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Car Review

Aston Martin V12 Speedster review

810
Published: 23 May 2021
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Did you bring a helmet? Oh. Well you best pop back inside and get one then. And if it’s an open-face, then have a pair of ski-goggles handy. Or your great-great-grandad’s flying hat. Don’t even think about going for a pootle in your V12 Speedster without some headgear.

Once you’re suited up, you’ll need to get settled in. The usual flush Aston door release pops open a slab-sided but lightweight door. You fall inside onto a slender carbon seat that has minimal padding stuck where your squashy bits need to sit. It is, however, more comfortable than it looks. And it’s heated. Result.

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Tug the door closed with the tan hide (there’s more leather strapping in the Speedster than Anastasia Steele’s understairs cupboard in here) and drink in the view. To get an idea of what it’s like, go and grab your PlayStation’s simulator steering wheel and then lie down in the bath.

The V12 Speedster’s beltline and scuttle comes up to your ears, and there’s worryingly little sense of whereabouts on the horizon that mighty nose might end. The door mirrors are useful, but there’s no rear-view mirror, and the double-hump buttresses behind cancel all rearward visibility. Aston has fitted a reversing camera, but it should have bolted in a periscope.

Ahead, the only piece of protection between you and the category five hurricane that’s about to perform a Euro NCAP crash test directly into your face is a small glass aero screen. That’s it. No ducts, no fans. You simply share the windrush you generate with the 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12’s hungry appetite.

It’s a mighty engine, over-endowed in torque everywhere in the rev-range, but criminally, you can’t hear it beyond trundling pace. Redline this monster in second and the wind rush out-shouts the engine.

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This, for me, is the greatest crime of the speedster as a genre. You’d imagine jettisoning the windscreen would turn the vehicle into a no-filter engine-appreciation theatre with you in the royal box. Instead, it might as well be electric. Want to bathe in the barrel-chested roar and overrun crackle? Save yourself half a million quid and bag a DBS Superleggera Volante.

Unable to hear the revs rise and fall, you’ll at least be less aware the Aston’s eight-speed auto slushbox is far from the sharpest paddleshifter around, though there’s so much grunt here Aston could’ve got away with a BMX bike’s single-speed chain drive. It’s happy enough left in auto mode, harnessing the avalanche of boost.

As per usual, Aston’s got its carbon brake feel spot on. The Speedster is arrested by enormous 410mm front discs, with 360mm rotors out back. They live inside centrelock wheels with a lugnut that needs a giant’s wrench to undo.

So what about handling? Well, this is a surprise. The V12 Speedster is comfortable. Softly sprung, compliant, and weirdly easy-going. It’s inherited Aston’s deft but rather light steering. Gone is the meaty feel from the old hydraulically-assisted cars, replaced with a Ferrari-like daintiness, albeit without the ‘sneeze and you’re in a tree’ sensitivity.

I suspect Aston’s done this to disguise the ugly truth: the V12 Speedster is not light. How a carbon-bodied clownshoe ends up at 1,765kg has a lot to do with the sheer mass and plumbing of that massive engine you can’t hear.

So, you have to be a bit patient on turn-in. Pour the car into a bend, trust it’ll bite, then steady on the gas because blimey, even with all the electronic safety nets set to ‘Maximum Wally’, it’ll spool up both back tyres in a heartbeat if you’re greedy and deploy the boost before the traction control gets its boots on.

However, once you’ve found a dry road and generated some tyre temperature, the V12 Speedster gels. You learn to stay in third for any sort of bend. You learn that just because you’ve got 691bhp, you needn’t use all of them. Aston says this car’s inspired by 1950s Le Mans racers, but think of it more like a land borne, wing-clipped Spitfire: a giant engine and delicate balance. Don’t forget your goggles.

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