Aston Martin V12 Vantage review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Aston Martin's biggest engine in its smallest sports car makes for a thrilling combination

For: 
Style, glorious V12 engine, direct steering
Against: 
Expensive compared to V8, not as well built as an Audi R8, looks similar to V8 Vantage

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Shoehorning Aston Martin’s biggest engine into its smallest sports car makes for an explosive combination. 

It uses the 6.0 litre V12 from the DB9/Virage/DBS range, and fitting it to the smaller Vantage results in a thrilling driving experience. It sits above the V8 Vantage in the range, and rivals the Audi R8 V10 for performance. However, the V12 Vantage doesn’t come cheap, as it has a price tag in excess of £130,000 – that’s nearly £7,000 more than a DB9 with the same engine.

The V12 Vantage S version is the fastest Aston ever, with a claimed 0-60mph time of 3.7 seconds and a 205mph top speed – but there’s more to the Vantage S than merely a big motor.

It gets a raft of updates over the standard V12 Vantage that it replaces, including a new seven-speed Sportshift gearbox, carbon-ceramic brakes and adaptive dampers.

Styling

4.8

The standard V8 Vantage is one of the most graceful-looking sports cars around, but the V12 gets a muscular update to go with its monster motor. The most obvious difference is the addition of four carbon fibre bonnet vents, which let hot air escape from the tightly packed engine bay.

The V12 Vantage has different rims and a subtly altered front end to the V8, but the S has styling tweaks reminiscent of Aston’s Vantage racing cars. Perfectly matched carbon fibre surrounds the open grille, plus there’s a carbon-finished front splitter and rear diffuser.

On our Carbon Pack car, the mirror housings and front wing air vent strakes are all finished in the same material. A vivid Flugplatz Blue paint is a £2,495 special order colour, while the £3,745 matt black lightweight alloys finish off the purposeful road-racer look.

Inside, the Aston doesn’t get a rollcage like its rivals, but the Alcantara-trimmed wheel, sports seats and metal steering column-mounted shift paddles add a racy feel to the plush interior. Unfortunately, some of the Vantage’s exclusivity is spoiled by the climate display, which is sourced from Volvo, and the Garmin sat-nav; you’d expect a bespoke system in a car that costs £140,000.

Driving

4.4

As you’d expect, the V12 Vantage is dominated by its powerhouse engine. Press the crystal-topped key into the dash, and the 6.0-litre engine barks into life. While it’s not as raucous as the Jaguar XKR-S's, it still sounds great.

The big V12 in the S model features race-inspired technology to produce 565bhp – nearly 100bhp more than the 469bhp Porsche 911 GT3. A huge 620Nm of torque is on offer, while 510Nm is available from1,000rpm. This means rapid in-gear acceleration, and you can let that pulling power do the work when you’re cruising.

Unfortunately, the new Sportshift III box isn’t at its best when you’re taking it easy. Let the electronics take over, and the Aston shunts between gears as the box attempts to get to the highest ratio as soon as possible.

Things are better on the open road. If you’re overtaking, the box will kick down seamlessly to the right ratio, while taking manual control rewards you with a satisfying throttle blip on downchanges. Yet upshifts feel ponderously slow after the 911, and you’ll need to lift off the throttle between changes to avoid jerks.

As with the Porsche, you need a track to exploit the Aston’s full potential, but it’s not quite on the same level as the GT3. Standard-fit adaptive dampers and carbon-ceramic brakes mean the Vantage delivers consistent performance and reduced body roll in corners. However, you need to be careful on the exit of bends, as it’s easy to break traction, even in a high gear. Turn off the stability control and the Aston is keen to go sideways at the slightest provocation, but the fast and accurate steering means it’s easy to catch any slide.

All of this is accompanied by the addictive roar of that big V12, so while this car can’t match the 911 for outright track performance, it still has the ability to entertain.

And when you’re not at 10-tenths on a track, the V12 Vantage is a capable cruiser. Switch the adaptive dampers to comfort mode, and the car may still feel stiff, but it’s by no means uncomfortable. You could definitely take it on a long road trip without complaint.

Reliability

3.8

The Vantage has been in production for nearly a decade. It uses the VH platform, which underpins all Astons, while each model is hand-finished to a high standard.

The V12 Vantage S benefits from the brand’s racing experience, as the Sportshift III transmission is derived from the gearbox used in its Le Mans racers. Meanwhile,the new V12 is also developed from the marque’s racing programme, so its endurance will have been tested to the limit.

All versions come with six airbags, stability control and carbon-ceramic brakes as standard.

Practicality

3.3

The V12 Vantage S is fairly practical for a two-seater sports car. As with all Aston Martins, the ‘swan’ doors angle up as they open, so you won’t scrape them on kerbs, and there’s plenty of room in the cabin. The dashboard layout is reasonable, although the single joystick controller for the sat-nav and stereo is a bit fiddly, as you need to remember to switch between modes before use.

The seats tip forward electrically at the push of a button to allow access to a back shelf, where you can put a couple of squashy bags, but the rear luggage area is quite small. That’s because the Aston is not very long, while the rear suspension and axle-mounted gearbox take up a lot of space under the floor.

Running Costs

1.7

At £138,000 the V12 Vantage S is expensive, but some will appreciate its exclusivity as well as the fact you’re getting Aston Martin’s fastest road car. A big V12 is always going to lose the battle for efficiency, yet if you’re spending this much on a sports car, high emissions and claimed fuel economy of 19.2mpg aren’t going to be too much of an issue.

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"Against": looks similar to V8 Vantage
If looking similar to an Aston V8 Vantage counts against a car then something is wrong with the world.

Last updated: 11 Mar, 2014
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