Twelve 12-Cylinder Cars

Automobile Magazine Staff
Charlie Magee
Rear Engine View

This is not trick photography. There are twelve different twelve-cylinder cars parked on the grounds of Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in the town of Pahrump, Nevada, just outside the gates of hell, a.k.a. Death Valley. Only none of us considered this hell. Embracing the wealth of power and might at our, uh, disposal, the staff of Automobile Magazine approached the long, straight, empty roads before us as if there were no tomorrow. A logical assumption. We had never seen so many twelve-cylinder cars in our history. And should we encounter the police, well, there would definitely be no tomorrow. Forgive us for the hyperbole, but who would argue that this must be the best time you could ever imagine having in your entire life?

ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH SContender for the 200-mph club.
There wasn't much wrong with the original Vanquish. It's hard to complain about an extruded-aluminum and carbon-fiber monocoque chassis that's coddling a 460-hp, 5.9-liter V-12 engine, the whole package tightly and stunningly wrapped in aluminum skin. But the arrival of the 450-hp DB9 dictated a bump in power for the flagship. The resulting Vanquish S debuted last fall with 520 hp and 25 additional lb-ft of torque (425 lb-ft), enough to cut the Vanquish's 0-to-60-mph time from 5.0 to 4.8 seconds. In December, Galpin Aston Martin delivered one of the first S models to Dr. Ned Momary, who kindly brought his black beauty to our twelve-cylinder party.

The first thing we noticed when Momary rolled up was that the Vanquish still looks terrific after four years. The second thing we noticed was a fantastic, deep-throated exhaust that seemed even louder than the old Vanquish's. Momary's aftermarket wheels also caught our attention: "With all the chrome trim," he confessed, "I thought the wheels needed to match." Who could argue?

Full Passenger Side View

We had been wondering why anyone would want a Vanquish now that the DB9 is here, but experiencing the two side-by-side helped us understand that the Vanquish has more substance and presence, not to mention a roomier cabin, and it oozes elegance and desirability that much more than the very elegant and desirable DB9. It's also the fastest production Aston Martin ever built, with a top speed of more than 200 mph. Tell us no more.

The V-12 is to Lamborghini as steroids are to baseball. The very first Lambo, the 1963 350GTV, was powered by a V-12, so what else would you expect to find breathing through the Murcilago's enormous scoops? And with Ferrari conveniently on hiatus (the Enzo stopped production in 2004), the Murcilago is the most exotic expression of the V-12 sports car. It's today's version of an archetype that has appeared on posters on the bedroom walls of teenage boys since the 1970s.

Full Passenger Side View

What's striking is how much the reality parallels the dream. The scissor doors, the deep iridescent yellow paint, the gun-slit visibility, the hell-unleashed sound, the awesome acceleration (0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds), the ludicrous top speed (200 mph), and the massive 335-series rear tires add up to one mighty fine real-life fantasy. This handbuilt marvel also boasts all-wheel drive, an available sequential-manual transmission-a $10,000 option-and a top-notch cabin codeveloped by Audi filled with so much black leather you expect to be tied up and spanked. Sure, Lamborghini's own V-10-powered Gallardo can be had for more than $175,000 less than the Murcilago roadster's $342,000 sticker, but there's nothing quite like the thunder of a 6.2-liter, twelve-cylinder engine.OK, so Cheryl Tiegs in a red bathing suit didn't come walking up to the car asking for a ride, but otherwise, the Murcilago lives up to the fantasy.

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