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Road Test: Aston Martin V12 Vantage
The Aston Martin V12 Vantage is the best possible answer to the current automotive hype in which downsizing and turbocharging is the key in delivering lower emissions and better fuel economy. Every single aspect of this Going Green story is crushed by the sheer presence of the V12 Vantage offering the brand’s 6.0 liter V12 engine from the DBS inside a stunningly beautiful, compact, and neatly packaged Vantage bodyshell.
This Aston has all the ingredients of being a supercar with the agility of a sports car. Initial characteristics encompass a mid-front engine, rear-wheel drive and an almost precisely equal front/rear weight balance of 51/49. Delivering an unrivalled blend of extreme performance, exclusivity and practicality in one unique package, the V12 Vantage was our ride for one day near the Green Hell aka the Nurburgring Nordschleife accompanied by its latest family member the 2012 V8 Vantage Facelift, which we discussed before.
Like its brother the V8 Vantage, the V12 is quite similar but has been engineered to become an almost totally different machine. Dominated by a naturally-aspirated all-alloy 6.0 liter V12 engine producing 517hp and 570Nm of torque, this remarkable evolution of the Vantage range is capable of reaching 305km/h and 100km/h in 4.2 seconds. An astonishing raw performance for a sports car, which is available as V8 and V8 Roadster model series, and now also available as an open-top V12 supercar.
The twelve-cylinder engine is a true piece of art and the star of the show inside the aluminum bodywork and all-alloy aluminum monocoque platform known as Aston Martin’s VH architecture. Via a push of the sapphire-tipped key in the center of the dash the powerplant comes to live with a dark and deep growl. It lets you know its presence more than the V8 does and offers one of the most wonderful soundtracks in the automotive history. While being in the cabin, you are entertained by a balanced symmetry of V12 mechanical resonance coming to you from under the bonnet and a deep sound track from the back filling your ears.
Getting the car off the line means cherishing the clutch with love and moving the gear level swiftly through its six gears. No automatic gearbox offering seamless shifting, but a six-speed manual gearbox as the only option. The box feels very mechanical, with a positive engagement, a long throw and an assuring snick. Torque is plentiful across the rev band, while the V12 provides its power in a linearity only presidented by natural-aspirated engines.
This two-seat coupe just begs to be driven hard. The speed build up and the performance levels provided are more than sufficient to reach ultra-high speeds. Our run to 304km/h on the German Autobahn showcased its excellent pulling force. Especially in higher revs, sixth gear and speeds between 200 and 300km/h the car surges on in astonishing fashion up to the engine’s terminal speed of 7,000rpm. At this imaginary red line the pulling comes to a halt and the top speed is reached.
In comparison to its eight-cylinder brother, the weight of the heavier engine at the front is easily felt. It weighs about 100kg more than the V8, but thanks to the lightweight construction, carbon ceramic brakes and forged wheels the V12 Vantage is only about 50kg heavier than its V8 sibling. The V12 tells a more mature story line within its handling and steering, especially at higher speeds. The chassis is firmer, the spring rates and anti-roll bars stiffened, the rear suspension adjusted and the ride height dropped.
The V12 Vantage comes really to life on stretches of Autobahn where it can unleash its power and covers the ground at a truly amazing rate. On curving, swooping mountain roads the heavy mid-front engine comes into play and the car feels less at home then the V8. The sharp and short turns near the Ring were clearly a challenge for the V12 because of its long gear lever travel and its heavier engine.
Excellent stopping power is achieved via ventilated/drilled carbon ceramic discs with six-piston calipers at the front and slightly smaller ventilated/drilled carbon ceramic discs with four-piston calipers at the back. The V12 rolls on special 19 inch forged aluminum alloy wrapped in custom-made Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires.
Inside the cabin, you have a similar refinement as the Vantage V8. Only special leather and Alcantara sports seats, an Alcantara steering wheel and a sport button on the dash are noticeable differences. The button livens up the throttle and opens the exhaust bypass sooner, which leads to louder noises from the V12. The refinement inside the cabin is sufficient, the controls are a complete egronomical mess and the quality of the Bang & Olufsen Audio is reasonable. After trying to find a proper local German radio station we wisely decided to let the V12 provide us with a proper sound track.
The V12 Vantage is surely one of the last of its kind, a definitive sports car for enthusiasts, and limited to only 1,000 pieces. This British V12-powered supercar is a very serious, hugely powerful, demanding and satisfying machine. Not your everyday driver for local twisting mountain roads or city trips, but a wonderful high-speed cruiser for sloping country roads and unlimited autobahn.
The V12 is the star player in the whole package offering a truly addictive exhaust sound and a linear power delivery all the way up to its imaginary red line. Every single aspect of the vehicle is focused on accompanying this powerplant and its experience in a highly convincing way. The V12 Vantage is any petrolhead’s dream, a supercar with the right manners and an intrigueing story line.