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Statistics

How much? £330,000
On sale in the UK: Now (limited to 101 examples)
Engine: 5935cc 48v V12, 510bhp @ 6500rpm, 420lb ft @ 5750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.0sec 0-60mph, 190mph, 16.4mpg, 388g/km
How heavy / made of? 1680kg/aluminium/carbonfibre
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4385/1865/1250
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 5 out of 55

Handling

Rated 4 out of 54

Performance

Rated 4 out of 54

Usability

Rated 3 out of 53

Feelgood factor

Rated 5 out of 55

Readers' rating

Rated 3.5 out of 53.5

Aston Martin V12 Zagato (2012) CAR review

By Georg Kacher

First Drives

16 November 2012 12:30

It takes a lot of guts as well as a lot of money to embrace this Anglo-Italian supercar. If you’re rich enough you’re rich enough, so an asking price of around £330,000 isn’t an issue. Nor is the waiting list – even if you’re the last in line, there can only be a maximum of 100 in front of you. But this is the most extrovert Aston Martin ever built. More than a mere car, it’s a precious and rare commodity. Which begs a question...

If you have to be brave to buy it, surely you’d have to be crazy to drive the socks off it?

Not at all. The way things are going in the crazy world of exotic car collecting, the limited-edition, two-seater V12 Zagato will likely depreciate more slowly over the next few years than the Vantage V12 it is based on. More to the point, the Zagato is an even rawer and rarer driving experience. So why not use it? You’ll still get your money back afterwards.

It may not be outright beautiful by conventional standards, but it does look breathtakingly different: the radically aggressive big-mouth front end vacates fast lanes more promptly than a blue flashing light, the sculptured rear with the surfboard-style, ground-effect rudder and the myopic eyeball taillights has ‘Born on the Nordschleife’ written all over it. And the soundtrack… oh boy.
You can’t hide in this car; they hear it before they see it. Mothers grab their kids, men reach for camera phones, older folks drop their jaws and teenagers give us a thumbs up. While they’re trying to decode the strange shape with a race-car front and a jet-fighter rear, the scent of sticky Pirelli P Zero rubber and hot carbon ceramic brakes is wafting like pheromone through the air. They know it’s special, but they’re not sure why…

Give me some AM-Zagato context

The partnership between Aston Martin and Zagato dates back to 1960. The first jointly badged product was the DB4 GT designed by Ercole Spada. That well-proportioned coupe had actually been derived from the 1959 Bristol 406 S, a Zagato creation that remained a one-off. The bumperless lightweight alloy-bodied DB4 GT featured Plexiglass side windows and was powered by a 3.7-litre straight-six rated at 314bhp. Among the 19 units built was the 1962 Le Mans entry fielded by Roy Salvadori and Jim Clark. In 1988, Aston and Zagato agreed to assemble four more DB4 GTs known as Sanction II models. Eight years later, two Sanction III cars were added. Meanwhile, in 1984 the partners announced a new sports car project that became known as Zagato V8. The 2+2-seater was based on the Vantage. While the rolling chassis was completed in Newport Pagnell, the body was handmade in Milan, where the final assembly took place. A total of 89 coupes and 25 Volante convertibles left the carozzeria between 1986 and 1991. In 2002, phase three of the collaboration yielded the Aston Martin DB7 Zagato which was available as coupe and roadster. The run was limited to 99 units each. The solitary Vanquish-derived Zagato roadster shown at the 2004 Geneva show never progressed beyond prototype status.

Unlike previous Aston-Zagatos, which were designed and completed in Italy, the latest Z-car has actually precious little to do with the Italian coachbuilder. Despite various cues like the double-bubble roof, the grille and the butch stance, the car was shaped in the UK by Marek Reichman and his team, who had already fathered the donor car, the V12 Vantage. Since the Zagato is put together on the same line as the sold-out One-77 hypercar, it really is an Aston through and through. But is this exquisite piece of street furniture, which spends over 100 man hours in the paint shop to receive one of five unique colour coats, really worth two and a half times as much as a V12 Vantage? Wrong question. Cars like this are not about value for money; they are about excitement per mile. And in this respect, the Zagato hits the bull’s eye.

What are the V12 Zagato's first impressons when you climb inside?

The door opens via a flush-fitting latch, swinging forward, upward and sideways in one graceful motion. Wow! Despite the sloping roofline and the embrasure-style greenhouse, the aperture is big enough for a big boy to slide through and fuse with the carbonfibre bucket seat. With the chair all the way back and all the way down, the Zagato actually offers more legroom than the Vantage. While the dashboard looks familiar, the rest of the cabin has been thoroughly transformed. There’s tri-colour quilted leather adorning the door panels, the seat cushions, the parcel shelf and the rear firewall. Even the headliner is hide-trimmed. More leather can be found on the facia and the console. The centre stack is made of carbonfibre. For the first time in modern history, Aston has made instruments which are not only beautiful but also clearly legible. Even though the trademark Z has been applied generously, the car looks, smells and feels British.

Whereas the Works Tailored service offers a wide choice of colour and trim options, the list of standard factory extras is actually quite short. In a car as pure and sharp-edged as this, you would probably prefer the thinly padded buckets to the basic sports seats with integrated sidebags. In theory, one might also consider the mighty 1000W B&O sound system, but in real life every artificial sound source is fighting a losing battle against the spine-tingling intake rasp and the orgasmic exhaust roar. All it takes is a firm push at the crystal ‘ECU’ (posh term for key) to start the engine, as long as you keep the clutch firmly depressed in the process. The pedal goes down a long way and its considerable weight is a good indication of the torque avalanche waiting to be released. Even at idle, the 6.0-litre V12 breathes in and out with vivid atmospheric energy – you feel as if you’re listening to Blur’s Song 2: calm now, but you know an explosion is coming. And when it does, when this car makes plaster crack, it’s fun to guess how much it may have cost Aston in bribe money to get through the tough EC type-approval process.

Underneath, the Zagato is a V12 Vantage. This has its pros and cons. The 12-cylinder engine is pure dynamite, but it rests more ostensibly on the front axle than the eight. The rear wheels are in turn more lightly laden, which kicks up the Pirelli share price while making the 1680kg coupe struggle for grip and traction. The gearbox is a manual six-speeder, which relays a more involving but less slick-shifting experience than the Touchtronic transmission available on lesser Astons. The ride is firm on smooth blacktop and harsh on poor surfaces; there’s no damper adjustment available, and no optional touring suspension. While even Aston has learned its lesson in terms of smartphone connectivity, its sat-nav device is still the curse of the trade. The screen looks smaller than those audio cassettes we used to listen to when the marque still built the Lagonda, it rises from its faraway dashtop tomb at an impossible angle, and is controlled via an unintuitive toggle knob.

What's the V12 Zagato like at speed?

Perhaps we should look at the grander scheme of things. Perhaps it’s time to unleash those 510bhp and to let the 420lb ft tie knots into the driveshafts. Because only those with three eyes will monitor that in-dash screen when the Zagato storms to 60mph in four seconds flat and cracks 125mph less than 10sec later, still in fourth and with 1000 more revs to play with. On the autobahn you need to go faster than 155mph these days to shake off the collective middle management in their E350 CDIs and 530ds. The Aston does so with surprising ease and with the kind of top-end punch only a big-bore V12 can muster. This car closes the 155-180mph window faster than just about anything this side of a Veyron, but since the drag figure took second priority to the grandiose overtaking prestige, the final 10mph are much harder to come by. We saw an indicated 201mph on a long downhill stretch, and at these speeds you definitely need the extra downforce generated by the broad board that fills the rear-view mirror. What about brake-energy regeneration or start/stop? Sorry, but maybe you can have your second or third car attend to such minor issues.

Even though the latest Vantage S has evolved into a nicely balanced plaything, the Zagato feels more like the earlier shirt-sleeved iterations of the most compact Aston. After all, the Z car is more interested in attitude than in manners. True, the transmission has been tweaked, the power steering has learned to communicate, and the brakes have been taught progressiveness. But gearshifts can still be painfully long and need to be timed carefully, or momentum will falter. The helm is prone to load up upon turn-in, and it stiffens quite abruptly at speed. While the carbon-ceramic discs are immensely powerful, they need to be up to working temperature to deliver, and to silence that underlying grating noise. In the dry, the P Zero tyres stick like liquorice, but they’re Corsa spec, so they respond to rain like the devil does to holy water. With DSC in Track mode, you may experience more power oversteer than in other cars with DSC switched off altogether.

It helps to reset your brain before going really fast in the Zagato. Try to ignore the price, the rarity, the possible embarrassment. Then set the alarm for 5am, fill the car up to the brim, check that the tyre pressures are set for max performance, and pray for good weather. The following morning, you will own the road, and you will use the car responsibly. Despite the transaxle layout which warrants a better-than-most weight distribution and despite the rigorous limited-slip differential, the Zagato loves to semi-slide through quick esses, swing wide through any first-gear kink and shrug its padded shoulders through third-gear sweepers. After a while, you get used to the characterful steering, the gesture-rich chassis and the no-holds-barred drivetrain. But there remains a narrow buffer zone where confidence meets respect, and respect tends to win. With DSC off, breakaway can be hair-raisingly sudden, and cornering at the limit involves a very live rear end indeed.

Verdict

The Zagato would make a formidable drift challenge entry, and it did prove its worth at the Nürburgring 24hrs in 2011 where both pre-production cars saw the chequered flag. But its true habitat is neither the skidpad nor the racetrack. Instead, it should belong to a true aficionado who has the guts to use it, because he understands that superb vehicle dynamics, an infectious soundtrack and near-unparalleled visual drama belong not in his garage, but on the road. 

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Aston Martin V12 Zagato (2012) CAR review

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stormypetrol

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stormypetrol says

RE: Aston Martin V12 Zagato (2012) CAR review

 suddenly the LFA does not look so terribly expensive after all...

18 November 2012 13:22

 

CHelme

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CHelme says

RE: Aston Martin V12 Zagato (2012) CAR review

 An engaging article to read, and some interesting comments made.

The issue I have with this Aston is that you are expected to pay an absurd premium on what is purely a styling exercise. True collectors with all the money in the world are just as likely to notice this, despite their wealth.

The first Zagato was made made by Zagato in Italy from lightweight extra thin guage Al body panels and sported what was essentially a truly race derived engine from the GT Vantage. The car was designed to be raced and as an additional bonus, used on the road travelling to and from race meetings. It was truly bespoke in this regard.

Aston raced this V12 Z purely for marketing reasons it seems and then used the few races as a platform upon which to flog this car which isn't convincing.

Any attempt at drawing an analogy drawn with the 599 GTO would fail too, because the GTO does have significant modifications to its V12 engine and bodywork to justify the premium asked for it. The extra work carried out as part of its XX development project can really be seen heard and felt in the GTO which makes it a compelling purchase notwithstanding the fact that it is not a true homologation.

Unlike the original, this purported ‘Z’ is not a true investment. Had there been more substance to the changes, maybe, but not in its current form. It’s a shame, because the red car shown originally (which I believe was the race car) was promising…

Aston knew that there would be 100 or so people with more money than sense to spend the premium, which highlights the cynicism with which they appear to have approached this project.

True collectors are likely to stay away from this.

17 November 2012 10:57

 

deviras

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deviras says

RE: Aston Martin V12 Zagato (2012) CAR review

 I'll leaving James Bond out of this. But it would great in his next mission in Bond 24. The car to me great with 2 Seater I will drive this car to work.

17 November 2012 06:46

 

Halfabee

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Halfabee says

RE: Aston Martin V12 Zagato (2012) CAR review

gtr - Moal - who?  He may be known over there but over here, in the home of ther coachbuilder, he's not even on the desk that the radar screen sit on.

16 November 2012 21:36

 

papagomp

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papagomp says

RE: Aston Martin V12 Zagato (2012) CAR review

 Wow you guys must be hard up for stories. This appeared in the magazine, two issues back!! Never mind Friday afternoon cars, Friday Afternoon Car Magazine.

 

16 November 2012 20:54

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