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Aston Martin Vantage GT12 (2015) review

Published:18 August 2015

Only 100 Aston Vantage GT12s will be made. All have already found buyers
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By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

100-off race-inspired super Vantage
Lighter, lower, faster – and pricier
£250k asking price; all 100 are sold

Only 100 Aston Martin Vantage GT12s will be made. Each costs £250,000 (before options) and all are already spoken for. Its ultra-wide, race-inspired bodywork is made from carbonfibre (all of it) and the enormous 5.9-litre V12 up front develops no less than 592bhp. By some margin it’s the most potent road-going Vantage that’s ever been created – and, most likely, ever will be.

All of these facts and a few others are very much at the front of my mind as I’m attempting to plot a course for the GT12 down narrow Welsh blacktop with discouragingly flinty walls on one side and equally immovable, apparently suicidal sheep on the other. And, this being Wales, it’s raining. Hard. Not that the GT12 seems bothered. Far from a compromised racetrack refugee, it’s turning out to be a road car of real depth.

See the Aston GT12 battle the new Lotus Evora 400 in the September 2015 issue of CAR magazine. See a sneak preview of our British car special here.

Back up a bit. What exactly is the Aston Martin Vantage GT12?

It’s a car Aston Martin has wanted to create for years: a lighter, lower, faster, ultimate version of the V12 Vantage, built to monster the racetrack while remaining a well-rounded road car.

As David King, Aston’s director of special projects, told CAR’s Ben Miller during the GT12’s development, it represents ‘everything we’ve learned about the V12 Vantage through our motorsport activities. In essence, we’ve evolved the V12 S using the classic tuning recipe; reduced weight, lowered centre of gravity and increased power and grip.’

Taking the 565bhp V12 Vantage S as the starting point, the weight reduction comes from the use of some fairly exotic materials throughout, including aluminium, magnesium, titanium (for the exhaust system) and carbonfibre. The latter’s used for the propshaft, and the entirety of that remarkable broadened bodywork. Even the mechanism to raise the sat-nav screen from the dash has been binned (it’s now fixed in position) and you can spec the GT12 with a polycarbonate rear screen if you really want.

Altogether, Aston’s shed an impressive 100kg, although admittedly the Vantage was never the lightest of cars to start with. Quoted kerbweight for the GT12 is 1565kg.

The extra power’s been found from various sources, not least a new magnesium inlet manifold to help the V12 breathe in better and that new titanium exhaust to breathe out through, with reduced back pressure allowing an ignition timing advance. The increased grip comes from altered suspension geometry and spring rates, along with recalibrated electronic control for the adaptive dampers. Thankfully, given the weather during our test, the tyres are road-biased Michelin Pilot Super Sports rather than semi-slick trackday specials. And they’re enormous: 265 section at the front, 325 at the rear, on the end of a considerably wider track at both ends. No wonder that bodywork’s so wide.

Quite a looker, isn’t it?

This, of course, is the car that was going to be called the Vantage GT3 until Porsche’s lawyers got all in a tiz, and a GT3 racing car is exactly what it looks like. Caricature rear wing, wheelarches attempting to outflank the door mirrors, it looks like it took a wrong turn on the way to the grid at Spa. It turns heads like nothing else.

Although the GT12’s bodywork looks like that of the racing Astons found at the pointy end of GT grids around the world, none of it is shared with the race cars. Each add-on was shaped as much by Aston Martin’s design team as aero data spreadsheets.

Does it actually feel like a car that’s worth a cool quarter-million?

It does. The interior’s quite something; stripped down, but no bare-bones race car cockpit. Beautifully presented bare-weave, matt-finished carbonfibre is almost everywhere you look; alcantara is everywhere else.

Neat details abound; the door pulls are loops of saddle leather, with orange inners and stitching to match this particular car’s orange exterior graphics. (And those graphics aren’t decals; they’re hand-painted.) Tug the door closed and you’ll notice how unexpectedly light it feels; thumb the starter and all hell breaks loose. The V12 fires like a clap of thunder, crossed with a T Rex that’s just clocked Sam Neill. It sounds very rude indeed. And once you’re underway, as the tacho needle swings anticlockwise past 4000rpm the exhaust valve opens and the thunderstorm rumble morphs into a keening shriek – it’s one of the great automotive soundtracks, and a huge part of the car’s character.

What’s it like on the road?

Very tractable. Those recalibrated adaptive dampers work spookily well, isolating the gnarliest of surfaces and helping the GT12 ride surprisingly pliantly. Working in tandem with the high-performance tyres, they conjure fantastic traction too. Even in the sopping wet weather of our test, the V12’s power is incredibly exploitable, encouraging you to pick up the power earlier and earlier.

It’s on the way into corners that you can’t help but be cautious. There’s no ignoring all that V12 anvil’s mass in the car’s nose. But the carbon ceramic brakes are on your side, not only offering ferocious stopping power but forensic levels of feel through the pedal. Ditto the steering; slightest turn of the slightly-too-chunky wheel and you’ll feel the front tyres’ sidewalls respond instantly.

The GT12 does have one major Achilles’ heel, however: its gearbox. The Vantage’s seven-speed single-clutch automated manual paddleshift can’t quite keep pace with the rest of the car; although Aston’s fettled the transmission software for the fastest shifts possible there’s still a yawning pause between each upshift, and you’ll sometimes feel the need to lift the throttle slightly to smooth the shifts through. Oddly, there’s no redline on the tacho, just a blink-and-miss-it flicker of red light, making it easy to clumsily bash into the limiter.

Verdict

The Aston Martin Vantage GT12 is a wonderful, characterful machine, brimming with sense of occasion. That monstrous engine (and its soundtrack) dominates proceedings but dig deeper and you’ll find brakes and chassis to match, even if the lumbering gearbox is almost its undoing.

Not that I imagine the GT12’s 100 customers will particularly care. Surprisingly tractable on the road, and I suspect, addictive on a track (though you’d need to find one with fairly relaxed noise limits), with some beautiful design details, it feels worth every penny of its £250k asking price – even if it’s not where our (theoretical) quarter million would go.

Specs

Price when new: £250,000
On sale in the UK: Sold out
Engine: 5935cc 48v V12, 592bhp @ 7000rpm, 461lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual with paddleshifters, rear-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
Performance: 3.7sec 0-62mph, 185mph, 19.8mpg, 332g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1565kg, steel and composite
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):

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Photo Gallery

  • Take care with that front splitter over speed bumps
  • Horseshoe vent directs hot air from engine bay over A pillars
  • Those graphics are painted. No decals here
  • Centre lock wheels look the part, and weigh it too
  • The artist formerly known as GT3. Twelve references the cylinder count, and 1+2=3, of course
  • The art of rounding up. The V12 displaces 5935cc
  • Switchgear substitutes physical buttons for touchpads
  • Door pulls are loops of saddle leather; no cable ties or gaffer tape in this trackday car
  • Top speed’s pegged to 185mph from Vantage S V12’s 205mph. Blame the big wing
  • Beautiful cabin feels worthy of the quarter-mil asking price
  • Even the badges are made from machined carbon
  • Herringbone weave carbon another clue that this is a collector's car, not a racing special

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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