Legendary Italian design house becomes a fully fledged car maker in its own right with a 1876bhp electric ‘hyper grand tourer’

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I’m stationary at the start of the main straight on the Circuito Tazio Nuvolari, a rustic race track surrounded by flat farmland an hour’s drive from Turin.

A quick check ensures the Pininfarina Battista is in its angriest drive mode, Furiosa, for which I don’t need to provide translation. A touchscreen tells me that 1400kW is available for forward motion. That’s 1876bhp. Then I unceremoniously step on the accelerator. And I laugh and laugh and laugh some more. Oh, I should probably start braking.

Pininfarina has been seeking a signature sound. When the Battista pulls up, it throbs and hums like a helicopter is nearby. Pretty cool.

Question: is this battery- electric hypercar anything more than a one-trick pony? And if it isn’t, given that its trick is to sprint from 0-62mph in less than two seconds and from 0-186mph in less than 12 seconds, does that matter?

The Battista is Pininfarina’s announcement to the world that it’s now a car manufacturer in its own right, no longer just a design house. The company has designed some of the world’s most beautiful automotive shapes (and this might gracefully age into one of them), but it hasn’t been a true manufacturer until now. Although owned by Indian giant Mahindra, Automobili Pininfarina can be thought of as a start-up. At the Battista project’s beginning three years ago, it had just six employees; today there are still only 125.

Pininfarina decided that if it was going to reappear on the world stage as a manufacturer, it ought to do so with a bang – or a whizz.

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If the 1900 metric horsepower figure sounds familiar, that’s because no company with six employees should go about creating its own car from scratch; so Pininfarina did a deal with Rimac to co-develop the platform of the Croatian EV specialist’s Nevera. The Battista therefore uses a carbonfibre monocoque, a 120kWh battery and four motors, with power rearward-biased. Pininfarina calls the Battista the world’s first pure-electric hyper grand tourer; the Nevera is apparently more hardcore.

If you know GTs, you know that they should be decent on the road. Pliant, comfortable and cosseting. In this case, the Battista is about the same size as the LaFerrari and with not very much luggage space – just a glass-lidded compartment behind the cockpit, as on the McLaren GT.

It’s well finished enough to feel luxurious, with perfect carbonfibre weave. The floor is low, so you drop into the cabin and onto one of the two firm seats. Haul the big carbonfibre door shut with a thump. Visibility isn’t bad: there are haunches on the wings to help you gauge the car’s edges, big wing mirrors and a central mirror that has a camera function, because the rear letterbox screen is otherwise small.

I had tried the Battista on the road before the track. Five driving modes, starting with Calma (they’re mostly self-explanatory), bring increasing amounts of power. You select them via a classy, clicky rotary dial that doesn’t like to be rushed. Even the base one has 400bhp. The next, Pura (comfort), has 1000bhp. Yes: ‘comfort’. Accelerator response is relatively soft by EV standards. Instead of an instant hit (perhaps because it would easily overwhelm the tyres), the power eases on linearly. There’s always ample for the road.

The different driving modes bring more steering weight and tighter dampers as well as more power, but the ride is always calmly controlled.

The Battista steers sweetly, too: linear and positive. But with carbonfibre being so rigid, road surface imperfections clonk and thunk loudly through the chassis, while stones clatter the underside. The brake pedal clicks and the electronics whine. This isn’t as quiet as most GTs, but it is enjoyable on the road at road speeds. Accelerating onto a motorway only gives a hint of what’s to come later.

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The Circuito Tazio Nuvolari is 1.7 miles long and has a 0.44-mile-long main straight. Ample, really. But the last time I felt anything like this was when I drove a Caterham Seven on Rye House go-kart track. Long straights become very short ones, corner exits blur into braking zones and you spend so much time thinking about going and stopping that cornering is almost an afterthought.

But one that’s worth concentrating on. Pininfarina says it was important that, for the money it charges (more on which in a moment), the Battista must do things that no internal-combustion-engined car could. With 1206bhp going to the rear wheels alone, unsurprisingly it has managed that.

Not only can it do things that no ICE car can do, but it also does things that no 2200kg car should do. The battery pack sits in a T-shape between the occupants and right behind them, low and central, so there’s a remarkable feeling of agility.

Pitch and roll are contained, but still, what feels like firm springing on the road leaves the Battista loose when it puts all of its power down on a circuit. Even modest throttle inputs push it into controlled slides on corner exit, and if you keep your right foot pinned, it feels like the back end is on castors.

That’s unsettling at first but hilarious as you get used to it. Even though the front tyres have 670bhp, the rears are dealing with specialist-drift-car levels of power.

The cornering is arguably more impressive than the acceleration. It’s a two-trick pony at least, then. So while I suspect that if you gave Porsche’s, Ferrari’s or Lotus’s rather bigger engineering teams this level of performance, they would tame it more, it’s a minor miracle that the Battista is this drivable at all.

A caveat, though: the stability-control and torque-vectoring systems are still pre-production. I experienced a momentary loss of retardation and a colleague full ABS failure. Those stopped the laughter.

I doubt the final tune will make a difference to the verdict. How do you rate a car that costs €1.98m (£1.67m) before options, plus local taxes? Call it bang on £2m on the road in the UK, depending on the exchange rate, plus delivery charges and a tenner on numberplates, that sort of thing. Pininfarina hopes to sell 150 Battistas. Its next car – cheaper, slower and more SUV-ish – is meant to follow the end of Battista production in about three years’ time. I don’t think it will be quite like this. Not much will ever be.

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I wasn’t sure about the idea of the Battista. What’s the point of nearly 1900bhp in a road car? I think you would have more fun in a well-developed £100,000 track car, plus you would easily find a more convincing £100,000 GT. Ultimately, though, it’s curiously compelling; for me, more so than the Bugatti Chiron. Yes, it exists just to say Pininfarina exists – but what a way to say it.

Are you a Rimac in disguise?

Beneath its shapely carbonfibre body, the Battista shares quite a lot with its ‘frenemy’, the Rimac Nevera. They have the same carbonfibre tub with aluminium suspension subframes front and rear. In each, the lithium ion battery pack, all 120kWh of it, runs between the occupants and then across the body in a T-shape behind them. Both have four motors, one for each wheel and each with a reduction gear.

In the Battista, the front ones make 335bhp apiece and the rears 603bhp each. Any one of them would be enough; all four together make the full 1876bhp.

Oh, the rest of the EV stuff: the Battista’s range is 311 miles and it can be charged at up to 250kW from a suitable charger.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.