Cruising around northern Italy
If you insist, officers. Three fat, satisfying clicks on the left-hand paddle, and floor it. No wheel spin, no hesitation, the FF fired up the motorway like a bolt from a crossbow, the police car honking and flashing in celebration behind. Only in Italy. Faster and faster, and I didn’t stop accelerating until we were at least two miles clear of the cops. What an engine. The FF’s mighty 6.0-litre V12 is so sharp, so free-revving, so quick to shed inertia that it makes anything short of an F1 car’s power plant feel a bit lardy. You have to be mighty careful not to lift off suddenly – remove your foot from the throttle in the midst of full-bore acceleration, and the revs return towards zero with such enthusiasm that you’ll find your nose spread across the inside of the FF’s windscreen.
We hit the cool, calm shores of Como, Italy’s third-largest lake and a magnet for the world’s super-rich, where Justin decided we needed another car to indulge in the shady photographic ritual of ‘tracking’, so we called Editor Turner and asked him if we could hire a rental to use as a camera car, and he said no, you have already spent the entire TopGear kitty on petrol. But, he added, he knew a bloke called Christopher who lived nearby and might be able to give us a hand.
A couple of hours later, a bloke called Christopher rolled up in – and unless you’re reading this with your eyes closed, you’ll have guessed where we’re going with this – a bright orange Zonda F. This is lucky, as it gives us the chance to say a proper goodbye to the Zonda, production of which ends this year as Pagani gears up to build the all-new Huayra. The Zonda deserves a sturdy salute to send it on its way to automotive Valhalla. Over the years, dozens, maybe hundreds of manufacturers have attempted to break into Ferrari and Lamborghini’s supercar clique. But only Pagani has ever truly succeeded, thanks to immaculate execution of some clinically insane ideas. The F’s cabin, a mad riot of carbon-fibre sculptures and twisted metal, contravenes every principle of rational ergonomics (and economics). But it’s all carried off with such panache – and, just as importantly, such precision and quality – that the Zonda gets away with it.
With 600bhp, a race-grade manual transmission and a seating position some way below sea level, the Zonda F should be a nightmare to thread through the ribbon-wide streets of Menaggio. But it isn’t. The big, naturally aspirated Merc V12 is unstressed and tractable; the steering, easy. That’s the real magic of the Zonda: despite its awesome power, it remains an approachable, accessible thing. It helps that, driving one in Italy, everyone veers out your way and salutes appreciatively.
So here we are, with 24 cylinders, 1,300bhp and over a million pounds of prime-cut supercar lounging on the front of a ferry heading across Como to Bellagio, Europe’s poshest town. Is there a lovelier part of the world than the Italian lakes? Black-green mountains rising from shimmering lakes, waterfronts fringed with sun-beaten terracotta terraces and white-marble villas, the chewy scent of eucalyptus on the breeze... pity a few thousand millionaires clocked the appeal of this place before TG could stake a claim on it. George Clooney has a villa in Bellagio. Richard Branson recently purchased a $30m property on the edge of town. Neither returned our calls.