Aston Martin V12 Zagato

Vantage-based stunner is set for limited production run, and we drive it at the Nurburgring

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The V12 Zagato is a thrilling addition to Aston Martin’s range. Yes, it’s expensive, but the limited run ensures it will be truly exclusive. This new collaboration brings out the best from the two famous companies. The road car is still in the early stages of development, so it will be a while until we get to try one, but as it’s based so closely on the V12 Vantage, it’s sure to be a fantastic drive.

The stunning V12 Zagato is revving up for action – and Auto Express has driven one.

After the supercar wowed the crowds on its debut at the Villa d’Este Concours show in Italy in May, Aston Martin entered a racing version in last month’s Nurburgring 24 Hours. And it was such a success, the brand says it will produce a limited run of 150 models. We got behind the wheel of the track variant at the famous German race circuit, to see what the lucky few buyers can expect.

The car is based on the V12 Vantage, but the design was tweaked by Italian styling house Zagato to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the DB4GT Zagato – the first of many collaborations with Aston. A huge grille, chunky wheelarches and aggressive rear end will ensure the roadgoing model looks the part.

Before getting behind the wheel, it’s intimidating to learn the eye-catching bodywork has been made completely by hand from flat sheets of lightweight thin-gauge aluminium.

Chris Porritt, in charge of the Zagato’s development, reveals that each front wing cost £26,000 to manufacture. Given the proximity of the barriers around the old circuit we’re on – as opposed to the sanitised version that has been used for Formula One in recent years – the chances of putting a dent in one of them is perilously real.

At the Villa d’Este debut, the Zagato wore huge 20-inch alloy wheels, but in race trim, it gets more modest 18-inch rims to suit its Yokohama competition tyres. A peculiarity of the sporting rules means the model couldn’t use the carbon ceramic brake discs that feature on the Vantage road car, so we get cast-iron Brembos.

Under the bonnet is a tuned version of Aston’s 6.0-litre V12 engine. If the pops, bangs and crackles coming from the huge pair of exposed tailpipes are an accurate indicator of potency, the Zagato is much more powerful than the V12 Vantage. But then, Astons have always sounded awesome. This machine uses a six-speed paddleshift ASM transmission – a development of the system seen in the £1million One-77 supercar. 

The Zagato’s rakish roofline makes it hard to thread yourself between the thick tubes of the protective roll cage. Stripped for racing, the interior is bare and strewn with switches, toggles and fuses placed to be in easy reach of a driver strapped in position by a five-point harness. This lack of trim amplifies the glorious noise from the engine, but also means you get hot very quickly.

Slick tyres and an extensive aerodynamic package mean the Zagato has great cornering ability. However, power-steering, anti-lock brakes and the traction and stability control system from the road car means it’s not too intimidating to drive.

In the race itself, the pair of Zagatos reached the finish line. That’s a fantastic achievement, given that they were the first development prototypes built. More significant is that the car will enter production – this feels like a victory for every Aston fan.

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