Praga is a Czech automaker that is about to launch a spectacular hypercar with a power-to-weight ratio that makes the McLaren Senna look fat. We have now driven that car, the Bohema, in prototype form on a circuit in the UK
Although its name may not be familiar, Praga has a long history. Before World War II, this Czechoslovak company hand-built modest numbers of elegant and expensive cars and motorcycles. At the end of the war, now on the communist side of the Iron Curtain, there was no need or demand for such automotive decadence, and so Praga became a manufacturer of military vehicles and weaponry. After communism fell, the company diversified into making trucks, planes, racing cars and actual racing cars—with no fewer than eight of its Praga R1 sports prototype cars competing in a dedicated championship in the United Kingdom last year.
The motorsport experience is embodied in the Praga Bohema, a limited edition model that is definitely better thought of as road legal rather than street wise. For proof, look no further than its invigorating combination of a 2164-pound dry weight (without fuel) and a 700-hp output, which comes from a dry-box version of the Nissan GT-R’s 3.8 -liter twin-turbo V-6 , the engine reworked by renowned UK-based tuner Litchfield. Praga would also like to know that the power output is only considered a starting point with the strong possibility of more powerful versions to follow – possibly even including one that will produce 982 horsepower, giving the car a power-to-weight ratio giving a single horsepower per kilogram of mass. Power reaches the rear axle through a race-grade six-speed Hewland sequential transmission.
It looks like a racing car, but the Bohema is unrelated to the existing R1, as it uses a completely different carbon fiber core structure. As with the Aston Martin Valkyrie, it’s designed around a teardrop-shaped cabin that’s pushed as close to the car’s centerline as possible to improve aerodynamic performance. Standing next to the car, the first impressions are of how much there isn’t, given the size of the spaces behind the minimal bodywork, which create channels to shape airflow. Praga claims that the combination of a large underbody diffuser and the rear wing helps the car make a peak of 1980 plus pounds of downforce at 155 mph.
Getting into the cabin with any dignity is impossible, and the Praga makes even other hypercars look spacious and practical. The doors would be better described as windows, as they are small glazed panels on either side of the canopied cabin that open upwards. Access is made by hole-shifting over the sidepod, brace on the roof and bodywork, and then sliding down into the seat; all but the smallest pilots will likely need to remove the removable steering wheel before attempting to climb in. When riding two-up, the passenger will need to fold their arms carefully so as not to impede the driver’s ability to turn the wheel.
Once in the driver’s seat, the view is mostly of a slightly unpleasant leather-trimmed steering wheel that includes a digital dashboard and has carbon fiber buttons on each side. The car we drove was a prototype, but beyond its tuxedo stiffness, the cabin felt impressively well finished.
Our ride took place on the Dunsfold circuit in Surrey, England – best known for its use by the Top gear Television program. With a figure-eight layout of the kind favored by demolition derby promoters, we were lucky to have the circuit to ourselves. But while there are tire walls and gravel pits in some of the most obviously crash-prone areas, it’s not a true racetrack, and there are still plenty of obstacles that would be easy to hit at speed.
Fortunately, the Bohema proves an abundance of grip – both mechanical and aerodynamic – and also the kind of handling balance that brings reassurance to something so powerful. The transmission shifts with a snap at low speeds, and the Nissan V-6 brings a humming vibration to the cabin. But unlike Aston’s Valkyrie, which is almost painfully noisy inside, even when you’re wearing a helmet, the Bohema isn’t excessively loud. Visibility is good for something so low and narrow, with the view through the curved windshield almost like looking through the visor of a helmet.
Although very fast, the Bohema prototype also felt reassuringly stable. As in the GT-R, the Nissan engine isn’t a big rev, reaching its redline at just 7000 rpm. But it has a breadth of midrange muscle that helps fill the gaps between the Bohema’s ratios, meaning there’s little penalty in either upshifting early or downshifting late. Top speed is limited to a relatively modest 186 mph, on the grounds that it would be difficult to go faster on almost any racetrack.
It took the car’s Pirelli Trofeo R semi-slick tires a few laps to warm up, but from that point the grip and traction levels are great. The Bohema is also tolerant of what feels like it should be daring early throttle applications, staying hooked even as the rear end lightens to indicate grip is running short.
While the Bohema’s curb weight is lighter than the norm for this macho part of the market, we appreciated the assistance when speed rose to the point where the wings and diffuser began to produce significant downforce. Once that happened, it could be flung into Dunsfold’s faster turns at what seemed like impossible speeds. Stopping was equally assured, with the combination of carbon-ceramic brakes and the car’s minimal weight allowing it to lose speed at almost painful rates.
Indeed, except for the discomfort caused by prolonged exposure to large lateral g-forces, the Praga Bohema feels well suited to spend its life on track. But on the road? The jury is still out on that one; it does look refined for one of the fastest cars in the world—and even features luggage storage in luggage compartments next to the rear wheels—but it’s hard to imagine spending long turns in the tiny cabin without the onset of claustrophobia.
There’s also the small matter of paying for one. Praga figures that up to a quarter of its planned run of 89 Bohemas will go to the US, but buyers will need to come up with $1.31 million to realize the dream. Still, that’s less than half of what Aston charges for the Valkyrie, so by the crazy standards of this market, the price isn’t outrageous, even if the car certainly is.
2023 Prague Bohema
Vehicle type: mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 232 inches33799 cm3
Power: 700 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 535 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
6-speed sequential automatic manual transmission
Wheelbase: 108.9 inches
Length: 177.4 inches
Width: 78.9 inches
Height: 41.7 inches
Passenger volume: scarce
Hull volume: 4 feet3
Combat weight (C/D east): 2300 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D IS)
60 mph: 2.0 sec
100 mph: 4.9 sec
1/4-mile: 9.6 sec
Top speed: 186 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D IS)
Combined/City/Highway: 16/14/18 mpg
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