Aston Martin is getting serious with its V12 Vantage. Steve Walker reports.
Aston Martin has traditionally trodden a slightly more reserved path than the other elite sports car manufacturers. Its products have tended to be more casino and country house than trendy wine bar and pit garage, retaining their old money class where rivals have chased the demand for ever greater speed, focus and flamboyance. This was always a conscious decision: Aston Martin would remain elegantly aloof from the vulgar high-performance one-upmanship indulged in by rivals but now it appears that the marque's powerbrokers have made another conscious decision - to show the upstarts how it's really done. Introducing the Aston Martin V12 Vantage.
Ten Second Review
The V12 Vantage is the most aggressive Aston Martin yet and it has the world's high performance sports car elite in its sights. With 510bhp from its 6.0-litre V12 engine, carbon ceramic brakes and masses of grip, the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, Audi and Lamborghini had better watch out.
Since the sad demise of the Vanquish supercar, Aston Martin was without a real headbanger to worry the performance car elite. The Vantage V12 is designed to change all that. By no means a replacement for the pricey Vanquish, the V12 will provide a challenge to the top echelon of performance sports cars. The Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi's R8 V10, Ferrari's F430, Lamborghini's Gallardo: these are the targets and Aston will need to be bang on its game if it's to score the required bullseye.
The V12 moniker leaves nobody in any doubt as to what's packed under the bonnet of this Vantage. The 6.0-litre twelve-cylinder engine sends 510bhp to the rear wheels at 6,500rpm and at 5,750rpm it's making 570Nm of torque. This hints at mind warping acceleration and brutal in-gear grunt. With a 0-60mph time of 4.1s and a 190mph top speed, the Vantage has the raw pace to trouble pretty much anything else on the road. Aston Martin's engineers have taken steps to ensure it can deliver the goods on track too. The engine features a number of modifications over the V12 unit found in the DB9. There's a revised induction system, re-profiled air inlet ports and a bypass air intake port that opens at 5,500rpm. It all works to improve the air-flow around the engine and maximise performance. The Sport button is a feature exclusive to the V12 Vantage and when the road opens up, it should attract a driver's fingers like the fire alarm does a naughty schoolboy's. In normal mode, the throttle response is relaxed and more manageable for everyday driving. Select 'Sport' however, and everything becomes more aggressive. Even the exhaust takes on a more purposeful note.
Design and Build
Many of the fine details of the V12 Vantage have been refined as a result of knowledge gained from running the N24 race car in the gruelling Nurburgring 24hr race. The N24 is a V12-engined version of the V8 Vantage and its emergence immediately set the rumour mills in motion, churning out gossip regarding the possibility of a production version. Now it's here. The classic V8 Vantage shape is instantly recognisable with the long bonnet and the energy stored in those powerful rear haunches but the V12 Vantage rides 15mm lower and proudly bears a cluster of additional air vents on its bonnet to help its mighty engine breathe. Stiffer anti-roll bars help the V12 corner harder, as do the enormous wheels which are 28cm wide at the rear compared to 24cm on the V8 model. They earn their money too; the V12 Vantage can pull up to 1.3g through corners. The process of fitting a V12 engine wasn't without its headaches. It's 100kg heavier than the V8 in the standard Vantage but weight saving measures elsewhere on the car mean that it's only 50kg heavier overall at 1,680kg. Opening the bonnet is like taking the lid off an overstuffed tub of marshmallows. The engine cover seems to bulge out at you with its wholly believable '6.0 V12' logo. Every inch of space seems packed with the machinery of horsepower creation and to get the engine to fit at all, a number of complex modifications needed to be made to the chassis and front suspension of the Vantage. Cooling too was a major concern in development but the bonnet vents, the grille and the absence of an under tray provide enough fresh air to do the job.
Market and Model
As you'd imagine, your £140,000 gets you a fairly lavish specification. The standard braking system uses CCM carbon ceramic brake discs, the front versions of which are 398mm in diameter and acted upon by six-piston callipers. There's an advanced DSC stability control system that can be set into Track Mode to allow a certain degree of sideways action or disengaged completely should you feel like letting it all hang out. In the cabin the finishes are a mix of chrome, Alcantara and carbon fibre with the lightweight sports seats being constructed form a carbon fibre and Kevlar mix. The instruments are as beautifully designed as we've come to expect from Aston Martin and customers certainly aren't expected to rough it when it comes to technology. A hard disk satellite navigation system, Bluetooth compatibility, electric seat adjustment and automatic climate control are just some of the mod cons thrown in.
Cost of Ownership
The downside to all this capability tends to rear its ugly head when we get on to the subject of running costs but most Vantage V12 buyers won't give two hoots about the 17mpg combined fuel consumption and 388g/km emissions they can expect from this car. It's just the price you pay in this specialist sector of the market.
Much more than just a Vantage with a bigger engine, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage has been thoroughly re-engineered to create a car with a very different focus. Aston's traditional cool reserve still lingers in the classy lines of the bodywork and the slick interior but the V12 also has a hard streak of aggression running through it. Aston Martin hasn't really troubled the elite sports car sector in the past but the V12 changes all that and in some style.