First part of the morning the keys (well, the fob thingy) to the V12 Vantage were chucked to Tim and I.
Starting it up is a matter of sticking the fob into a slot in the middle of the dash - quite reminiscent of a cassette-tape, with a nicer soundtrack - and holding it in until the exhaust reports back that all is well and good. It's a strange setup, to switch it off you poke the fob again and it ejects (again, like a tape-deck) - I'm just uneasy with it probably because the first car I drove when I was about 13 was a Landcruiser which had this pinball-like knob you pulled from the dash to enable the engine to run - and my idiot brother thought it hilarious to randomly turn the car off while driving along. So I just wonder whether it's possible with this setup...
So anyhoo - time to take off, hold on - he's having trouble with disengaging the handbrake, which appears to be disengaged already and is located by the door. Luckily it clicks with me they probably stole/shared the idea with those other pommy gits Lotus - so I tell him how it works on a Lotus which he tries and now we're good to go...
Damn - another snag... Marcel told us the clutch take-up was very high, and he had a lot of really cool technical explanations about the mega gearbox and clutch setup - but in the end, it just means it's difficult to get used to for a newcomer - this of course second-hand word from Tim compared to his Gallardo - but I've driven cars with a high take-up and it's quite disconcerting initially.
The seats - well racing buckets - are very taut but huggy. This results in a rather low seating position - so your view is monstered by the huge dash - only later when driving the V8 Vantage did I come to understand this view was completely due to the seats.
I'd love to give an opinion on how it felt - even from a pax perspective - but mostly the half hour we spent in it was just getting used to the whole big front-engined V12 thingy and chatting about it. It certainly felt sporty and tight, but beyond that I can't comment much - however we saw it from behind being driven by the AM engineer - it was damn impressive.
The worst thing was we were disappointed with the noise. It was only later when following it that we realised just how dam magnificent it sounds! The problem for the driver is, you just don't hear it, it's kind of a distant howl that seems disconnected - you simply have to be content knowing that everyone else's ears are melting as you drive by.
As for beauty of sound and vision - as a front-engined car I can't recall encountering anything that really competes.
Well - the boys at Top Gear have a lot more time and money than I do to put something together, here's what they came up with:
And here's the Fifth Gear round-up: