Outrageous to look at, courageous to drive, everybody loves it
Not loud or involving enough, interior is only ok, looks a bit OTT
What is it?
You won’t be confused as to which Vantage you’re looking at, that’s for sure. This is the new Aston V12 Vantage - the 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 from the contemporary DB11 and DBS Superleggera stuffed into the comparatively small Vantage.
Usually a much more compact, lighter biturbo V8 sits in that nose. This isn’t a new idea though; AM has previous when it comes to V12s in Vantages - the original appeared in 2009, albeit with a touch more subtlety in the bodywork/aerodynamics department.
In this iteration, you’re looking at just under 700bhp, 550lb ft of torque and 385bhp per tonne - the latter a little down because V12s are well-known fatties. Still, a Vantage that does 0-62mph in the mid-threes and the double-tonne top end is not to be sniffed at.
Plus, this is V12 and rear-wheel drive. V12s do noise like nothing else, and rear-wheel drive means fun times and tyre bills you’re almost happy to pay. Or at least calmly resigned to.
But it’s not exactly subtle, is it?
Nope. Although it very much depends on the way you spec the car. A 40mm expansion of the track width doesn’t sound like much, but the V12 Vantage looks thick and wide, the impression of serious-faced intensity amplified by a decidedly indiscreet set of exterior modifications.
Starting at the front, there’s a new carbon fibre front bumper and bonnet - now with a slash-cut horseshoe-shaped vent in the front - and carbon front wings linked to the rear by a new, one-piece carbon sideskirt ‘inspired by motorsport’ that looks great. There’s carbon on the roof, and the rear bumper and Venturi is new (yup, carbon fibre), as are the integrated twin pipes of the centre-exit exhaust system, which is made of actual metal, albeit thinner than usual to save weight and to stop it melting.
Then there’s the big wing plonked onto the carbon bootlid which makes the V12 Vantage look like it might actually be more comfortable in livery rather than customer paint. Interestingly, you can option the V12 without, and once you’ve seen the V12 bare and in a more sober colour (Aston’s Q Division will paint any shade you wish), we doubt the ironing board will be on the agenda.
Especially when you learn that - according to Aston - the V12 has ‘similar levels of high-speed stability’ without the wing (although less overall downforce). The whole lot produces 204kg of aero at 200mph apparently, although that’s a hard one to prove outside of a wind tunnel or handy Nardo.
But with all that carbon, it’s basically an ‘RS’ version of a Vantage, right?
Well, you might think so. The new exhaust apparently saves 7.2kg, the optional carbon seats 7.3kg, the standard carbon-ceramic brakes 23kg. The kind of proudly noted minutiae that speaks of obsessive weight saving. But the seats are still part-electric - there’s a pull-strap for the base, motors for the seatback and a full set of now partially-redundant controls on the centre console. The V12 isn’t small or particularly hollow. And the car still weighs at least 150kg more than a V8 Coupe. So no. There’s a bit of confusion as to whether this is a bonkers muscle car or a track refugee.
But look at it! It must be fast.
It is. There’s no denying that. And the noise is lovely - but it’s missing something. That final crescendo that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up is AWOL. Maybe it’s the turbos damping the sound, maybe it’s just been set up to be all exhaust, but this is more effective than sonorous.
It’s also a generous wave of power that builds relatively slowly, rather than the aggressive attack motor that you might expect from looking at the outside of the car. The V12 loves to stay up in the rev-range and keep pulling, but you get the feeling that it would suit something that wants to bite your hand off. Something crisper and harder-edged. And at £270k-ish, a regular or F1 Edition Vantage at £140k-ish is a lot cheaper, and very nearly as fast.
What's the verdict?
Overkill in a pure form, but somehow less wantonly silly as previous V12 Vantages; they’ve never been about absolute speed, but more about excitement and excess. This new version manages to look intense, but somehow also take itself a touch too seriously.
Obviously the madness here is to be celebrated, endorsed and enjoyed, but done so with the acceptance that this is a caricature. And it makes no difference anyway; the 333-car run has already sold out, presumably to people who understand the flaws, but enjoy the fireworks.
And like a firework, this is the V12 going out with a bang and then a fade to black, just like the boss of the company; Aston’s recently-replaced boss Tobias Moers has said that this car will be the last of the V12 Vantages as more efficient powertrains enter the Aston Martin portfolio. One last blast for the lucky few, but you get the feeling that it’s the right decision.