Why is it that every tunnel in Sydney has a speed camera?
Spending a day in a Zonda S Roadster in Sydney is one of the most bitter-sweet motoring experiences there is. On the one hand, you're now driving the sexiest, most expensive, fastest and arguably the best sports car (and the only registrable supercar) available in the country.
It has the kind of looks and exhaust note that has passers by of all ages and persuasions simply stopping in their tracks, jaws hanging slack, and gasping to anyone within earshot. "Wow, look, it's one of those...you know...one of those cars they always have on Top Gear...you know...the one they love...wow!"
And despite the fact that you're leaving the crowd gasping in your wake...what you really want to do is let her rip inside a tunnel, where nobody can see you - especially the boys in blue. But unfortunately, with our idiotic "speed kills" mentality and ridiculous speed limits, you are left to savour those few moments of joy that you are able to legally extract...whilst nobody is looking!
The very few lucky people who have been in the yellow (not that yellow is an adequate description for the multi-faceted pearlescent "Giallo Genevre" artwork...errr, paintwork) Roadster of Pagani importer Supercar Investments would know what I'm talking about. If they've been lucky enough to sample the Zonda at full noise in a tunnel...then they've got as close to the aural experience of being in a Formula 1 car as anyone else in this country.
The late Peter Brock once told me that there was nothing that sounded better than a straight six at full noise. We debated the virtue of the Zonda's exhaust setup which is essentially 2 straight sixes next to each other. We were planning to meet up at the fabulous "Speed on Tweed" event in Murwillumbah last year so that Peter could hear the car in anger...alas, it wasn't to be.
Speaking of sound, the audio systems of most sports cars are often pretty useless at anything other than idle. Well, not the Zonda. Thanks to a set of speakers mounted directly behind your head, and speed sensitive volume control, you won't miss one bit of your favourite song...on the odd occasion that you want a break from the exhaust note.
It's always great to share the Zonda experience with someone new, and driving with the boys from CarAdvice.com.au to Palm Beach and back for lunch was fun. I did manage to give them some idea of the joy of "tunnel love" in a Zonda through the Pacific Highway underpass on Mona Vale Road...all at perfectly legal road speeds officer.
A quick blip from 4th back to second and a short stab of the accelerator saw us reach err…60-ish by the end of the underpass. The response this produces from the passenger is always entertaining and I'm sure they'll find words far more eloquent than I can to describe it to you.
The run down into Palm Beach for a delightful lunch at Barrenjoey House gave me an opportunity to show the boys just how well sorted the Zonda's suspension is. There's not one bit of jarring in the cabin as all bumps are soaked up in style by the superb suspension.
This is another aspect of the Zonda that really surprises anyone who hasn't been in the car before, it looks like a race car, but drives so smoothly and effortlessly that you could – dare I say it – use it as an everyday car (apart from the crowd you would draw every time you pulled over). Also surprising is that unless you're at full noise in a tunnel, conversation at all road speeds is conducted at normal volume, with no need to raise your voice.
The driving experience – as you would expect – is something special. What you don't expect is that the Zonda is so easy to drive. The pedal box is directly ahead of you, not offset. The weighing of all controls is exactly as you would expect, with no heavy clutch or overly assisted steering.
The gearbox is a delight and allows easy changes into any gear, in any order. Even the often tricky second back to first procedure allows one more opportunity to practice your heel-toe technique, double de-clutch and blip the throttle on approach to every stop sign and red light.
All major controls are within easy reach and simple to operate. I believe that for a car to be considered ergonomically correct and well designed, you should be able to jump into it and within 2 minutes of setting off on your first drive, turn on the air conditioning and radio without having an accident. The Zonda accomplished this, not only with ease but also with consummate style!
The driver is afforded a superb view of the road between the front wheel arches, making the Zonda easy to place. In fact, it's not so different to an open wheeler race car. Add the wider track at the rear and the awesome performance, and you can be forgiven for thinking that you are in fact in an open wheeler...albeit a very comfortable one.
The feedback through the steering wheel, pedals and seat of your pants is perfect, allowing you to drive the Zonda with confidence at speed. Obviously, power oversteer is easily achieved, fortunately it is very easily controlled. The Zonda makes you look good, both in the carpark and on the track.
Saying that the Zonda stops traffic is an understatement, even stopping in exclusive Palm Beach drew a crowd with the usual questions; "What is it?", "Is it one of those?", "How much is it?" "Who owns it?" and even, most bizarrely, "What colour is it?". I'm always awe-struck by the range of demographics the Zonda attracts, from the obvious pimply teenager in the Commodore, right through to the blue rinse set and EVERYTHING in between.
It's also nice given Australia's supposed "tall poppy syndrome" that I (or more accurately "the Zonda") have never received anything but positive and appreciative comments from everyone...thank you everyone. I'm honoured to represent this outstanding marque in Australia and New Zealand and look forward to bringing you more from Pagani Automobili in the not too distant future.
- by Adam Kaplan