This is the new Aston Martin V12 Vantage, and it has the potential to be one of the company’s greatest cars to enter its hardly shabby history books. The recipe is simple: take your smallest and lightest chassis and shoehorn into it (to the accompaniment of some polite British swearing) your biggest and most powerful engine. In this case, the result is an additional four cylinders, 90bhp and nearly £52k to Aston’s V8 Vantage. Big numbers – in every department, including that eye-watering price.
Is the new Aston Martin V12 Vantage as hardcore as the V12 RS concept?
We’re afraid not. The bright blue V12 Vantage RS concept that Aston unveiled at the opening of its Gaydon design studio in December 2007 featured a 600bhp V12 from the company’s DBRS9 racer, with the oil tank for the dry-sumped engine filling the Vantage’s boot.
To make the V12 concept a reality, the engine is essentially the same 5.9-litre V12 you’ll find in the DBS. The plumbing is slightly different (and there are some carbon bonnet vents to extract the extra heat), but you still get 510bhp and 420lb ft, plus active valves in the exhaust that woofle on start-up, bark monstrously when you blip the throttle and cry loudly when you home in on 7000rpm.
With dry-biased Pirelli Corsa tyres, the V12 isn’t exactly soft, but sat-nav is standard and the concept’s RS tag has been dropped. Why? Because the concept was ‘thrilling but frightening,’ according to Aston CEO Dr Bez, and ‘absolutely not the car we would have produced.’
I guess the big V12 adds a few extra kilos to the Vantage?
A full 100 kilos, according to Aston. But carbon ceramic brakes are standard and cut 12.5kg over the conventional items, plus the forged alloy 19-inch alloys shave 5kg, thinner inner rear quarter panels cut yet more weight, and if you opt for the brilliantly supportive, fixed-back £1756.81 carbon Recaros then they save another 17kg. Thus equipped, your V12 Vantage will only weigh 50kg more than a V8 Vantage.
And despite having a big V12 up front, the new Vantage never feels nose heavy. There’s loads of front-end grip and decent steering, too – the V12 has the best steering of any current Aston, with a lovely linear helm.
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It looks gorgeous!
That it does. To some, the V8 Vantage can look a little slight, but the V12 looks like a thug in a suit. The new N24 race car inspired sills fill out the sides, while the new carbon splitter and rear diffuser are obvious enough to signal this car’s latent strength, without being too flashy like the DBS.
It’s pretty special inside too, with Alcantara and leather everywhere. The dashboard buttons are a little fiddly, but it's much less businesslike than in a Porsche, and feels much more inviting than a caged 911 GT2.
It’s not roomy though (despite being quite wide), the ludicrously chubby gearstick is set too far back for taller drivers, and the glovebox will only take a pair of gloves – if you own small hands. But these are faults common to many Astons, and aren’t enough to detract from the essential magnificence of the V12 Vantage.
So it’s pretty special then?
It is, especially if you press the Sport button, which gives you a much sharper throttle response and opens up those trick valves in the exhaust. It issues a banshee wail and sends you rocketing forward at the lightest brush of the throttle.
Sport mode doesn’t touch the dampers though. Unlike the DBS, the V12 has fixed-rate suspension, albeit a chassis that’s 15mm lower and 45% stiffer than in the V8. Of course it’s firm, but while the DBS can feel either too floaty or too firm, the Aston strikes a perfect balance, with the dampers taking the worst edges of any rough roads. It also feels massively resolved for a relatively low-volume special.
Beyond that, the V12 is massively quick – as you'd expect in a 510bhp coupé tipping in at 1680kg – with enough muscle to blast past anything on the roads, while the brakes are amongst the best ceramic set-ups around: full of feel and with lots of stopping power.
One of the best Aston Martins ever sums things up pretty nicely. The V12 Vantage is brilliantly judged.
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