WORDS: SIMON DE BURTON | PHOTOS: PININFARINA
We’ve seen Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista electric hypercar win a design award at Villa d’Este, watched former Formula 1 driver Nick Heidfeld cane it as only a seasoned pro would dare and gazed agog at its startling performance specifications:1874bhp, 1696lb ft of torque and 0-62mph in 1.86 seconds.
But (or so we were assured by Automobili Pininfarina’s top brand man) not until this week had any journalists, YouTubers, influencers, bloggers, vloggers (or even doggers) been let loose behind the wheel of an actual, fully homologated, street-legal production version of the batty Battista.
Gazed agog at its startling performance specifications: 1874bhp, 1696lb ft of torque and 0-62mph in 1.86 seconds
Exactly the standard of car, in other words, that will be delivered to your door after you’ve locked in your personal, never-to-be-repeated specification, handed over your €2.2m plus tax (plus extra for extras) and waited ten months for delivery.
So, even if you feel you’ve already heard enough about the Battista to choose it as your specialist subject on Mastermind, Magneto wasn’t going to turn down the chance to drive one in ‘real-world’ conditions – especially on the other-worldy beautiful roads of Italy’s Langhe region, where ribbons of variously smooth and shockingly potholed Tarmac weave their way between hazelnut trees and Barolo vineyards.
As an entrée to the big moment, we were given a tour of the Automobili Pininfarina facility in Cambiano, where the Battista is hand-assembled at a current rate of one to two cars per week.
They arrive as a rolling chassis from Zagreb, where the electric supercar wizards at Rimac create the powertrain assemblies onto which Automobili Pininfarina hand-builds the carbonfibre bodies, fits the bespoke interiors and integrates the all-important ‘HMI’ (that’s the ‘human machine interface’, once known as a dashboard).
After five minutes of gazing at the naked gizzards of one awaiting the Pininfarina treatment, I had to accept that there was only one mechanical element that I recognised as being from a car – a couple of radiator pressure caps that keep at bay two of the six refrigerant systems that prevent the 120kWh power pack from self-combusting. That pack, incidentally, gives 1400kW of power, equivalent to 1900bhp.
Further down the line, we saw two of the five ‘Anniversario’ special editions being fettled, plus the car that is set to be the most expensive Battista build yet.
The buyer asked for a special gold paint finish, specifying that some areas of the body should be left in raw carbonfibre, and then painted gloss black – a subtle affectation that helped to push the price beyond the €3m mark (plus tax).
After that it was time to raise the gullwing doors of the decidedly unsubtle, screaming-yellow Battista parked back at our hotel in preparation for the off – prior, to which I felt grateful (and privileged) to be given some pre-flight instruction by the legendary Loris Bicocchi who, in his 50-year career as a test and development driver, has helped to fine-tune everything from the Lamborghini Countach to the Pagani Zonda.
We last met when he encouraged me to drive a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse at 230mph, and there’s no greater testament to his incredible bravery that he didn’t quietly slip away when he saw the same, talentless idiot approaching the Battista.
Bicocchi took the oddly shaped, Battista-signed steering wheel to begin with, clicking the rotary, door-mounted drive control into soothing Calma mode that engages only the front-wheel motors and delivers a trundling 500kW of power (that’s only about 660 of your conventional brake horsepower).
In that setting, the Battista still goes like stink and, as Bicocchi demonstrated, you don’t really need to use the brakes because the ‘regen’ force on deceleration gives the impression that the car has somehow taken root in the road.
He switched it up to Pura to give an amusing taste of what it’s really capable of (all four motors, 740kWs and a top speed of 170mph), mashing the accelerator and putting my breakfast omelette in danger of being recycled in the engine bay (or whatever they call the bit at the back that’s filled with boxes, cables and coolant).
We swapped places after three kilometres, and Bicocchi soon encouraged me to switch-up to Energica, thereby invoking a useful 1100kW (let’s call that 1479bhp) and 1327lb ft of torque.
Others from the Pininfarina team were travelling in front of us to guide the way in a manner reminiscent of the Red Flag Act of 1865, so Bicocchi suggested we let them get a few hundred yards ahead before flooring it.
So I did. And we actually felt as though we might be capable of taking flight because (as you’ve been told umpteen times before) the Battista is ridiculously, insanely quick.
So much so that, as the idiotic ‘unit of magnetic flux density’ symbol on the leading Tesla’s boot lid seemed to shoot backwards towards our windscreen, even the usually unflappable Bicocchi assumed the foetal position in the passenger seat.
Being at the controls, and with more of an idea that we might be able to stop before obliterating everything within the next five miles, I was merely thrilled – and simultaneously perturbed at just how easy electrical power has made it to travel at warp speed on a public highway.
Not least since we still had a mode to go – Furiosa, which almost eliminates the car’s traction-control systems and unleashes 1400kW of power and an unfathomable 1725lb ft.
Perturbed at just how easy electrical power has made it to travel at warp speed on a public highway
“You can try it if you want,” said Bicocchi, “but even Érik Comas thought it was a bit too much….”
Time for a bit of Calma, then…
Visitors to the Goodwood Festival of Speed will be able to view a special version of the existing Battista, while this year’s Monterey Car Week will see the wraps pulled off other, new products as well as showcasing the Battista.