2022 Pininfarina Battista First Drive: Incomprehensible Speed

The wild and wonderful 2022 Pininfarina Battista is almost—almost—more conversation than car. Creating a visual stringboard of what this almost 1,900-hp, quad-motor hypercar represents for the industry, Italy, Pininfarina, the future, and the past would end up looking like the hidden conspiracy room of a dangerous psychotic. There’s a lot to tie together, but if you take away nothing else, know that this is your first look at the next 20 years of Italian supercars.

A Pininfarina Branded Car—Why Now?

We’ll start with the why. If you’re even remotely familiar with the world of exotic automobiles, you know the Pininfarina name is intimately associated with Ferrari. Unsurprising, considering the semi-symbiotic 61-year partnership between the two houses begat “around 200” individual Ferrari designs if you include one-offs, per Pininfarina’s own estimation. Until the Battista warped its way into our plane of reality, Pininfarina was purely in the business of composing visual music for some of the biggest marques in automotive history, never once developing a namesake car for itself—with one small exception.

The need for outsourced automotive design has fallen by the wayside since the halcyon days of the 1960s; the original iterations of hotshots Bertone, Scaglietti, and Frua are long gone, with other titans such as Vignale, Ghia, and Italdesign eventually serving as in-house designworks for Ford, Ford again, and Lamborghini, respectively. By our estimation, only Pininfarina, Zagato, and Carrozzeria Touring remain as going concerns, albeit at drastically limited capacities.

Building cars is big business, designing them is not, apparently. India’s Mahindra Group was Pininfarina’s unlikely savior, swooping in to purchase the storied Italian styling house from the throes of debt and assured bankruptcy in late 2015. Now, given its lifesaving pipeline of resources, Pininfarina needs to offer a good return on investment. Seeing as the market for coachbuilding has all but dried up, new management decided to cut out the middleman and build its own car, fulfilling the original wishes of its founder Battista Farina—plans that were shelved some 90 years ago.

Battista Is an International Effort

Here’s where it gets tricky. Carrozzeria Pininfarina—the design studio—wasn’t in charge of the Battista project aside from its styling. Automobili Pininfarina GmbH was formed in 2018 to handle the development and subsequent production of the new hypercar. Furthermore, lest you think the Battista was built in some rustic brick-lined atelier at the hands of sunworn Italian craftsfolk, know that this special project came about as the result of one of the most fascinating, high-tech, multinational efforts we’ve caught wind of.

Automobili Pininfarina’s headquarters are in Munich, Germany, overseen by a Swedish CEO, funded by Indian money, and relying heavily on Croatian hypercar tech. A team of more than 100 individuals representing 19 distinct nationalities from big names including Ferrari, Maserati, Tesla, Lotus, and McLaren helped bring Pininfarina’s first car to life. Well, technically, it’s not its first car. That distinction falls to the 1983-1985 Pininfarina Azzurra, a rebadged victory lap for the Fiat 124 Spider that shipped a total of 6,400 units worldwide at the end of production.

Even given the financial resources and technical expertise that the newly formed company was able to draw from, spinning up a bespoke car from the ether is a monumental task to put it mildly. So, Pininfarina struck a deal with Croatian EV hypercar mad scientist Mate Rimac and his namesake brand, wherein Rimac would supply the base platform and powertrain from its outrageous Nevera to serve as the Battista’s foundation..

Not Just a Wrapper

But don’t call it a reskinned Rimac. Brand reps say the front and rear structure, the bumpstops, the suspension tuning, the tire choice—were developed and sourced in house for the Battista . Even the software managing the quad-motor and battery pack is bespoke to the Italians. When pressed on dynamic differences between the two, Pininfarina officials  pointed out a key philosophical omission: The Nevera offers a drift mode, the Battista does not.

Pininfarina bills its $2.2 million lightspeed shard of carbon fiber as more of a hyper GT than outright hypercar, offering the fortunate 150 buyers a frighteningly quick transcontinental speed-cocoon that’s just as happy on a long, lonely desert highway as it is silently storming the hills above Monaco—or the apexes of California’s Chuckwalla Raceway, as we experienced.

In essence, think of the Rimac as the McLaren, or the Porsche, and the Battista as the Mitsubishi. Whoops—Ferrari. Sorry about that. Leave it to the masters of design to cut one of the cleanest and most elegant mid-engine shapes we’ve seen in years. Well, it looks mid-engine, at least. It also looks very much like a Ferrari, and we reckon we don’t need to explain why.

A Car With Heart

Your first inclination upon seeing a Battista—the car, not the man—in the flesh is a desire to lay a hand on its sublime bodylines. Provided the well-moneyed owner is ok with it, you really should; you’ll feel a heartbeat. No, really—this ain’t some corny, overwrought schlock. All electric cars have some sort of acoustic tell alerting the vision impaired or smartphone-sucked passersby of its advancing presence. Pininfarina figured it couldn’t engineer an exhaust note, so hey, why not work with what it’s got?

The Battista’s so-called E-Heart utilizes two speakers to throb a deep, audible resonance through the car, subtly vibrating the entire body while emitting a space-age thrum. Make sure you peek around back, where you’ll see the rear Pininfarina drop-cap badge beat in tandem. It’s a bit theme-parky, but it’s a welcome change from either pure silence or the steady mechanical hum we’re accustomed to in lesser EVs. It’s not just on the outside, either—the E-Heart can be felt in the seat backs.

Power, Absolutely

You’d expect anything with 1,877 hp and 1,696 lb-ft to get you feeling your own heart throbbing out of your chest regardless. These galactic figures come courtesy of a T-shaped 120-kWh battery pack, filled with 6,960 lithium-ion cells that offer a stunning 97 percent usable capacity. There’s an AC permanent-magnet electric motor at each wheel, offering the rarified opportunity for full four-wheel torque vectoring. The performance figures are absolutely staggering; Pininfarina claims the Battista will execute a 0-60-mph nuclear blast in 1.8 seconds, with 186 mph arriving in less than 12 seconds, quicker on both counts than a Bugatti Chiron Sport. You know how electric cars usually have a relatively low terminal velocity? The Battista would like a word with you—just make sure you can keep up at its electronically limited 217 mph top speed.

Surprisingly, range is of some import, considering the Battista is being marketed as a distance-blinking GT. An official EPA rating isn’t available quite yet, but Pininfarina says a range of 230 miles is a good benchmark, down from the more optimisticEuropean Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) rating of 310 miles. If you plan to blast beyond the coastline stretch from California’s Newport Beach to Malibu, a 20 to 80 percent charge at a  180-kW-capable station will take 25 minutes. That’s middle-of-the-road for charge speed these days, but Pininfarina says it decided to restrict faster charging in an effort to extend the Battista’s battery life.

Indeed, the effective “life” of the Battista is of particular concern to the company. At this point in time, electric cars are considered somewhat disposable; there’s a definite point in every EV’s time line where a costly battery change will be required for continued use. As the battery pack is often the single most expensive component on an EV, this usually ends in the car being junked rather than repaired. The recycling industry is working on bringing the cost down ASAP, but for now, all EVs have some sort of expiry date.

Not surprisingly, Pininfarina says the biggest question it receives from prospective customers is about its battery life. To assuage those concerns and lubricate their checkbook, each Battista buyer has the opportunity to extend battery warranty out to 10 years. Pininfarina is also well aware that the Battista won’t be the only car in the owner’s garage, so it suggests you leave its hyper GT perpetually plugged in while on standby; inboard software cycles the battery for maximum life.

Pretty on the Inside, Too

There are likely fewer concerns espoused about the Battista’s interior. Accessed through a supercar-standard set of butterfly doors, it’s a richly appointed environment replete with Alcantara, exposed carbon fiber, and brushed metal. It’s always a bit strange to see how much plastic peppers the interior of a modern mainstream supercar, but the price point of low-batch exotica such as the Battista demands exacting attention to detail. If it looks metal—and where it didn’t make sense to use carbon fiber—you can rest assured, it is.

This is Pininfarina at its best. Everything flows visually, is drum tight. The only two real obvious break points are where the trio of screens adorning the driver’s side dash intersect. One operates basic controls and gives info readouts, the other provides infotainment and navigation; both are bisected by a small smartphone-sized screen directly on top of the steering column for indicated speed.

Our favorite bits are the clicky, mechanical selector knobs located on either side of the driving position. The one on the right is your standard PRNDL drive selector, whereas the left rotary cycles through the five drive modes: Calma, Pura, Energica, Furiosa, and Carattere, in ascending order of proffered violence. Can’t stand the sound of the E-Heart? Let the Battista’s specialized Naim sound system drown it out.

A Drive far Too Short

We had hours to gawk at the Battista but precious little time to drive it. Our 10-and-change miles up California’s Palms to Pines byway was moderated by the Battista’s lead test driver and dynamics engineer Georgios Syropoulos in a rented Tesla Model 3—we did our best to keep pace. Of the five drive modes offered by that wonderfully tactile selection knob, we stuck to sport-minded Energetica on the curviest portions, but we slipped into the angriest Furiosa setting for one of the short straights.

We’re not so sure the Battista feels like it has 1,877 hp. How can we be? This type of power in a street car is unprecedented; we have zero—absolutely zero—reference for what almost 1,900 electric horsepower and 1,696 lb-ft of on-demand torque should feel like. The Pininfarina officials on hand  could have told us it was 3,000 hp; we would have just giggled and asked for another go.

Sure, this feels like 1,900 hp. You know what else it feels like? You’re an ant, and someone just dropped a Webster’s dictionary on your antennaed little head. It feels like the moment the slack evaporates from the tug-of-war rope between an elephant and a Ford F-350, or yelling “Cannonball!” as you jump off the rim of the Grand Canyon.

It’s indescribable. You’ll make noise every single time you go past half-throttle. Little grunts, “God” and “Geez” utterances as your corneas turn concave and your chest cavity crumples like papier-mâché. If only we had run into a Porsche 918 Spyder or even a Koenigsegg; walking away from them as if they forgot how to press the throttle would have been worth the $2.2 million entry ticket alone.

It’s too much for the road. Heck, it’s too much for the track, too, at least if you don’t pick the correct circuit. Pininfarina eschewed traditional Nürburgring testing, instead refining the Battista on the mean streets of Italy’s 7.8-mile Nardo Ring, where it pulled 1.8 g and demonstrated 2.2 g during hard braking.

Pick the Right Track

On the 2.68-mile wilds of Chuckwalla Raceway? Get real. We had two rolling hot laps with which to suss out the Battista’s capabilities, and we weren’t even able to get accustomed to the track layout before our blast was over. The grip from the bespoke Michelin Cup 2Rs is so fierce, the active KW-sourced dampers so refined, and the four-wheel torque vectoring so incredibly effective and intuitive, it’s an exercise in frustration to even see its limits from a distance.

Steer-by-wire is getting spookily good. There’s excellent feel and wonderful granularity to its adjustments, a capability augmented by the four-wheel torque vectoring. Brakes are ferocious, but there’s not as much feel as we’d like; regen brakes can only give so much quarter. It’s also shockingly loud for an EV. Aside from the retrofuturistic hum from its E-Heart, pebbles thrown by those ultra-sticky Michelins ping off carbon-fiber and metal bits, and various mechanical clicks and jutters thrash behind the scenes as the Battista’s 4,400-pound bulk is reined in by its myriad onboard systems.

It’s not hyperbole to say the Pininfarina Battista is a wholly different experience to any other supercar or hypercar on the market today. Not for long, though; the fine folk at Automobili Pininfarina have created the equivalent of a rolling carbon-fiber crystal ball. If you duct-taped the badges and told us to guess what we’re driving, we’d probably peg it as some range-topping electric Ferrari or Lamborghini circa 2026. That’s not an insult to Pininfarina—what, you don’t think there are other quad-motor electric hypercars on the horizon?

This, alongside its Rimac cousin, is an incredible, important, mind-sublimating milestone for supercars, hypercars, and the entire electric car pie slice as a whole. Think of this as early access to what most battery-fed supercars will deliver in the next decade of progress—just don’t expect them to be as pretty.

2022 Pininfarina Battista Pros and Cons

Pro:

  • One of the quickest hypercars in existence
  • Zero-to-surface-of-the-moon in a few seconds
  • Stunning design, fantastic attention to detail
  • A glimpse at what the future of the Italian supercar will be

Con:

  • You’d better be absurdly wealthy to swallow the $2.2 million price
  • People will ask you what model Ferrari it is
  • Range is a smidge low

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