Vector M12One day in September 1999 I was at a bookstore buying a copy of Sport Compact Car magazine that had a review of the very same Esprit Fact File web site you are now reading (!!!). While I was there, I also I saw an ad in the Dupont Registry for a 1997 Vector M-12. The ad had a phone number with my area code!
So there I am waiting in line to pay when I look out the window and the Vector in the addrives by in front of the bookstore!! I took this to be fate so I called and scheduled an appointment to go check the car out. When got back from test driving it I wrote down this review so I could share my experience with you.
Let me begin by saying that, if you think the Esprit looks outrageous, you ain't seen nothin'! The car was in Cocoa Beach which has a lot of tourists with cameras. There were more tourists than usual this particular weekend because we had just had a space shuttle launch. It's amazing how much attention a bright yellow Vector attracts. People were pulling over by the dozens (I'm not exaggerating) to take a picture of this car!
Some details: The car was bright yellow with black leather and alcantara interior. Only 4 cars were produced in 1997. This one was number 1 and had 3,800 miles. Asking price is $129,000US. A new one will cost you $184,000.
The car is made just 175 miles North of me in Jacksonville, FL. The same Indonesian company that owns Lamborghini also owns Vector. Because of this, the car has a Lambo (Diablo) V12 engine in it. The sound of all its 490 horses singing at full open throttle is *glorious*. It cannot be described, but suffice it to say this is what supercars are supposed to sound like.
The doors open Diablo style and it is *very* difficult to get into or out of because the doors don't seem to raise enough. Because of the shape and configuration of the doors, the windows don't roll down. You have to rely on the a/c for ventilation and that day was a scorcher. With heat indexes over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I was sweating profusely until the a/c finally started cooling things down.
Seating position is fairly race car style once you figure out how to climb in. The design, like with the Diablo, is extremely cab forward. You literally feel as if you were on the nose cone of a rocket. And with all the sound coming from behind you and the breathtaking acceleration, the metaphor is complete.
Forward visibility is not as good as the Esprit's. This is because the top of the window starts too far away from your head which limits your angle of vision at stop lights. The nose of the car, as on the Esprit, is invisible while you're seated. The rear view is not blocked by the wing as much as on a Esprit SE, S4s or V8, but because of the angles of the mirror and rear deck you actually see more sky than road behind you.
Steering on the car was light, almost too much assist if you ask me. In parking lots however, the car's light steering and small turning radius helped it maneuver easily, And maneuverability is something you want in a car like this because the car is extremely wide; even wider than a Diablo at over 7 feet! Backing up, like in a Diablo, is not something I would look forward to doing.
The (squeaky) clutch wasn't too heavy and take-up was very progressive. Even so, I managed to stall it once, probably from inexperience. The accelerator pedal, on the other hand, was heavy and felt like it had three settings: idle, fast, and "Oh my God!".
So how fast is "Oh my
God!"? Well, this car leaves the Esprit S4s in the dust! The term
"explosive" comes to mind. Within a few seconds I was going 100 mph
while going uphill on a causeway (bridge)! Seconds later I was at 140
mph and I still had 2 more gears to go! Mind you this is on a public
road in the middle of a Saturday summer afternoon, so common sense
finally kicked in and I slowed down. The car showed every indication
that it was ready and willing to go over 200 mph without any
hesitation. What a blast!
When the time to go sub-sonic approached, the large Brembo brakes retarded the Vector's forward motion promptly and with only a squeal of protest.
The car is surprisingly civilized and perfectly content just plodding around at 35 mph. If, like me, you're used to driving an Esprit, you can get used to driving this car pretty quickly. The shifter is another story however. The exposed metal gates are very narrow and require a combination of precision and brute force to select a gear. This is no snick-snick affair. Consequently, I had quite a lag time between gears as I managed to get the lever into the next gate. Had this been a turbo car like the Esprit, the turbos would have spooled down below boost levels long before you could let out the clutch.
So will I buy this car? Unfortunately, I have to say that the answer is No. As unique and outrageous as the Vector is, I have some serious concerns about its workmanship. These concerns were reflected in the bits and pieces falling off the car or not working properly. These included a missing power antenna trim surround, poor quality and scuffed up leather, missing interior trim pieces, and a boot lid (to the tiniest compartment to grace a car) that refused to close. All this on a 3,800 mile car.
This car has serious merit for a collector who wants to add another fun toy to his stable. The asking price is a bargain in that regard. However, at almost $130K, the price starts to enter the range of a new Ferrari 360 Modena; a car regarded as one of the best new supercars to grace the road. When it comes to show-stopping looks, there's no contest. The Ferrari (or most other cars for that matter) doesn't even come close. For a while, my Esprit and the Vector were side by side and no one was even looking at the Esprit! In fact, park the Vector anywhere and it'll be surrounded by crowds in seconds. But compare their relative build quality and the Vector pales in light of the Ferrari and even the Lotus. At this price range, build quality is (or should be) inexcusable.
On the drive home, I saw the Esprit in a different light. All those reviewers who say it has a kit car feel should drive the Vector first. By comparison, the Esprit feels solid and reliable. It was an odd feeling to have people look and stare as I drove the Esprit home. This is common behavior that I have (sort of) grown accustomed to. But after driving the Vector I was actually wondering why people were looking at such an "ordinary" car so much. After all, there are now thousands of Esprits and only 12 Vector M-12's. I had to remind myself that the sight of an Esprit is still a wonderful thing to most people. I am truly spoiled to see one in my garage all the time.
Maybe a few years from
now I will add the Vector to my collection. In the meantime, I will
continue searching for the next supercar to share a spot next to my