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  • November 24, 2014

Test Drive: British Sports Cars - Ladue News: Diversions

Test Drive: British Sports Cars

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 12:00 pm | Updated: 11:26 am, Mon Sep 9, 2013.

For those with a need for speed, a sports car is the perfect solution for your compulsion. Offering looks, performance, fun and sonorous accompaniment, a sports car is a viable option for anyone who enjoys driving.

New to the market this year, the Aston Martin Vanquish comes awfully close to being the perfect sports car. Its sole flaw will be revealed hereafter. For starters, the Vanquish absolutely is gorgeous, boasting the classic long hood/short sloped rear design that Aston Martin styling has all but perfected in recent years. The body is made completely out of lightweight but strong carbon fiber, which is exposed in several places beneath the classic Aston Martin grill and on the mirrors, and can be left exposed on the roof, as well.

This light body is mated with a 6.0-liter, 565-horsepower V-12 engine that fills the engine bay and is set back as far as possible toward the cockpit to enhance the car’s front/rear balance, which is a perfect 50/50. Light weight, a powerful engine and excellent balance are the ideal formula for optimum sports car handling, and the Vanquish handles as well as any car I’ve driven. Acceleration is breathtaking, with 60 mph coming in a hair over four seconds. The brakes are so strong, they could stop time. The fun is enhanced by one of the best-sounding exhaust notes ever heard. You don’t even need to turn on the Bang & Olufson sound system. Of course, I wouldn’t know first-hand, but I have a strong suspicion that this car could hit triple digits without even breaking a sweat.

The only mechanical drawback was the lack of a true manual transmission. Though the six-speed automatic, which feeds power to the rear wheels with limited slip differential, can be shifted manually with floppy paddle shifters, it’s just not the same. It’s a shame that on such a fabulous driver’s car, you can’t get a proper driver’s transmission. Gas mileage is 13 city, 19 highway.

The interior is equally superior, with rich supple leather covering every surface, including well-bolstered heated and cooled front seats. A rear seat is optional, but if you get one its primary function will be to reduce insurance rates. The boot—or trunk—is pretty small, but you might be able to cram a couple of golf bags in. All the amenities are there, including dual automatic climate control, a reversing camera, navigation and a screen-based system for most functions.

David Humphrey, brand manager at Aston Martin St. Louis, brags, “The Vanquish is Aston Martin’s most advanced car in terms of engineering, with the most beautiful design using the finest materials. It employs the most powerful production engine in the history of Aston Martin.”

Of course, a car like this isn’t going to be cheap; and with a price tag of $280,000 to start, and probably more than $300,000 with options, exclusivity is insured.

Another fabulous new British sports car is the Jaguar F-Type. A classic two-seat convertible, the F-Type boasts all-new head-turning futuristic styling that is sporty, strong and gorgeous as only Jaguar can design. Beginning with a large, rounded rectangular grill, the body lines flow through the hood and along the flanks in a taught, muscular cascade, and end with a sharp, distinctive rear with cat’s eye tail lights.

Engineered for high performance, the F-Type offers an aluminum body stretched over a rear-wheel-drive chassis with excellent weight balance and a stiff, sporty suspension. Three engines are offered, two supercharged 3.0 liter V-6s, one with 340 horsepower, the other with 380 horsepower; and a supercharged V-8 5.0 liter with 495 horses under the bonnet. With the V-8, there’s a plethora of power that propels this cat to 60 mph in just over four seconds, and the exhaust note is like beautiful music and adds perfectly to the sporty nature of this four-wheeled feline. Gas mileage is 16 city, 23 highway.

Though the 8-speed ‘quickshift’ automatic transmission truly does shift quickly, especially in manual mode, it’s a shame that in a true sports car like this a real three-pedal manual isn’t available. The F-Type’s short length and relatively wide width created a very balanced car, which combined with a low center of gravity, tight steering and a firm suspension results in a terrific-handling car. Braking is very good. On the streets it handled superbly; I’d love to get it on a track to see what it can really do.

Of course, being a Jaguar, the F-Type has an interior that is swathed in rich leather and has all the expected luxury and comfort features of a cutting-edge modern premium vehicle. The well-bolstered heated seats are quite comfortable. One especially nice feature is the cross-traffic warning signal that enhances the reversing camera. The trunk is a shallow afterthought, so shop lightly.

According to Boyd Hoffman, salesman at Plaza Jaguar, “The F-Type has classic but modern lines; it brings Jaguar back to its roots with an elegant, small production two-door sports car.”

Prices for the V-6 F-Type start at about $70,000 for the V-6, and $93,000 for the V-8 version.

You really have to hand it to the British. They’ve come up with two phenomenal sports cars for the modern age.

*Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.

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