2023 Praga Bohema prototype | PH Review
By Mike Duff / Sunday, 5 February 2023 / Loading comments
There is absolutely no risk of PH turning down the chance to experience a new hypercar for the first time, especially not one as spectacular as the Praga Bohema. But its impending arrival into what is becoming a crowded bit of the market does raise the question as to how many seven-figure mega-exotics the world is really able to absorb. Or are thrill-seeking billionaires like Pokémon collectors – gotta catch ‘em all?
The car might be new, but the company isn’t. Praga can trace its history all the way back to 1907, when it started out in Czechoslovakia building elegant cars and some motorcycles. With the arrival of the Iron Curtain and communism it was ordered to diversify from such decadent frivolities, moving to the manufacture of military vehicles – its five-ton army truck was in production from 1953 to 1990 and used an air-cooled diesel. After the end of the Cold War Praga transformed itself again, now producing aircraft, racing karts and even race cars, with the Praga R1 having a dedicated championship in the UK.
But the Bohema is a fresh departure, one targeting the same part of the market as cars like the Aston Martin Valkyrie. The bit that could be summarised as road legal, but clearly track biased. The car I got to drive was the prototype version, with the experience limited to the Dunsfold track in Surrey – yes, the one made famous by the Top Gear TV show. So no star, and no reasonably priced car.
The Bohema uses a carbon fibre structure unrelated to the R1, with a teardrop-shaped cabin which gives the maximum amount of room for air to be channelled around it and over the pushrod suspension that uses inboard springs. Up close its form is like that of the Aston Martin Valkyrie – first impressions are of how little actually sits beneath the swoopy bodywork. The rear wing and vast diffuser also show off the serious aerodynamic purpose: Praga says they can produce a peak of up to 900kg of downforce at 155mph. The car itself is claimed to weigh just 982kg with fluids.
The engine is less exotic, but an entirely rational choice. The Bohema has been built around the 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 from the Nissan GT-R, this representing the first time this has been supplied new to another manufacturer. The prototype is currently running the same 550hp as in the GT-R, but Praga is targeting a 700hp output for the finished version, with renowned British tuner Litchfield leading powertrain development. Given the inherent tweakability of the engine, and Litchfield’s well-proven expertise, it seems entirely possible that more powerful versions will follow, potentially even one that can get the Bohema to the one horsepower to one kilogram ratio of the Koenigsegg One:1. Transmission is through a race-spec six-speed Hewland sequential with helical cut gears.
It’s definitely not a comfortable GT. The Praga’s minimalist cabin is barely larger than that of the Valkyrie, with the doors actually being the side windows – they lift up and then getting in requires an inelegant shuffle. Headroom beneath the closed canopy is reasonable, and I didn’t find any shortage of legroom, but the cockpit is so narrow that riding two-up requires the passenger to carefully fold arms so as to not get in the way of the pilot’s elbow when wheel-twirling. The view from the driver’s seat is impressive. There isn’t much in the Bohema, but it is beautifully finished, with a leather-trimmed steering wheel with a stitched Praga logo and a central digital display, featuring carbon buttons at both sides.
Before attacking the track there’s a chance to have a trundle on some of Dunsfold’s perimeter roads, Praga’s chief engineer Jan Martinek keen to prove the Bohema possesses real-world viable levels of compliance. Which it does, although the transmission is clearly less keen on life at slow speeds, shifting with an angry-sounding clunk. The seating position is low, and visibility is impressively good for something so low and narrow, the view through the heavily curved windscreen pretty much replicating the one through the visor of a helmet. It isn’t too noisy – the V6 and gearbox are mounted on isolating rubber rather than directly to the structure. Practicality is also boosted – very slightly – by the presence of two luggage storage compartments under the rear bodywork.
My drive took place some time before Freddie Flintoff’s recent incident there while filming for TG. But even without that reminder of the track’s crashability it’s fair to say that Dunsfold doesn’t feel like the most natural place to push something this potent, given both the lack of run-off and plentitude of things to hit. Fortunately, the car itself proves easy to drive thanks to both an abundance of grip once the Pirelli Trofeo R tyres have got some temperature into them. The Bohema soon proves to be tolerant of what would be daringly early throttle applications in almost anything else.
The steering weighting is lighter than I was expecting in such a macho track monster, although I soon appreciated the generous assistance as speeds rose to the point where the aerodynamic downforce really began to build and squish the tyres into the track surface. The front end is very accurate and understeer seems non-existent; once the wings and diffuser start to work the Praga could be thrown at Dunsfold’s quicker corners at credibility-threatening speeds. Stopping was equally good thanks to the tireless carbon-ceramics and the car’s lack of mass, shedding velocity at a rate that left harness imprints. It already feels entirely ready for serious track use, even if the prototype was some way off finalized chassis spec.
The engine is a slight anti-climax. Not in terms of performance – even the non-optimized 550hp is more than plenty in something that weighs considerably less than a modern MX-5, and the finished version will be even punchier. But there’s definitely an experiential shortfall compared to the more exotic motors in some rivals, the Nissan V6 turning loud and angry when pushed, but never finding an especially compelling voice. The modest 7,000rpm redline also feels unspecial, although the engine’s abundance of mid-range torque means that it can be short-shifted well below this with little penalty in terms of acceleration. The racing gearbox is much happier when the engine is being worked hard, shifting almost instantly. I’m less convinced such an aggressive transmission will ever be made to feel even vaguely civilised on road.
Not that any Bohema buyers are likely to be relying on it for a run to the supermarket, of course. Praga says it is planning to make just 98 cars, with each one coming with a pre-tax price of €1.28m. So not cheap, then – but at less than half the price of an Aston Martin Valkyrie it could still be regarded as a man maths bargain.
SPECIFICATION | Praga Bohema prototype
Engine: 3,799cc, V6 twin-turbochargedTransmission: 6-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive Power (hp): 700 @ 6800rpm (targeted, production version) Torque (lb ft): 535 @ 3000rpm (targeted, production version) 0-62mph: <2.5secs Top speed: 186mph (gearing limited) Weight: 982kg (with fluids) MPG: NA CO2: NA Price: €1,280,000 (ex-works)
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