Has a car ever been named so accurately?
By Mike Duff / Monday, 12 September 2022 / Loading comments
Even those who regard seven-figure hypercars as pointless whimsy might fight it hard to maintain cynicism levels this time. The Pagani Utopia is one of those cars that is as much art as it is automotive, a stunning piece of design that will doubtless also be spectacular to drive. And if €2.15m pre-tax seems expensive for a car – although not by the surreal standards of this part of the market – you could always justify the purchase as a piece of cutting-edge sculpture and just mount it on a plinth.
As other supercar makers have steadily increased production volumes and diversified into building urban tanks, Pagani has proved itself the genuine article. The company produces one car a week, and the announcement of the Utopia coupe comes alongside a commitment to build no more than 99 of them. Which, you probably won’t be entirely surprised to hear, have all been sold already.
Many of the design themes are familiar from the Huayra, and some go all the way back to the Zonda. But the Utopia is almost entirely new, with the car having been built around a triple mission set by Horacio Pagani himself – simplicity, lightness and ultimate driving pleasure.
While it might seem a stretch to describe a twin-turbocharged AMG-produced 6.0-litre V12 as being a simple powerplant, it is much less complex than one of the hybrid systems increasingly common in this bit of the market. The engine revs higher than the V12 in the Huayra BC, and now makes peaks of 851hp and 809lb-ft, with all that fury being directed to the rear wheels. The new engine meets all global emissions standards, including Californian ones – and the Utopia is fully type approved for American sale rather than relying on the sort of ‘show and display’ fudge common to limited-run hypercars.
Next on Horacio’s list of virtues is lightness – with Pagani’s claim of a 1,280kg dry mass being enormously impressive for anything carrying such a substantial engine. That’s less than 100kg more than the figure McLaren quoted for the fully stripped and whipped Senna, with the Utopia’s svelteness due in large part to the use of what Pagani calls Carbo-Titanium for the core monocoque. As it sounds, this combines composite and high-strength metal. Bodywork is constructed from a new type of carbon fibre that is 38 per cent stronger than what Pagani was using before.
Which brings us to driveability – and the gloriously unlikely confirmation that the Utopia will come with the option of a seven-speed manual gearbox. When I interviewed Horacio a few years ago he said that owners were looking for involvement and feedback beyond ultimate speed, and that sentiment has resulted in the presence of three pedals and the spectacular open-gated shifter that sits in the centre of the cockpit. An automated single-clutch version of the same rear-hung Xtrac transmission will be offered for those who don’t want three pedals, or who have never learned to drive a manual. Pagani hasn’t released any performance claims yet, although there is little chance the Utopia will be anything other than hugely fast. But it is clearly a car to be driven rather than one explicitly aimed at breaking records.
The design has plenty of familiar Pagani elements, from the quad projector headlights to the two-by-two bundle of four exhaust tailpipes at the rear. But much about it is new as well, with the company saying the long teardrop shape is the result of huge amounts of wind tunnel testing. But while the surfaces have been carefully considered to sculpt and manage airflow, the Utopia remains without anything as vulgar as winglets or an elevated rear spoiler. There are two active elements at the back, each operating in a separate channel on each side of the rear clam. Viewed from the rear, they also form part of an oval shape.
There are plenty of other stunning details. The Utopia continues with Pagani’s trademark use of leather straps to secure the front and rear clamshells, with the rear opening to reveal luggage panniers that sit inside the car’s structure. It is also very well glazed, beyond the windscreen and the glass in the butterfly opening doors the Utopia has two panels in the roof, Pagani’s take on a Lamborghini style ‘Periscopio’ for the rear-view mirror and a lower cover which gives a view of the top of the V12. A secondary window is positioned in the bulkhead within the engine compartment, making it possible to see the dashboard’s central dials from outside the car through the engine screen.
Even the wheels are especially special. The Utopia gets forged alloys, 21-inch in diameter at the front and 22-inch at the rear, with turbine-shaped vanes to help extract hot air from around the brakes. But look closely and you’ll see these are actually in the shape of tiny Utopias. You could stare at this car for hours and not run short of details to look at.
The interior has an equal number of highlights. Horacio Pagani is no fan of large screens, and beyond a small digital display between the mechanical speedometer and rev counter the Utopia is about as analogue as a car can be, with chunky metal switchgear. The steering wheel is apparently milled from a single piece of aluminium. The raised gate of the mechanical gearchange linkage for the manual box is utterly gorgeous. Masterpiece is a hard-earned term, but this really does look to be one.
For any other manufacturer to call a car Utopia would be run the risk of corporate hubris, as would quoting a medieval logician in the introductory press release. But Pagani can, frankly, get away with anything: “For the philosopher Thomas More in 1516, Utopia was a place that did not exist, and ever since then the name has been given to the idealized places of which we dream.” Let’s be honest, that sums this Utopia up nicely.
For those lucky enough to have a couple of million for indulgent car purchases, and who managed to get their names down, the first Utopias will be delivered in the second quarter of next year, with the company building them at the rate of approximately one a week. Pagani says the automated manual cars will be built first – hopefully that won’t take too long. Because if you have been lucky enough to get on the list you absolutely must specify the manual gearbox.
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