Aston Martin One-77

Debut: 2010
Maker: Aston Martin
Predecessor: No

 Published on 14 Mar 2013
All rights reserved. 

In 1986, Aston Martin Zagato was the world's fastest, rarest and most expensive supercar. A quarter of a century later, its spirit is revived on One-77.

The One-77 project was first shown to the public in 2008. As its name suggested, its production was limited to 77 units, even fewer than its spiritual predecessor's 85 units. Each car was sold at £1.2m plus local taxes, thus it was more expensive than the likes of Pagani Huayra, LaFerrari and McLaren P1, if not quite the level of some special editions Bugatti Veyron. The first customer car was completed in late 2010. The rest of the production run took 2 more years as it was very human-intensive – each car took as many as 2500 man-hours to build, versus 200 hours of other Aston Martins. By the time of writing the last car should be already delivered.

Why does it take AutoZine so long to introduce it? I would have loved to write about it earlier, but unfortunately, Aston did not allow automotive journalists to test this car – perhaps it was afraid that sales could be hampered by negative reviews, especially when subjected to comparison test against its million-dollar rivals. Only recently some lucky journalists could get their hands on the One-77s borrowed from private owners.

Like Zagato, the One-77 is a wilder interpretation of the traditional format of Aston. It continues to be an FR grand tourer, but its chassis, engine and performance are all pushed to the extremes. Just read these figures will give you a clear idea: compare with even the latest Vanquish II (which actually used some tech developed from the One-77), its V12 is enlarged from 5.9 to 7.3 liters, producing 760 horsepower instead of 573. Meanwhile, the chassis switches to lightweight carbon-fiber monocoque to help lowering kerb weight to 1630 kg – 109 less than Vanquish. As a result, performance is remarkable. Top speed is claimed to be 220 mph, which was what Aston saw in prototype testing. 0-60 mph takes merely 3.5 seconds while 100 mph is reached under 7 seconds. Not quite the fastest car in the world, but not far away.

The wildness lies not only in specifications but also in styling. Design chief Marek Reichman deliberately shaped it to be the most aggressive among all Aston models. Its proportion is extremely cab-rearward, something obviously designed to locate the V12 further back in the chassis and benefit weight distribution. It is also very low and wide. The roof stands only 1222 mm above the ground, some 50 mm lower than a Ferrari F12. The muscular flanks push its overall width to exactly 2 meters, 60 mm wider than Ferrari. The windshield and rear window are so fast that unquestionably hamper visibility. The side glasses are shallow, made even worse by a kick near the C-pillar. More so than Ferrari, this proportion places emotion at higher priority than practicality. Meanwhile, the prominent mesh grille, the quartet of bonnet louvers, the huge side vents and especially the scars-like intakes located just below the headlights are in-your-face. Conformity has no places in its design philosophy. Do I like it? Yes, I suppose a bit controversy is necessary to make a front-engined machine look exotic.

The focus of this car is unquestionably its engine. You think the old V12, whose roots could be traced back to Ford Duratec V6 of the 1990s, is running out of room for improvement? Not yet. Aston commissioned Cosworth to redevelop it into this 7.3-liter monster. Although the basic block architecture with 102 mm bore center is retained, 80 percent parts are new. By using plasma-iron spray coating to replace cast-iron cylinder liners, Cosworth was able to bore it out from 89 to 94 mm. In addition to stroking from 79.5 to 87.8 mm, engine capacity is increased to 7312 cc.

The 7.3 motor is not just about sheer size. Surprisingly, it is quite a lot more efficient than the 5.9 unit, as shown by its specific output of 104 hp/liter (vs 86 hp/liter of V12 Vantage or 96.5 hp/liter of Vanquish). By switching to dry-sump lubrication, it can be mounted 100 mm lower in the chassis to improve center of gravity while leaving enough clearance under bonnet to meet pedestrian safety law. To improve breathing efficiency as well as sound quality, it employs 2 large carbon-fiber intake plenums with 4 electronic throttles. The intake and exhaust ports and combustion chambers are fully machined to ensure high precision. Diamond-like coating is applied to valve spring buckets and piston pins to reduce friction. The 10.9:1 compression and intake variable valve timing might not be state of the art, but at least better than the old (pre-Vanquish) engine used on V12 Vantage or Virage. To enhance revvability – a problem to the old engine – its forged pistons are 24 grams lighter each piece. Its steel connecting rods are lighter, too. The new crankshaft cuts 1.4 kg even though it now employs 12 instead of 8 counter weights to enhance smoothness. As a result, maximum rev is lifted to 7750 rpm, remarkable for an engine so large. Even more remarkable, Cosworth was able to trim the V12 by as much as 60 kg to 260 kg, thanks mostly to the plasma cylinder coating, carbon-fiber plenums, carbon-fiber cam covers and aluminum main bearing caps.

With 760 horsepower released at 7500 rpm, the Aston earns the title as the most powerful naturally aspirated car in the world, edging out Ferrari F12 by 20 hp. Although now LaFerrari has lifted the bar to 800 hp, the Aston can still claim itself the most powerful front-engined car in the world.

On the road, the British V12 is no less exciting than Maranello's counterparts. Its throttle response is razor sharp, thanks to lightened internals and a small diameter flywheel. Rev rises and falls rapidly according to throttle input like a racing motor. The racing-style clutch is difficult to engage smoothly thus the car is terrible to drive in traffic, but once up to speed the V12 compensates with fantastic noise. It is a loud, hard-edge and intoxicating noise. As expected, there is abundance of torque low down, but this engine especially loves to rev. It begs you to access the upper half of the rev range. Above 4500 rpm, the bypass valves in exhaust system open to intensify the sound while the output gets a second kick and enters a new territory. Then it screams all the way beyond 7500 rpm without a pause. The harder you work, the more thrills you will get in the form of noise and g-force. Turbocharged motors like those on Veyron or Huayra can never be so rewarding.

Unfortunately, the transmission is not as good. In fact, it is quite bad by modern standards. Unlike rivals, Aston has not yet entered the era of dual-clutch gearbox, so all it can use is a modified version of its existing "Sportshift" 6-speed automated manual gearbox, which has always been known for slow and clonky gearshifts. To cope with the 553 lbft peak torque, the rear-mounted transaxle is strengthened, and it is connected to the engine through a magnesium torque tube in which a carbon-fiber prop-shaft is running. In the real world, its gearshift is just as unresponsive and jerky as in the V8 / V12 Vantage. This hampers the driving thrills by considerable degree. On the other hand, the difficult clutch engagement makes the powertrain feel fragile. It is easy to slip the clutch if you drive in an aggressive manner. This should not happen in a supercar.

In place of the usual aluminum spaceframes of VH platform, the chassis of One-77 is primarily a carbon-fiber monocoque. It is built by Canadian motorsport supplier Multimatic and weighs 180 kg. An aluminum subframe is bolted to the front of the monocoque to mount the V12 and front suspensions. The subframe is reinforced by carbon-fiber cross-members above the engine. As the whole engine is positioned behind the front axle, and the gearbox is mounted at the rear axle, it achieves a perfect weight distribution of 49:51 thus guarantees good handling. The rear suspensions are mounted directly to the monocoque, although springs and dampers are attached to a cast aluminum block. At both ends are extruded aluminum extensions functioning as crash structure. Outside, all body panels are made of aluminum sheets to reflect the tradition of Aston and deliver better visual quality than carbon-fiber ones. Most of them are supplied by CPP Coventry Prototype Panels (which also supplied Spyker), but the super-complex front fenders are hand-hammered by Aston's own craftsmen in traditional ways.

In supercar fashion, the front and rear suspensions are double-wishbone type and they employ racing-style inboard springs and dampers in order to cut unsprung weight and minimize height. Their stiffness and ride height are adjustable, but only when you access with tools. Lacking adaptive suspensions, the One-77 is hopeless to match the all-round ability of Ferrari F12 or Bugatti Veyron. However, Pagani and Koenigsegg also come with passive suspensions, so maybe supercars buyers don't really need their exotic purchases to provide dual-functions.

Comparatively, adaptive aerodynamics is more useful to the 220 mph supercar. At above 80 mph, the rear spoiler that normally recesses flush with the tail rises to generate downforce. No, its aero package is no where as thorough or effective as Ferrari's, but that should not be too much of a surprise.

Drive the One-77 on public roads, it feels stiffly sprung. The ride biases towards the hardcore side, but in return you get keen response from the chassis, which feels alert and agile. Admittedly, on narrow mountain roads its exaggerated width hurts driving confidence and limits your chance to exploit its deep reserves. Give it a wide open road, however, it immediately feels smaller than it looks. Its nose feels light and keen to turn in. The front Pirelli Corsa tires grip hard so that it resists understeer up to very high limit. The steering can offer more feel, but its response is faithful and consistent, more intuitive to use than the super-quick helm of Ferrari. The One-77 hardly rolls in corner thanks to its stiff suspensions and low center of gravity. The ceramic brakes stop it quickly with good feel. In short, it feels like a proper supercar.

That said, you need a certain discipline not to abuse its 760 horsepower and 553 pound-foot of torque. Ferrari shows that it is possible to tame a rear-drive machine with so much power, but the Aston does not have its active differential or sophisticated electronics. All it gets are a simple traction control, DSC and your right foot. Should you floor the throttle mid-corner to see how well it power slide, you are most likely to end up spinning the rear wheels and going sideway. There's just too much power for the 335 rear tires to handle! Even on the straight at triple-digit speed, you can spin the rear tires with a prod of throttle! Without self discipline, the engine can easily overwhelm the chassis. From this view, the One-77 is very much an old-school supercar.

The driving position is not perfect either. You sit so far back, looking through the shallow windscreen and over the acres of bonnet, so it doesn't give you the forward visibility and confidence of placing the car accurately as in a mid-engined supercar. This aside, the cabin is pleasing. You swing up the light butterfly doors to enter it. Once inside, you will find seas of carbon-fiber – the door panels, the sills, floor and even the back of your seat – but there are also plenty of leather and alloy elsewhere to remind you this is after all an Aston Martin. The lightweight buckets are both supportive and comfortable – should be, as they are tailored to the buyers. The interior design, materials and build quality are as good as you can expect for the best British luxury car. Most alloy parts are milled from a solid block of aluminum, so they feel bespoke and expensive. The interior is more elegant than Ferrari, more special than Bugatti, if not ultimately as artistic as Pagani. As an Aston, it does not sacrifice luxury. Sat-nav, bluetooth and B&O HiFi are standard fitted. The seats and steering have electrical adjustment.

However, this luxurious character seems at odds when combine with the aforementioned brutal power and flawed transmission. The One-77 certainly has its own attractions, but it is not perfect. I don't think it worth the same admiration as the likes of Huayra, Veyron and LaFerrari. Just like the 1986 Zagato, this exotic Aston plays the supercar game in its own way, a rather old-school way.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout
Suspension features

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Front-engined, RWD
Carbon-fiber monocoque
4601 / 2000 / 1222 mm
2791 mm
V12, 60-degree
7312 cc
DOHC 48 valves, VVT
760 hp / 7500 rpm
553 lbft / 5000 rpm
6-speed automated manual
All double-wishbones
F: 255/35ZR20
R: 335/30ZR20
1630 kg
220 mph
3.5 (c)
6.9 (c)

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