WHAT does a 25-year old who earns £8 million a year get for Christmas? It’s a difficult one, but it’s not something reigning (until Sunday at least) Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel is agonising over. For him, Santa came early – he’s one of the first in the world to have a very limited edition flying machine, which I managed to get my hands on this week when it made its first visit to Scotland.
It must be quite something to have one of only 150 cars in existence and even more so when it bears your own name. The Infiniti Vettel is based on the standard £58,000 FX50 4x4, but the 5.0-litre V8 engine has been tweaked, a special exhaust flap system not only boosts power but also creates a fantastic burble at the back end and carbon-fibre panels help reduce drag and increase aerodynamics.
The increase of power from the standard 390 to 420 bhp and a 20mm drop in ride height make this two-tonne monster fly and stick to whatever road you choose to let it experience. In my case, I headed off from Infiniti’s only Scottish dealership at Braehead in Glasgow and proceeded to frighten the life, from the exhaust roar alone, out of the Renfrewshire countryside.
The story goes that the idea of the car was created on the back of an envelope at the Geneva Motor Show last year, when the racing champ had a blether with Infiniti’s head creative honcho, Shiro Nakamura. Vettel’s Red Bull team uses engines built by Renault, whose partner firm is Nissan, which owns Infiniti, so it seemed a good idea to build a car worthy of his name. Young Sebastian apparently was heavily involved in the design, including the shape of the optional £4,800 rear wing. Like the other carbon-fibre bits derived from the Formula One car, it’s hand-made and baked over many hours.
The car looks sensational, having lost the standard roof rails, with big black alloys, massive twin exhausts and those exclusive Vettel badges, one on the boot lid and on each flank. The foglight set into the rear diffuser looks like an F1’s centre rain light with 15 red LEDs. Inside, there’s more carbon fibre and lifting the one Vettel badge on the centre console reveals a glowing blue-rimmed push button that opens the exhaust flaps. The pillars, roof lining and parts of the seats are swathed in suede-like Alcantara to create a dramatic cockpit.
Each car takes 320 man hours to hand build by a team of 25 craftsmen at a new assembly hall in Germany. Production starts in the New Year and 50 cars will go to the Middle East, 50 to Russia and 50 to Western Europe. Only about 15 will come to the UK. Every buyer will get an iPad to track the progress of the building of their car as well as VIP invitations to exclusive events such as high-performance driver training with star drivers and the promise of a memorable handover celebration when their car is delivered. The first people to put their name down and hand over the cash got a drive round a French circuit with the man himself at the wheel. The only option is the rear spoiler – and the car comes only in white.
CAR Infiniti Vettel
PRICE £100,800 (£105,600 with rear wing)
PERFORMANCE Max speed 155 mph; 0-62 mph 5.6 secs
MPG 21.6 mpg combined
CO2 EMISSIONS 307 g/km