The Pagani brand first burst onto the supercar scene during the late ‘90s and immediately tore apart the establishment with its wild-looking creations capable of out-handling the best from cross-town rivals Ferrari and Lamborghini. In fact, the only thing raising more eyebrows than the Pagani cars themselves was the manner in which they were built – at a tiny Italian factory, barely the size of a few houses, whose owner speaks not a word of English but can tell you about a love for cars in a way no one else can.
Pagani was founded by Argentinean-born Italian Horacio Pagani and his first creation under his self-titled brand was the Zonda supercar. The stunning original was considered near perfect by most until Pagani released an updated Zonda ‘F’ with more even power and grip levels. Surely the Zonda F was the most that could be squeezed out of the platform? But Horacio Pagani didn’t exactly see things that way and the Zonda F ‘Clubsport’ was born, an even higher performance version of the already extreme Zonda F and one of the fastest production cars ever created.
The Zonda F Clubsport represents the last hurrah for the Zonda line-up as Pagani is set to replace the model with a new supercar dubbed the ‘C9′ coming next year. As the final iteration of the first Pagani model, the Clubsport holds a special place in automotive history and was intended to be something special, something that would cement the Zonda name forever in the history books.
Seeing a Zonda F Clubsport in the flesh is a strange experience. The cabin sits so far forward that it looks more like a jet-fighter than a car, and its low-slung stature and wide stance combine to give it a very aggressive appearance and great presence.
The attention to detail in all Paganis is first-rate and as expected is a constant theme throughout the Zonda F Clubsport. The sophistication of the red-leather interior and the imposing lines of the exterior leave onlookers stunned as you drive past. Despite this, the new model is almost indistinguishable from the lesser Zonda F bar a tiny ‘Clubsport’ badge at the rear.
Stepping inside, you’re immediately faced with the sheer opulence and richness of materials that only an Italian thoroughbred can provide. After years of boring executive-style interiors from many rival supercar brands, it’s good to see Pagani put the ‘x’ back into exotic. Every panel, instrument, dial and stitch is perfectly matched and of incredible quality. The red-leather looks like a throwback to the roadsters of the 1930s and everything about the interior projects a hand-wrought, bespoke quality.
The driving position is near-perfect and the interior cosseting, making the car feel smaller than it actually is. Visibility is much better than expected, although driving through traffic can still be a little unnerving. Starting the engine is just as theatrical as the appearance of the exterior. Simply press a button at the top of the gearstick and a roar that seems loud enough to wake the entire town fills the air.
The Pagani Zonda F Clubsport, despite its 650hp, its 780Nm of torque, its acceleration from 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds and its maximum speed of over 215mph, is far from being a punishing race car. The clutch feel is progressive and isn’t the violent action as you flip up and down its six cogs that you would find in many other performance cars of this caliber.
One of the most rewarding aspects of driving a Zonda is the chance to engage the exclusive 7.3L AMG-sourced V12. Exploiting the sledgehammer powerplant is downright brutal in the lower-revs and the thrust of the engine is felt right through to the upper limits of the rev-range. The way you feel in the Clubsport after burying the throttle is difficult to describe. With a flick of the foot, your body is sucked into the seat and your stomach is hurled far into your back. The wicked acceleration, the flood of horsepower and the reeling in of the horizon are all over in seconds. It’s an experience that leaves you a little shaken but always wanting more.
With great horsepower must come great stopping power and the Zonda F Clubsport doesn’t disappoint in this aspect either. An optional carbon-ceramic Brembo system ensures stunning deceleration once you get past the initial hard feel of the brake pedal.
The beauty of the Zonda F Clubsport is its ability to carve up a winding road, which is just as impressive, if not more so, as its ability to cover straight stretches of road in the shortest time possible. Where it shines the most is its effortless ability to glide in and out of corners with unnerving speed. The suspension transcribes with needle-like precision every imperfection and nuance in the tarmac, yet the springs aren’t so harsh as to make the ride overly uncomfortable or jarring. Expertly tuned shocks complement the springs to reveal a firm suspension set-up with almost non-existent body-roll.
The Clubsport’s actions are communicative with the driver and it feels as though the car is never struggling against you. The steering is progressive and provides plenty of feedback. It also has a slight heft to it, giving you confidence when pushing the car at speed. Grip and handling are phenomenal, and even when you are certain you are traveling too fast for a corner the car manages to keep its line without any fuss. The rear is fun to play around with and the sensation of oversteer is gentle and predictable, giving you some room to play without biting back too severely.
Amazingly, the entire mass of the car is contained within 1,230kg. This is mostly due to its carbon-fiber bodywork and chassis construction. With all of its 650hp, the Zonda F Clubsport weighs less than a Porsche Cayman. This light weight makes the Zonda easy to dance around a curve as the load-transfers from rapid steering adjustments barely build enough momentum to get you into trouble.
The power to weight ratio of 1.89kg/hp equals that of the Bugatti Veyron, which in comparison features a 16-cylinder quad-turbo engine with a 1001hp output. The cumbersome Veyron is burdened with an additional 700kg and it shows when compared to the Zonda F - where the Veyron is faster in a straight line, the Zonda absolutely decimates it in the corners. About 54% of the Zonda’s mass is positioned over the rear axle and the huge tires ensure exceptional grip, although traction control and a differential keep any loss of grip in check.
While the looks aren’t to everyone’s taste, as a driving machine the Zonda F Clubsport is nigh on perfection. Supple steering, phenomenal grip, and that brutal AMG V12 come together to make this one of the quickest cars we’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. While few people in the world will ever get the chance to look at this thing in the flesh, let alone drive it, anyone that does get that opportunity will find themselves addicted to a driving experience like no other.