Supercars used to be savage, one-dimensional beasts.Not anymore, now even the warp-speed hypercars are iron fists wrapped in the velvet gloves and the Ascari KZ1 has the softest touch of the current breed.
Supercars used to be savage, one-dimensional beasts that tore up the tarmac like a nuclear-powered drill. They were uncomfortable, hot and sometimes dangerous, but they were fast and that was all that mattered. Not anymore, now even the warp-speed hypercars are iron fists wrapped in the velvet gloves and the Ascari KZ1 has the softest touch of the current breed.
Niche marques have taken on the fast and brutal role for far less money, the hypercar world is heading in a different direction. The new breed have creature comforts like air-con, sound insulation, suspension that doesn’t break the driver’s newly purchased teeth on a speed bump and a car that is safe to drive. It’s a much harder task, but Ascari has created a near masterpiece .
The £235,000 KZ1 was never intended to be a pared down racer, despite its final kerb weight of 2810lb. This is a luxury GT with comfy, Connolly leather seats, a fully decked out interior and a set-up geared as much for comfort through town as a committed assault on the apex.
Considering the five-litre, BMW E39 M5 engine, tuned in house at Banbury and clearly visible, Ferrari style through the rear window, delivers 500bhp and 386lb/ft of torque through the rear wheels, that’s no mean feat. This engine has a split personality. It’s a pussycat beneath 4000rpm, after that the beast is unleashed.
This car races to 60mph in 3.8s, to 100mph in 8.3s, which is frankly ballistic. It won’t run out of steam until it hits 200mph and it will stop pretty much as fast, too, thanks to AP Racing six-piston callipers on the front and four-pots on the rear clamping on to drilled and ventilated discs. But far more important than the raw performance is the relatively civilised manner in which it gets there.
Soft suspension helps transmit the power to the road, as well as stopping the car spinning violently on every bend, and despite a lack of electronic traction taming measured the KZ1 rarely lights up those 19” rear wheels without serious provocation.
The manufacturers have woken up to the fact that most with people that have the £235,000 it takes to buy this machine don’t necessarily have the ability or inclination to ride the ragged edge For them it’s ability to cruise past nightclubs is just as important as its talents at 200mph in off-camber bends.
The steering feels alive from the moment you turn the key and the car jinks in response to the slightest movement at speed. It’s not nervous, thanks to the natural tendency to push wide at the first sign of trouble, but it’s still go-kart instant. Incidentally the first sign of trouble was so far beyond the remit of a normal road car that, had the local police witnessed the test, I would probably be on a ‘career break’ by now.
It will mooch through town happy as your average saloon and reversing and tight manoeuvres, traumatic experiences in almost every other hypercar of this ilk, become second nature in no time. It’s only 20cm shorter and narrower than the Lamborghini Murcielago, but it’s like a rapier next to a broadsword at parking speeds and those lithe dimensions make the world of difference when facing oncoming traffic. It’s a genuine go anywhere supercar, which had no trouble with kerbs, ditches, towns or countryside park roads – near insurmountable obstacles for others in its class.
The KZ1 a hellishly beautiful machine and every organic panel flows towards that rear end in a display of cohesive design missing from the Ferrari Enzo and Lamborghini Murcielago. Everything is carbon-fiber, from the monocoque that one man can lift to the swooping panels that are manufactured in sufficiently low numbers not to worry about simplification.
There are mass production components, including Peugeot headlights and a Vauxhall VX220 starter button and those wing mirrors look like they came off something far cheaper and nastier. But the savings went into three years of development and most prospective buyers will be so wrapped up in the sense of occasion that such details will pass them by.
There will never be lots of these cars around, this is no common or garden Ferrari, and that alone will be worth the price of admission to this exclusive club for some. Only 50 will ever be made, so get on the phone right now if you’re one of the elite few that could even contemplate an impulse buy of this magnitude.
When Klaas Zwart took the reigns of the company it was a traditional English supercar manufacturers, knocking out road rockets from what looked like an old greenhouse. Now Klaas has a glass-fronted workshop in Banbury, within spitting distance of BAR’s headquarters, and a unique race resort and test in Marbella, where the super rich can while away their time driving supercars and even an old Formula One, replete with road silencers.
It’s a hard life, well no it isn’t, and there are people that genuinely live like this, wafting from society get-together to race circuit, to polo match, the kind of men that have a blonde for the morning and a brunette to end the day. These are the kind of people that will drive a KZ1 and they indeed are the privileged few.