Aston Martin DB7 vs. BMW Z8, Ferrari 360 Spider – Comparison Tests

27 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Aston Martin DB7 vs. BMW Z8, Ferrari 360 Spider – Comparison Tests
Ferrari 360

Aston Martin DB7 vs. BMW Z8, Ferrari 360 Spider

The Princes of Performance: Wind in your hair, and an awful lot of horses at your command, make these stunning exotics the royalty of the road.

This is not your routine Car and Driver comparison test. To just get our hands on these three cars at the same time — Ferrari’s new 360 Spider F1 and an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante and a BMW Z8 — we had to go a little out of our way — to Italy. Not just Italy, but to the ancient Grand Prix racetrack at Monza, where we could gather the hard performance numbers without attracting unwanted attention from the carabinieri.

Ah, Monza, home of the Autodromo Nazionale, the oldest Grand Prix track. It still follows the shape of the 1922 original. Some of the corners have been reprofiled, and several chicanes have been added to slow the modern cars, but with almost spooky accuracy it’s the same circuit that has been the scene of 65 Grands Prix. There is a 3.6-mile oval portion of the track that is no longer in use, and it is banked so steeply — 38 degrees — that you can’t walk up it. The oval was last used in the Italian Grand Prix of 1961, and it made the times at Monza faster even than at Spa or Reims. The rough concrete banking is still there, quietly decaying as it is slowly reclaimed by nature.

This great racing cathedral was also the undoing of drivers Ronnie Peterson, Jochen Rindt, Taffy von Trips (and 14 spectators), and Alberto Ascari, all of whom perished in competition there. You can’t drive this narrow ribbon of blacktop, blasting through famous corners with the exotic names of Lesmo, Curva Grande, Variante Ascari, and Parabolica, or walk the old pits, where director John Frankenheimer filmed part of the ’66 movie Grand Prix, without sensing the ghosts that haunt this place. Most weekends, before the racing season starts in March, it’s open to the public. Bring a car, fork over 50,000 lira ($25), and it’s yours for 30 minutes of glorious driving.

After our testing at Monza, we lit out across the straight roads of the Po Plain and down the A26 autostrada that for a while allows a 150-mph cruising speed, then winds through mountains to the port city of Genoa, through tunnel after tunnel running high above the Mediterranean coast. And then we headed inland again, up the twisty Passo della Cisa, where on October 5, 1919, a young Enzo Ferrari finished fourth in class in his first motor-racing event, the Parma-Poggio di Berceto, a local hill-climb, in a 2.3-liter CMN. Add fine food and the constant excitement generated by our convoy of exotics as we passed through villages, and clearly, this was no ordinary comparison.

These cars, brilliant in all the great stuff — performance, handling, driving pleasure, and (mostly) styling — deliver almost obscenely poor fuel mileage. In a country where high-octane runs about $5 a gallon, low-to-mid-teens consumption thins your wallet in a hurry. And even if you’re willing to ignore the fuel costs, you can’t begin to explore the twilight zone in any of the trio without putting your license at risk.

All three exotics also display an exceptional level of packaging inefficiency. The V-12 Aston Martin weighs well over 4000 pounds. In fact, a 2400-pound Mazda Miata offers pretty much the same alfresco motoring on winding roads and provides the same level of grin factor. And it costs a fraction of the Ferrari 360 Spider F1’s $176,512, including more than 10 grand for the paddle-shift gearbox. Or the Aston’s $159,732 base price, or the BMW’s $134,455, including the gas-guzzler and luxury taxes.

Ferrari 360

And yet we love them all.

This is precious metal, the only circa-400-horsepower sporting convertibles on offer to or old-money millionaires, discounting the soon-to-be-replaced SL600 Mercedes-Benz and the way-over-the-top Bentley Azure. They are, above everything else, automotive indulgences, bought not because the 360 Spider generates marginally more lateral acceleration than the Aston does, but on purely subjective grounds. Hell, at this rarefied level, you buy the Aston simply because none of the neighbors’ garages houses a DB7 Volante. Emotions run high.

We immediately discovered, upon gathering them together for their first collective public outing, that these are very different automotive animals, their characters closely mimicking the national personalities of their countries of origin. The Ferrari is excitable, passionate, arousing the body’s every sense. The BMW is beautifully finished, as solid of body as it is strong of engine. The Aston Martin is reserved, tailored, rich in clublike leather and wood, and it spoils the passenger almost as much as the driver.

As always, we’ve ranked the combatants and emerged with a clear winner — no prize for guessing, as we were in Italy, after all — but the distinctive personalities of these cars mean they transcend objectivity. We’d perfectly understand why you’d want to buy any one of this gorgeous threesome.

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