Automotive enthusiasts like myself may scoff at soulless, soundless EVs, but there is no doubt that they are the future. To me, nothing compares to the sound and feel of an internal combustion engine, but I recently drove a car that completely changed my perception of how thrilling EVs can be.
It’s a hot day in Indore, and the heat shimmers above the smooth high-speed track at Natrax. Battery temperatures and state of charge are being checked. I can hear my breath in my helmet, as I wait to drive a car worth Rs50 crore. The Pininfarina Battista sits on the track like a stealth weapon, an LED bar defining its hunkered-down nose, the roof line flowing over to the rear wings in one single swoop, and the aggressively angled air dams ready for action. The all-electric luxury hypercar, made by Italy’s Automobili Pininfarina and now owned by Mahindra, has been breaking records, and I was part of a team aiming to push that envelope further and take this very expensive hypercar to Vmax.
As I shut the beautiful gull-wing door, a cocoon of silence enveloped me. Unlike other sports cars, the seats don’t feel hard; they are comfortable with a great range of adjustment. Even for my height of just 5’3”, I easily set it in a position that gives me great visibility and makes me feel in control.
I can hear my heartbeat. I know I have a short window to achieve this target with eyes on the battery temperature and the amount of charge left. As I roll out, the Battista accelerates aggressively though I have barely prodded the throttle: 1900hp and 2300Nm of torque is not something you play with. The first round of the track is lapped with Stefano Costa, the test driver, beside me, telling me to amp it up slowly. I start from the softest mode, Calma, move up to Pura, Energica and then Furioso, where all power is unleashed, and driver assists are relaxed. I put my foot down and it feels like I hit warp speed. The rear wings are wide open, and the Battista feels ballistic. On the banking of the Natrax track, I look down, and I’ve hit 290kmph without realising it. We are flying!
The Battista does have sound channelled through the speaker, but it’s not like a screaming exhaust and so you do not realise the speed till you look at the numbers. The steering is sharp, and small movements point the nose in the direction you want instantly, and I have to hold it steady. The car feels so glued to the road, taped up enough to make me confident to keep accelerating. All my nervous energy has vanished. Driving a Battista at 300kmph is like driving any other car at 80. I roll back into the holding area, where everyone asks me what it’s like. I have no words to describe it.
I am grinning, and am now confident Vmax is going to be easy. So is the test driver, and I let him out. It’s now me and the car.
The top-speed run happens with a rolling start. Halfway around the track, with the tyres warmed up adequately, I start accelerating. I enter the banking at 180kmph, exit at 270-odd and pin my foot to the floor. The steering holding steady, the numbers flying upwards on the dials faster than I can think. Before I know it, I see 359 on the dial, and it sticks for a while. I back off before the following banking and do a second round to ensure I have the top speed. 357.10 is what the V box reads, which means I set a record for the fastest Indian woman, and it’s exhilarating.
It is a bit shy of the top speed set by Hormazd Sorabjee, who clocked in at 358.03kmph to set the top-speed record on Indian soil, which also makes the Battista the fastest EV in India. The Automobili Pininfarina team are so excited about the track and the records we have achieved that they decide to push for more. The Battista effortlessly sets more world records: The fastest 0-300 in 10.49 seconds and 1/4 mile in 8.55 seconds. To put it into perspective, the Battista gets to 300 in as much time as the Porsche GT3RS gets to 200.
The Battista makes you realise how far EVs will push the envelope, how much more there is to come, and that the thrill behind the wheel will be taken to another level. There may not be as much drama as an internal combustion engine, but there is no denying it is soul-stirring in more ways than one.
Renuka Kirpalani is the editor of Autocar Show
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