The Aston Martin Vantage V12 has been a huge hit in coupe form. Can a roadster version keep all that horsepower in check? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
For some people, too much power merely represents a good start and for those who want a lot of noise, drama and presence, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster could be their vehicle of choice. With a 510bhp 6.0-litre engine and a £150,000 price tag, it's not for those burdened with fragile egos.
The Aston Martin Vantage is available with two engines, a V8 and a V12, and with the smaller unit, you get a choice of either a coupe or a roadster body. But, initially at least, the V12 was coupe-only. Until mid-2012 when, being a champion of consumer choice, Aston Martin finally relented and launched the Vantage V12 Roadster, a car for those who like their soundtracks loud and unfiltered. Before we discuss whether this is actually a great idea, a little background. The V12 was first shoehorned into the Vanquish back in 2009 and since then, the company has been involved in an ongoing quest to make the thing driveable. Put any such massively powerful engine in a car with a short wheelbase and a wide track and you're liable to end up with a bit of a handful. To then lop the roof off only adds to the chassis engineer's workload. Still, the brand has gone ahead anyway and while the V12 Vantage Roadster isn't the most expensive Aston, there are plenty who will see it as the most desirable.
The 6.0-litre twelve-cylinder engine really is the star of this particular show and sends 510bhp to the rear wheels at 6,500rpm. 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 just over four seconds and a 190mph top speed, the Vantage Roadster has the chops to keep pace with some fairly serious tackle, although keener drivers will probably remain drawn to the coupe version. 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. The powerplant 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 will appeal to those Roadster customers who want to attract attention from every angle, the exhaust becoming that much noisier when it's depressed. This is one of the all-time great engine notes and you'll want to be keying in the location of every tunnel in a 50 mile radius into your sat nav.
Design and Build
The V12 Vantage Roadster certainly majors on presence, riding 15mm lower than the V8 and bears a cluster of additional air vents on its bonnet to help its mighty engine breathe. The process of fitting a V12 engine wasn't without its headaches. It's 100kg heavier than the V8 in the standard Vantage. Opening the bonnet is like taking the lid off an overstuffed tub of marshmallows. The engine cover seems to bulge out at you and every inch of space seems packed with the machinery of horsepower creation. 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. The Roadster's styling is intended to evoke the look of 'an athlete wearing a skin-tight suit', an analogy that doesn't work quite as well as the Thinsulate three-layer fabric roof which can be raised or lowered in just 18s at speeds of up to 30mph and stores compactly when down beneath an aluminium tonneau cover with no fiddling with catches or clips.
Market and Model
Carrying a list price of £150,000, the Vantage V12 Roaster is over £50,000 dearer than its V8 counterpart. Given that many feel the V8 coupe to be a sweeter steer than the V12, how can this represent decent value for money? It can when we no longer stick to the rules 'normal' people use when choosing and buying a car and instead look at the selection criteria when money really isn't that much of an issue. You want the loudest, most hairy-chested car Aston Martin makes? This is it. That's all it needs to do well.
Cost of Ownership
Aston Martin Vantage Roadsters are no longer the virtually depreciation-proof asset they once represented and even this flagship V12 model will probably only be worth somewhere less than 50 per cent of its new value in three years time. Sloughing off £25,000 a year in depreciation makes this a car for people with genuinely deep pockets. Elsewhere it will generate big bills too. Servicing and spares are pricey, tyres are around £400 a corner and you'll only get single figure fuel economy should you get a bit enthusiastic with the throttle pedal. The bottom line is that if you think you can just about afford this car, then you probably can't.
The Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster is a fiercely expensive plaything. It's beautifully engineered, is undoubtedly a fantastic ownership proposition if big bills can be shrugged off without worry and has one of the most charismatic soundtracks you'll find of any model in this segment. Of course, we could debate until we're blue in the face as to whether it's even a good car, let alone a great one, but in truth, this is largely irrelevant. If it presses all the right buttons with its target clientele, and there's little to suggest it won't, it'll be just the latest success to come out of Gaydon. There have been purer Aston Martins and there have been Astons that have represented better value, but it's hard to think of any car from the marque that possesses such ferocity and presence. This might never be a 'performance car of the year' contender, but it's got desirability running from every pore and these sort of flawed, extreme models often end up being the most valuable collectors items. It makes no sense, but that is its biggest selling point. Who said high end buying decisions were ever logical?