Aston Martin V12 Vantage

British firm has fitted a monster new engine in its smallest model – and Auto Express is first to get behind the wheel

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Is this the best Aston ever? Just maybe. By fitting a mighty 6.0-litre V12 engine into its petite Vantage, the company has created a car few machines can rival for character and driver appeal. The £135,000 model is also well engineered, and a treat to spend time in. Squeezing into the figure-hugging driver’s seat is no mean feat, but immensely rewarding. And we can’t think of anything with a better exhaust note!

Big engine, small car – this is the ultimate go-fast formula when it comes to building supercars, and one that’s given us some famous machines.

The AC Cobra, the stunning Bugatti Veyron and even the original McLaren F1 all share that special balance between engine size and overall bulk. So, is Aston Martin’s new V12 Vantage ready to join this small, exclusive club?

On paper, you’d certainly think so! At 4,382mm long, the V12 Vantage is about the same length as a Ford Focus. Yet squeezed under the lightweight, heavily vented bonnet is the enormous 6.0-litre V12 that debuted in the incredible DBS.

It delivers 510bhp and 570Nm of torque – enough to slingshot the newcomer from 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 190mph.

The big question is, what’s the car like to drive? Predictably, first impressions are dominated by the engine, which is hard to ignore. Although the drama builds as you climb into the figure-hugging, optional carbon shell seats fitted to our car, the V12 is the undoubted star of the show. From the moment you get behind the wheel and push the sapphire-tipped key into the dash, the pulsating engine note fills the cabin with a deep, purposeful bark.

Throttle travel is long, and the clutch surprisingly light and easy to control. As a result, getting the car off the line couldn’t be easier. In fact, it’s so powerful, you barely need to touch the throttle to start the Vantage rolling.

Steering is weighty, and has a meaty, direct feel, which is enhanced by the small, slim, Alcantara-trimmed wheel. But as you head out on to the open road, the V12 serves up its first surprise.

Power delivery is smooth, gearchanges are slick and the ride is unexpectedly supple. Obviously, with all the weight of the engine up front (the V12 is 100kg heavier than the 4.7-litre V8), the ride is still firm – but it’s not crashy like some rivals, including the Porsche 911 GT2. For ultimate aural thrills, hit the sport button, located in front of the gearlever. This sharpens throttle response, and makes the exhausts even louder by opening the baffles.

Over fast, winding roads, these character traits combine to create a car that’s not just fun to drive, but immensely rewarding as well. At full throttle, the Aston demands fluid, measured inputs from the driver. However, it remains devastatingly fast point to point, not least because of the gargantuan amount of thrust on offer under the bonnet, combined with the incredibly grippy Pirelli tyres.

The final gold star has to go to the carbon ceramic brakes. As well as being light, they provide unbeatable stopping power – exactly what you need to build the confidence to make the very most of this model’s impressive potential. Looks like the big engine, small car club just got a thrilling new member.

Rival: Porsche 911 GT2 The ultimate 911 is faster in a straight line than the mighty Aston – covering 0-60mph in a blistering 3.7 seconds. Its chassis is competent, but clinical compared to the V12.

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