The Pininfarina Battista hums. Not in a “crystals have energy” sort of way, but in a much more real sense—the carbon-fiber bodywork literally vibrates. Why does this electric car tremble? Pininfarina injected the vibes into the Battista with what it calls an E-Heart, which uses two speakers to send audible pulses through the car. Flickering LEDs in the Pininfarina logo at the tail accompany the quivers. “The sound creates a direct connection with what the car is doing,” suggests chief product and engineering officer Paolo Dellacha—even, apparently, when it’s doing nothing more than sitting idle, looking gorgeous.
Design house Pininfarina knows something about beauty, having styled 64 Ferraris in its 91-year history. The Battista is its first ground-up automobile, a production version of a concept that debuted in 2018. Named for the company’s founder, Battista “Pinin” Farina, the Battista, with its lavish curves and 1877 horsepower, was brought to life thanks to the investment of Pininfarina’s owners, the Indian conglomerate Mahindra.
Building a vehicle from nothing is a big challenge even for a major car company, so Pininfarina wisely teamed with Rimac on the powertrain and carbon-fiber structure. Automobili Pininfarina CEO Per Svantesson insists the underpinnings aren’t exactly the same as what Rimac uses and that the Battista enjoys unique tuning and offers a different driving experience.
The mechanical motivation is beastly: A T-shaped battery pack, responsible for a third of the vehicle’s claimed 4400-pound curb weight, contains 6960 lithium-ion cells for a total gross capacity of 120 kWh. (Pininfarina claims that 97 percent of that capacity, or 116 kWh, will be usable, a much higher percentage than is the norm.) The juice flows to four electric motors, one at each wheel. The brand estimates its range on the European cycle will come in at 310 miles—using the EPA methodology will likely yield a U.S. range of roughly 230 miles—though Battista customers are likely more compelled by the performance. Pininfarina tells us that a run to 60 mph run takes a mere 1.8 seconds and 186 mph comes up in less than 12 seconds. Peak acceleration results in 1.4 g’s forcing you into the seatback. Top speed is electronically limited to 217 mph. Speaking of speed, the company claims it’s possible to go from 20 to 80 percent charge in 25 minutes using a 180-kW DC connection. Although that seems low—it’s barely half the rate that the latest Electrify America fast-chargers provide—Pininfarina says it’s deliberately limiting the peak charge rate to extend the battery’s life.
Dihedral doors lift to reveal a cabin outfitted with three screens surrounding the driver: Two tablet-style touchscreens flank a central cellphone-like display for speed. The car annoyingly requires the driver to enter a menu on the left touchscreen to manipulate seating and steering-wheel positions. Once they’re set, the view over the low sloping hood provides excellent visibility, while the high rear haunches and the active rear spoiler force a reliance on the mirrors and the view out the rear window. Five driving modes are set using a milled and anodized aluminum rotary dial that feels like it might have been plucked from the Millennium Falcon cockpit; the sensation it offers is oh-so-reassuringly weighty, precise, and clicky.
Cruising Palm Desert’s suburban streets in the mildest Calma mode feels more Fiat 500e than supercar. Mash the throttle and you’re still a stylish eco-warrior on four wheels, especially if you care to stop for gawkers and point out that the Battista’s supple leather surfaces are tanned with olive leaves and that its carpets come from reclaimed fishing nets. If virtue signaling isn’t your thing, there are sprightlier drive modes that can make the wedgy beast go as wickedly fast as it looks. Pininfarina kept our public-road experience in check by making sure we followed a pace car. As such, the Battista’s otherworldly performance was constrained to mere mortal levels, despite the best efforts of the leadfooted chassis and vehicle-dynamics guru Georgios Syropoulos, who set the pace in a Tesla Model 3. Syropoulos’s résumé includes chassis development on several hot-rod Teslas, including the Model 3, the Model S P85D, and a would-be M3-slaying Tesla “supersport” model that never came to fruition. He also spent years at Lotus as an engineering consultant for the Evora GT4 race program, which might explain his ability to cut a smooth arc through Highway 74’s cambered corners. Even at this elevated pace, the Battista seems unconcerned with corners, thanks in part to its wide track, obviously low center of gravity, and staggered Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R rubber. Adaptive KW dampers automatically adjust their stiffness. In its most aggressive setting, the Battista still manages to feel smooth and controllable, with steering and feel that lean closer toward GT than caffeinated supercar.
It isn’t until hot laps at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway that the Battista’s true self becomes revealed. Unhampered by having to follow anyone, the Pininfarina is able to show itself. In the fiercest Furiosa mode, even two-thirds of the accelerator’s travel pins your spine to your seat in a wash of acceleration as the gummy Michelins fight desperately to adhere to the tarmac.
The instantaneous response of the right pedal is addictive, as is the instant thrust it delivers. There’s no moment of anticipation as turbos spool up, no pause for a transmission kick-down, just raw, punishing thrust that throws the Battista so far down the track, you’ll be thinking about braking sooner rather than later out of self-preservation. The carbon-ceramic brakes do a fine job of scrubbing speed, though the pedal travel in our tester was a tad long, and hard pedal applications sent a vibration through the car. In Furiosa mode, the stability-control system is disabled, and Pininfarina is still working out the final tuning of the torque-vectoring system, but the chassis is balanced and planted if slightly biased toward understeer. Dellacha says that unlike in the Rimac Nevera, which the Battista is closely related to, the tuning is focused more on balanced handling and lateral dynamics, not tire-melting tail-out theater. That explains the lack of a drift mode.
Final tuning remains to be dialed in before the Battista meets its first customers later this year, with U.S. deliveries starting in the first quarter of 2022 at a price starting at $2.2 million. While an EV will never have the soul and drama of a Ferrari V-12, the thrumming bodywork and ridiculous acceleration make it clear that Pininfarina intends to find a way to infuse its electric cars with life.
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