert 

Pagani is a company built on contradictions. It’s simultaneously an emotional and flamboyant supercar builder, blending art with low-volume engineering in a warm, almost sentimental way. On the other hand, its focus on technology is total – the Zonda and Huayra and their derivatives are among the most critically-acclaimed performance cars in the world, consistently matching or besting machines from far more established manufacturers.

The Huayra Roadster is an extension of these inconsistencies. Truthfully, it isn’t my kind of car; I like it, and admire it from a technical perspective, but don’t find myself drawn to it like I am to other similarly accomplished supercars. Perhaps this reflects badly on my taste, or proves that I am about as far removed from the target demographic for Pagani as it is possible to get, but it also saves me £2.3m – even the price of the thing is vaguely nonsensical.

To call the Huayra Roadster an open-top version of the Huayra would be an oversimplification, given that the majority of this car is new. All the panels, for example. And a lot of the tech. In fact, while many manufacturers are forced to acknowledge dynamic compromises when they lop the roof off their cars, Pagani has actually improved on the hard top. The Roadster is stiffer and lighter, not to mention more powerful, than even the souped-up BC version of the Huayra.

It uses a Mercedes-AMG 6.0-litre V12, with two turbochargers and an output of 754bhp. This is no crate engine – it’s a version of the M275 built specifically for Pagani in what can’t be a particularly profitable partnership for the Germans. Start it up (the key is a fun but cumbersome model of the car, about the size of a deck of playing cards) and you’ll hear one of the most tasteful and considered noises ever to emerge from the back of a supercar. It makes Merc’s V8 seem positively crass.

An iconic arrangement, the four exhausts have been a Pagani motif since the company's infancy Credit: Jeff Gilbert 

And despite everything, the Huayra Roadster isn’t crass. It’s probably the most attention-seeking car I’ve ever sat in, drawing tattooed arms holding iPhones out of van windows like a magnet through iron filings. But it carries itself with dignity, an uncommon trait in the rarified world of the hypercar. A brief trip from the Pagani workshop in Park Royal, onto the North Circular and then the Westway was never going to test a performance car’s abilities, but it did earn it the approval of most of northwest London.

Had we ventured further, perhaps onto a German autobahn, we might have been able to see whether the Roadster’s claimed top speed of over 220mph is accurate. As it is, I have no way of checking. I can tell you that a spurt of acceleration, as much as is possible within the Hanger Lane gyratory, will press you into the upholstery; repeated applications of the throttle while stuck in traffic tamped me down into my seat like sausagemeat in an eggcup.

There's a lot of carbon fibre, a Pagani specialty  Credit: Jeff Gilbert 

This is the first example of its kind in the UK, though it’s unlikely to be joined by many more. It will always be one of the rarest cars, partly because of the limited number of buyers but also by design – Pagani transcends the normal rules of car manufacturing, and indeed commonly held ideas of value. Shrouded in mystique and reverance, these cars are investments as much as they are toys. You’re lucky if you see one moving, let alone on the public road.

But what a treat it will be when you do. Whether you like the overall design or not, every part of it is at least interesting. The front splitter, highlighted in this case with a streak of blue, fades into a gaping abyss beneath the nose. Sidelights, incorporating five pairs of LEDs on each side of the car, draw the eye down, while the sweeping panels drag your focus backwards over the bonnet. The headlights are mounted within perfect elliptical tears in the panels, which arch upwards over the wheel. It’s here that the wing mirrors are mounted, exaggerated, sculptural, playful ornaments that give the car its insectoid face.

The leaf-shaped mirrors are a wonderful touch Credit: Jeff Gilbert 

Behind these antennae is the windscreen, itself far narrower than the car. Behind the doors, which disappointingly open in the normal fashion, are more air intakes, this time with lovely parquet-style grilles. At the back, the panels lead back to Pagani’s signature – four exhaust pipes, mounted in a square, in the centre of the car’s backside. It’s this detail that first captured my imagination as a boy when I first saw photos of the Zonda in a magazine in 1999.

That was almost 20 years ago now, just months after the McLaren F1 went out of production. It was a world before new-old Top Gear, post-550 but pre-Gallardo. Not many upstarts from this era are around today – Koenigsegg is another notable Nineties survivor – making the brand unusual both in its longevity and its youth. Pagani has been part of the supercar scene for almost as long as I’ve been able to read about it, but it’s still very new.

The Huayra Roadster is a phenomenal piece of automotive engineering. It’s flawed, of course; there’s nowhere to keep the removable hard top, and navigating urban roads is stressful even with the nose in elevated speed bump mode. But it’s still a wonderful expression of technical ability, and a reminder that wealthy enthusiasts will continue to drive the cutting edge of the car industry for as long as there is one. It looks like nothing else on earth, capturing the excitement of a supercar in a naive, cheerful way. Most importantly, it dovetails technical competence with pure artistry on an absurd scale. It just isn’t for me.