Aston Martin V12 Vantage
When Aston Martin was tasked with replacing the previous model Vantage, it must have been one of the toughest jobs around (alongside the new LR Defender). The Vantage was widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever produced, and even after a 13yr production run it still looked fresh, modern and classy. And once they had sorted out the looks, they then had to make it better to drive too, no small feat.
You see the V8 Vantage was a fantastic GT sports car, with a bellowing engine note and sweet handling, but above it sat one of the best cars Aston has ever made. Only Aston Martin would think to take the smallest car they sell and fit the biggest engine, but that’s what they did with the V12 Vantage in 2009. Featuring the 5.9 litre naturally aspirated V12 engine from the DBS, it produced 510bhp which was sent to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. This had pure big chested V12 power, made an incredible noise, was even better looking thanks to some choice styling modifications and handled brilliantly.
So in 2018 the new Aston Martin Vantage was released, with a bold new modern look. Many ‘traditional’ Aston Martin fans and owners didn’t like this new direction with the huge lower grille and particularly the fact that it had a Mercedes-AMG sourced 4.0 litre twin turbo V8 engine. Sure it was more powerful than the old car, but they didn’t like the Mercedes engine and infotainment system. It’s a fairly silly thing to complain about really, as it made the car immeasurably better in every way, but the jingoistic, tweed-wearing Astonists certainly weren’t happy. Luckily, Aston Martin had something up their sleeves and it was an old formula revisited…
That old formula was fairly simple in theory – stick the biggest engine from the DBS into the Vantage, just like before. Only now, the biggest engine was a 5.2 litre V12 with two turbos and a whole lot of pipework, cooling and associated gubbins and the new Vantage had a fairly tight engine bay. So Aston needed to somehow fund the engineering work on squeezing this engine in, without it impacting the profits – so they went down a rather clever route. You see, nowadays exclusive manufacturers can make super limited specials and charge an arm and a leg for them, the engineering of which often then trickles down to other models – and so the Aston Martin Speedster was born.
Following on from the success of the Ferrari Monza SP1 and SP2, Aston Martin decided to create an open top, windscreen-less speedster based around the Vantage but using the DBS engine. As we’ve determined, this didn’t fit so they needed a new frontal structure which used parts of the DBS Superleggera and Vanquish front ends to enable the engine and associated cooling to fit. It was a gorgeous special car too, with only 88 cars made, carbon fibre bodywork, extra aero around the rear and a far more aggressive looking nose. The fact that the Speedster cost around £850,000 once specced up meant that a lot of the development costs for the new V12 Vantage were already paid for. Clever stuff. Then the long process of developing the new V12 Vantage started, seemingly at the same time as Aston started their social media teaser campaign (it was a looooong one). But finally, we had our first look at the new model. FYI, the Aston press shots are terrible – truly awful CGI images with the rubbish wheels and a boring colour – so we’ve used their configurator to create our own beautifully specced V12 Vantage and the images look great. Go figure!
So, let’s start with the styling and that front end. The V12 Vantage takes the newer optional grille from the V8 Vantage and makes it considerably deeper, flanking it with two intakes for brake cooling. Below that sits a new splitter which adds proper downforce in conjunction with the other aero kit parts. As with the other parts, the splitter can be had in gloss black or in visible carbon fibre. The bonnet when viewed from low down looks fairly normal, but when you look down on it you notice the huge vent that runs the whole width in a lovely curve. The upper section of this can be had in contrasting visible carbon fibre (the whole bonnet is carbon), along with the roof panel. The front wings cover a front track that is 40mm wider than the V8 (matched at the rear) and adds to the aggressive stance.
As we get to the side, this is where things really get radically different. The side sill is much wider to match up with the widened arches, but just behind the front wheel the sill splits and curves upwards creating a huge panel vent that intersects with a new wing vent which relieves pressure in the wheel well and aids aero. This section looks particularly good in carbon and when you add the pinstripe option – a thin painted line along the edge of the front splitter, side skirts/vent and rear diffuser it really highlights the additional shapes and curves. Around the back there are yet more changes, highlighting just how much has changed for this new model – no long a set of different wheels and bonnet vents!
Lower down we see the huge new rear diffuser, with actual aero benefits and housing the new central twin exit titanium exhaust system. There are a couple more vents above that, again this all looks amazing in visible carbon set off with the pinstripe. Sitting atop the bootlid is a truly enormous rear wing, a massive curved piece of carbon fibre sitting on aluminium struts, which works with all the other aero to produce an impressive 204kg of downforce at top speed. The thing is – you can remove the rear wing as an option, so that leads us to think it can’t be too essential to the overall aero balance. It does look cool though…
You’ll certainly need that downforce if you intend to use the new powerplant to its fullest potential though. Sitting under that lovely new bonnet is the 5.2 litre twin turbo V12 from the DBS, in this tune putting out a staggering 690bhp and 750Nm of torque. That’s down on the DBS obviously, but there are probably cooling and model hierarchy considerations that have driven it. The V12 Vantage can get from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds on the way to its 200mph top speed. That sprint time has been pointed out by some internet keyboard warriors as being slower than the new DBX707 SUV, but quite simply that SUV has all-wheel drive which helps massively off the line so it’s no surprise. Two wheels can only do so much when trying to get 690bhp onto the tarmac.
The bodywork of the V12 Vantage is mostly carbon fibre, but when you see the weight figure, it’s clear that there must have been considerable stiffening and bracing work to accommodate the V12 engine, as this range-topper weighs in at a fairly staggering 1795kg in its lightest form – that’s 165kg more than the V8. The engine is obviously larger, plus the associated larger cooling system, but no matter how you look at it, with a full tank of fuel and a driver on board this is likely to be almost 2 tonnes in weight – certainly no lightweight McLaren. There have been some serious weight saving measures taken though – the titanium exhaust saves 7.2kg and the lightweight battery a further 3kg alone.
The exhaust is worth note too – as from Aston Martin’s promotional video and social media posts the V12 Vantage sounds incredible – a proper V12 bark and snarl that will no doubt be just as sonorous under load. Their social media hashtag was even #neverleavequietly!
The interior of the V8 Vantage has come under a lot of criticism since the launch, as it has older Merc software and lots of buttons. It may be old Mercedes tech, but it’s still light years ahead of the previous Vantage, and in a world where everything is moving to touch screens, having actual physical buttons that allow you to concentrate on driving the 690bhp RWD monster as opposed to taking your eyes off the road to scroll through various menus – should be celebrated. The V12 does get the option of some stunning carbon-backed bucket seats though, which lift the interior a huge amount and help with keeping the weight down.
As with any Aston Martin, the options list is endless, with so many paint and spec choices, most of which come with a rather large £ sign next to them. The base price of the V12 Vantage is £265,000, with only 333 to be made, but they’re all apparently sold. However, if you wanted to add the lightweight pack (a must we’d say) which adds all the carbon parts, the lightweight wheels, seats etc, plus some nice paint like above, special leather and alcantara and deviated stitching you could expect that price to be well north of £300,000.
Aston Martin claim that this is the last V12 Vantage that will ever be made – a nod to the impending stricter emissions regulations and EV Astons. But going off previous form, we’re sure there’ll be a V12 Vantage Roadster coming along in a year or so. Technically the Vantage Roadster is a different model to the Vantage, so they’re not lying, just stretching the truth a little. And the V12 Vantage S was a separate model too, so maybe a V12S coming, and of course the V12S Roadster…