Monday, May 23, 2011

Zenvo ST1 (2011) CAR review

Zenvo ST1

The Zenvo ST1 is the result of five years hard work by Jesper Jenson, Troels Vollertsen and the rest of the small team that works for Zenvo, Denmark's first supercar company. Denmark is hardly known as a centre of automotive technology, but then again it doesn’t suffer the long tradition of men in sheds creating sports car prototypes that sink without trace that we have in the UK, either. So there's a novelty factor going for Zenvo, if nothing else.

What is this Zenvo ST1, and is it any good? Read on for CAR’s road test of the Zenvo ST1 to find out…


Zenvo ST1: the lowdown

the Zenvo ST1 is a completely new design. The car is built on its own steel spaceframe chassis with carbonfibre body panels, with double whishbone suspension front and rear. It's low volume supercar 101, with the added complexity of carbonfibre body panels. But don't scoff at the carbon-over-steel combo. Ferrari flattered to deceive with the F40 and Lamborghini have only just replaced the spaceframe Murcielago.

What about the Zenvo ST1's engine?

A familiar powerplant sits in the mid-engined Zenvo's engine bay. The ST1 is powered by a Zenvo-tuned 7.0-litre GM V8 engine. Yes, that would be the Chevrolet LS7, normally found under the 'hood' of a Corvette Z06, where it produces 505bhp. That seems like plenty in the Corvette, where it provides a 3.7sec 0-60 time and 198mph top speed. The naturally-aspirated OHV engine works well enough on the FIA GT circuit too.

But it wasn't enough for Zenvo. The alloy lump is turbo- and supercharged to a heady 1104bhp and 1055lb ft of torque. This twin-charging setup is similar to what VW used on the 1.4TSI engine on the Golf GT - although with that kind of power output it's '80s Group B rally cars like the Lancia Delta S4 that come to mind when thinking of the Zenvo.

Driving the Zenvo ST1

What this means in real terms is that the heavily-boosted V8 doesn't suffer from any turbo lag - plant the throttle and away it goes. With all of that power on tap, it's really not recommended trying any sort of rapid getaway in first gear - you'll roast those fat 335mm Michelins in no time.

There's still plenty of wheelspin in second if you're not too careful with the power. To try and make the ST1 a little easier to live with on the day-to-day grind, Zenvo have set up the car with three power maps - 650bhp for wet conditions, 850bhp for normal, and the full 1104bhp in Sport mode. You can shift between each of the power modes on the move via a stubby control wheel on the carbon centre console. Carbon is the material of choice in the ST1 as it features a full carbon body built over a steel chassis.

The steering is reasonably communicative as to what’s going on under the front 19” wheels and is remarkable lacking in twitchiness or kickback when tanking along at high speeds. You could really drive this car everyday, even the race clutch is easy to modulate at the biting point.

The sheer excessiveness of the power is best demonstrated from around 60mph. Once underway in the baby 650bhp power mode, I shift into third and plant the throttle. The ST1 surges ahead with plenty of vigour, but crank two turns on the selector knob and - oh my word, this is fast. It's so fast that the digital heads-up display can't keep up. I'm limited to a maximum speed of 150mph in this final engineering prototype - 233mph is the official claimed top speed.

If that number looks a little down compared to the Veyron's 253mph, that's because it is. Zenvo intentionally didn't want to chase massive top speeds with the ST1 as it would have caused massive headaches for the engineering team. Zenvo claims that no-one ever drives at those sorts of speeds anyway – it’s more just fodder for pub banter.

So what's the plan for building the Zenvo ST1?

Zenvo is trying its hardest to keep the ST1 as exclusive as possible, so they won't budge on a build run of just 15 cars. They've already sold four cars to Middle Eastern customers after the car was shown at the Dubai Motor Show at the end of 2009. Rather inconveniently, three of those buyers have requested paddleshift automatic gearboxes fitted otherwise they won't sign the cheque.

Although this goes against the wishes of chief engineer Troels Vollertsen who had hoped to sell all cars with a Ricardo six-speed manual gearbox, the small company can't turn away potential business. Therefore, it's teaming up with UK firm Xtrac to fit a six-speed automatic gearbox - complete with the required paddleshifts. The ST1 wasn't developed with the automatic 'box in mind as when work started on the car back in 2004 there was no suitable gearbox to handle the planned power outputs.

Verdict

Whilst the Zenvo ST1 might not be a technical tour-de-force like the Veyron, nor as beautifully finished as a Pagani – the interior particularly doesn’t feel like it should live in a £750,000 car – it’s still an impressive achievement for what’s essentially been put together by a bunch of blokes in a Danish warehouse. Just don't expect to see one on UK roads any time soon.

Statistics

How much? £750,000

On sale in the UK: special order from manufacturer

Engine: 7000cc 16v supercharged/turbocharged V8, 1104bhp @ 6900rpm, 1055lb ft @ 4500rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Performance: 3.0sec 0-62mph, 233mph, N/A MPG, N/A g/km CO2

How heavy / made of? 1376kg/carbonfibre

How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4665/2041/1198

Zenvo ST1

source: carmagazine