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Click for pictures“You’ve heard of
  The Quick and the
  Dead. Well, thanks
  to bespoke British
  supercar builders
  Ascari, there’s now
  The Quick and the
  Drop Dead Sexy...”

THE TAG LINE for the film 'The Quick and the Dead' — directed by Sam Raimi and starring Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe — was: 'Think you're quick enough?' Having just tested Ascari's KZ1 supercar hard on real-world roads for two days, we'd say Yes!

Being an authentic supercar, we need to get straight to some key headline figures: 200mph, 5-litres, 500bhp and 368lb ft of torque in a carbon-fibre body/chassis that weighs in at just 1,330kg — that's
a substantial 265kg lighter than Jaguar's new all-aluminium XK Coupé. The result is a heart-stopping performance of 0-60mph acceleration
in 3.8 seconds and 0-100mph in 8.3 seconds.

Most supercars manage to be dramatic. It is a fundamental and essential quality of the genre. The best of the breed deliver a dynamic ability that does justice to their visual drama. Very few manage to
pull off the trick completely and produce a car of stimulating dynamic ability that gracefully blends form with function. Ascari's KZ1 does the lot. Everything. And then it goes on to trump its own winning hand
with its ace. Exclusivity. Only 50 KZ1s will ever be made and half of those have been snapped up already.

The KZ1 is hand-built at Ascari's state-of-the-art factory in Banbury just off the M40. Inspired by and named after the first double world champion in the history of Formula One, Alberto Ascari, this British supercar's roots are likewise in motor racing and they compete at events all over the world, including Le Mans. Ascari even has its own hi-tech racing facility in Spain, complete with the country's longest race track.

The trouble with supercars, for mere mortals, is that they usually cost supermoney. Which in itself introduces an element of desirability that can be at odds with their raison d'être — that of providing unparalleled performance and driving enjoyment. Frustratingly — from the true enthusiast's viewpoint — some supercars end up with owners whose decision to buy owes more to the price tag than it does to what the car can do.

Fortunately, most owners buy supercars for the right reasons. And it
is these lucky driving enthusiasts — being able to spend £235,000-plus on a car definitely qualifies one as 'lucky' — who will value the KZ1.
In the Ascari's case, the right reasons begin with the powerplant:
a normally-aspirated 4,941cc 32-valve BMW M5 V8 engine. However, Ascari have dry-sumped it and extracted another 100bhp to give it 500bhp at 7,000rpm and 368lb ft of torque at 4,500rpm. Mounted longitudinally amidships behind the cabin — you can see it over your shoulder from inside, and from outside under the engine bay's lift-up glass cover — it drives the rear wheels through a six-speed Italian CIMA manual 'box, the type favoured by both Pagani and Koenigsegg.

You'd be forgiven for reminding us that there are supercars that pump out more power. But they're not made out of carbon-fibre. And they don't weigh a dynamically 'green' 1,330kg. You canna change the laws of physics any more than you can alter time by moving the hands
of a clock. Dynamic performance lives — or dies — on weight. And rigidity. The Ascari's full carbon-fibre monocoque chassis and bodyshell provides both the essential qualities necessary for agility — light weight and torsional stiffness.

It also provides the ideal platform for the Ascari's suspension. Unequal length wishbones, anti-roll bar and coil over dampers at the front
with double unequal wishbones and coil over dampers at the rear. Its aero-dynamic efficiency — the KZ1 has a drag coefficient of 0.35 — is managed by a front spoiler, streamlined underbody and an active spoiler above the bootlid that rises automatically at 50mph.

The KZ1 is low. At a smidgen under forty-five inches from the road
to the roof, that means around waist height. Thankfully getting in and
out doesn't require gymnastic suppleness as the doors open wide at virtually 90 degrees. But short skirts are a definite No. Negotiate the wide sill with its polished and embossed alloy kick-plate and settle into a sports seat trimmed in two-tone soft leather that grips as much as
it cossets, especially during high-speed manoeuvres.

The cabin is refreshingly uncluttered. The aim is to save weight, so beneath their leather coverings the seats are carbon-fibre, and there's no electric adjustment. There's no glovebox. Or vanity mirrors in the suede covered sun visors. In fact, anything that doesn't contribute to driving functionality doesn't make it into the cockpit.

You do get electric windows (one-touch down) and electric door mirrors. You also get a decent climate control air conditioning system, with alloy TT-style air vents, and bespoke aluminium switchgear for
the lights and climate controls. Oh, and a snazzy top-end JVC touch-screen sound system — although I have to admit we never got as far as turning it on because the only music you want to hear inside the KZ1 is the Ascari's own throaty growl.

Fit and finish are everything you'd expect if you'd written a cheque
for little short of a quarter of a million pounds. What isn't covered in fine leather is covered by glove-soft suede. 'Classy' covers it nicely. Despite 500 wild horses corralled not far behind your left ear, the KZ1's cabin is refined enough for it to be used for hours at a stretch. Music to your ears!

So, what did we do with two days to enjoy the Ascari? Our first port
of call — via an assortment of Thanet's twisty country roads and tame dual carriageway — was Ramsgate's attractive harbour for half a day's photography. At the Harbour Master's office, it started. "Are you with the Ascari?"

And the photo-shoot ground to a halt on several occasions as people of all ages — males, and a surprising number of females — wanted to see the car at close quarters. About half of them knew what it was.

Leaving the bar in the evening a guy we knew only by sight rushed
out and introduced himself. "I know this is an Ascari and I want one — give me a ride. Pleeease!"

Parking in the town can be a problem if you have a restricted rear view. But not for us. The KZ1 we tested had front and rear parking sensors. At £800, a very sound investment as visibility through the
rear view mirror is minimal even before the boot-mounted rear wing rises. You can see more of what's happening behind you in the door mirrors, although take care not to be distracted by the stylish sweep of the KZ1's muscular rear haunches. What a satisfying sight!

The view forward is fine and you quickly get used to where the front wings end. Likewise the shallow nose. Reversing is a trick rewarding
to master, but the passenger is valued as much for some witty conversation as the ability to check what's behind. In spite of the limited rear visibility and the door's high waist-line, the KZ1 is never intimidating. Just cosy.

More crucial, the driving position is excellent. The sturdy three-spoke, leather-skinned steering wheel feels exactly the right size and thick-ness and, with just 2.2 turns lock-to-lock, doesn't take much effort. It also adjusts for both height and reach. The footwells are long and the driver has a smart set of aluminium racing-style floor-hinged pedals. There's no left-foot rest but we didn't miss it.

Dead ahead through the top arc of the steering wheel, framed by the rim, are two small heavily-cowled dials: a rev-counter calibrated to 8,000rpm, but not red-lined, and a 220mph speedometer — both distinguished by yellow on black markings. Squeezed between them is
a vertical column of warning lights. Stalks are normal with flash/dip/ main and indicators on the left and wipers/wash to the right. You sound the horn by a push on the end of the left-hand stalk and this keeps your hands firmly where they should be: on the wheel.

The two-tone leather and suede covered dashboard stretches the full width of the cabin. Mounted dead centre and horizontally level with the speedometer and rev-counter are three smaller auxiliary dials for fuel, oil pressure and coolant temperate. These too are heavily cowled and reminded me of the lines of the eye-catching cone-shaped roof that crowns the Gaudí School of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona — very arty. Just below this trio is the 'START' button.

Insert the key and the start button illuminates red. Thumb it and the V8 bursts into life, settling immediately to an unwavering 950rpm tick-over. Even stationary, the KZ1 sounds even more awesome than awesome! Throttle response is sharp, with the tuned V8 responding immediately to the demands of your right foot. Acceleration is as devastatingly quick as the paper figures promise. The gearshift of our test car was rather notchy — possibly the result of some over-enthusiastic handling by previous testers — and required a firm hand. But after leaving us it was going straight back to the factory for a replacement along with a fresh clutch. That said, it only required a blip of the throttle on gear shifts to effect clean changes.

The clutch is on the right side of firm and not at all tiring even in
stop-start traffic where, incidentally, the V8 remains unfazed. One frustrating motorway crawl, at under 10mph due to an accident,
was almost a pleasure!

First impressions, quickly confirmed, are of a compact and beautifully balanced machine. In spite of wide low-profile front tyres on 19-inch rims the steering is crisp, clean and informative. It has become some-thing of a cliché, but in the KZ1 the driver really can 'feel' the road.

The ride is equally impressive — positively firm and fluently damped. And the quicker you drive the more polished the chassis feels, taking poorer road surfaces in its stride without undue jolts and holding true to its course over quite bad bumps that would push lesser cars off their line. The slim gearlever is quite long — if it was mine I think
I might chop it in half to trade steering wheel proximity for a shorter throw.

Putting the KZ1 through its paces on a friend's mile-long driveway proved to be a piece of cake. Three-figure speeds are reached in a blur and we reached the farmyard faster than anyone had gone before!

As you'd expect given Ascari's racing provenance brakes are massive cross-drilled and ventilated discs, with six-piston callipers at the
front and four-pots at the rear from AP Racing and provide substantial stopping power. Communicative and easy to modulate even in heavy traffic, they also pulled us up short and true before we ploughed through the side of our friend's barn.

Apart from its predictable engineered-in handling characteristics and ABS, the KZ1's only 'safety net' is the driver. No ESP. No traction control. Just man and machine. Balancing that is one of nicest-handling supercars you can buy. At any speed the steering is a pleasure —
even sudden high-speed jinks don't unsettle the car. If you do get the tail out it's easily caught. Each KZ1 is tailored to a customer's personal taste, so if you want to drive everywhere with the tail out Ascari
will configure the suspension to suit. Strong traction and grip (massive
19-inch 305/30s at the back and 235/35 Pirelli P Zeros up front enhance both) go hand-in-hand with tightly-controlled body move-ments to deliver flat, roll-free handling.

Few people will be fortunate enough to experience zero to 100mph acceleration in 8.3 seconds. First there's the sound: rolling thunder all the way to the peak power point at 7,000rpm. The Ascari's high revability is another appealing supercar trait. Then there's the pressure pushing you back in your seat. Most passengers can't get enough of
it. Nobody actually screamed — not even Maggie, who normally prefers her own hands firmly on the steering wheel! One passenger ended up with a nose-bleed and another, used to fast-ish sports saloons like the Impreza WRX, climbed out feeling light-headed, but eager for more.
A friend's 21-year-old daughter, brought up on 911s and Aston Martins, had to be prised out of the KZ1.

But don't just take our word for it. The KZ1 has recently stormed the BBC Top Gear leader board, blitzing the likes of the Ford GT and SLR McLaren to claim a top five spot in the league of fastest laps around the Top Gear track. Driven by the 'Stig' — Top Gear's anonymous racer — the KZ1 put in one of the fastest laps in the programme's history. Scorching from start to finish in a blistering 1 minute 20.7 seconds and in the process outperforming more expensive rivals such as the Pagani Zonda and Koenigsegg CC by more than two seconds. Enough, in fact, to secure the KZ1 a place alongside the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT as one of the fastest cars on the planet.

The KZ1 functions equally as an everyday supercar or a trackday heavy-blitzer. And everything in-between — we even took it to Sainsbury's and Waitrose for our weekly shop. And while you rarely see one in the UK outside of a motor show, the KZ1 is promised plenty of exposure in Hollywood's forthcoming adaptation of the Seventies TV series, The Persuaders. Thanks to its compact external dimensions,
the KZ1 is a pretty little minx and will be sure to attract even more attention in its starring role. Comparatively compact for a true supercar (an inch over 14 feet long and 6 feet wide), its lean dimensions not only favour its sensational looks but endow it with a beautifully manageable nimbleness when it's performing away from the cameras!

Ascari offers a number of options including SatNav (£2,000), a sports exhaust system that comes with a 20bhp power hike (£12,500) and a high-performance driving course (£3,000). You can also ask for your KZ1 to be either left- or right-hand drive.

Remember how it felt to be ten years old on Christmas Eve? How you couldn't sleep because of the bubbling anticipation of opening your presents the next morning? Well, that's how you feel when there's a KZ1 parked in your garage. The difference is that you get to open your present every time you push the start button.

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Ascari KZ1 | £235,000
Maximum speed: 200mph | 0-60mph: 3.8 seconds
Test MPG: 15.1mpg | Power: 500bhp | Torque: 368lb ft

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ascari KZ1