Aston Martin V12 Vantage

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Only a mushy accelerator prevents the V12 Vantage from running away with the marque's laurels

Two weeks ago I took part in the Mille Miglia, a celebratory road rally designed to evoke the spirit of the Italian road race of that name. Expensive, exotic sports cars from the 1920s right up to the event's demise in 1957 reconvene for a fabulously hedonistic thrash on a route from Brescia to Rome and back. It's not a race, although some participants (including, last year, chef James Martin whose programme on the event missed the point entirely) might think so.

I did the Mille not in some insanely valuable work of automotive art but in a 1948 Fiat 1100S Coupé with just 51bhp but a lot of spirit within its streamlined, bright red body. We had a great time before a spark plug popped out of the cylinder head three-quarters of the way round, taking the threads with it.

And my point is?

That there was no sign whatsoever of any form of financial shortfall among the 377 entrants, suggesting that for some fortunate folk it's high-end auto-business as usual. Lucky them. And it's such luck-attractors (38 of them so far, plus one who bought the chassis displayed at the Geneva motor show) who feel able to spend more than £1m on a 750bhp Aston Martin One-77, a car whose price edged up past £100,000 to help Aston Martin keep afloat. That Aston Martin can do this shows remarkable confidence and not a little pragmatism.

In the slightly more understandable world of cars with price tags in the low six-figures, Aston Martin's hopes are similarly high for it has launched another permutation of the parts that inhabit this price point. You see it here; the Aston Martin V12 Vantage is broadly the existing Vantage V8 with the engine of the hitherto-fastest V12 model, the DBS. Smallish body, monster engine, huge pace and optimum agility. Who would want a DBS now, when you can have a more wieldy car for less money? The figures are £135,000 versus £159,043 – a smoking hole in a foot might be detected. Aston Martin explains it by deciding that the DBS, itself a faster, harder-edged DB9, is a high-end GT car whereas the V12 Vantage is an ultimate sports car. Well, maybe; certainly it exists only with a closed coupé body and a six-speed manual transmission, so there's no dilution of purpose. That coupé body is spectacularly good-looking. The V8 was always thus, but with a deeper nose, fewer grille-slats, a revised tail-diffuser, extended sills, wider wheels and a fine collection of vent strakes on the bonnet, it looks more muscular without descending into bling. Inside, you can have fixed-back, carbonfibre-shelled racing seats for an extra £1,756 (should be standard), and the steering wheel is covered with Alcantara mock suede.

Squeezing the V12 into a structure which, while similar to a DBS's in being made from bonded aluminium, is shorter, was not easy. The engine weighs around 100kg more, but the complete car's mass rises by just 50kg by shaving weight elsewhere (carbon-ceramic brakes, carbonfibre door handles, lighter carpets, lighter wheels and more). Peripheral engine components had to be shrunk and repositioned, cooling had to be sufficient.

I drove it in Germany, on my way home from the Mille Miglia. Some autobahns still lack speed limits and the prospect of the 190mph top speed was tempting, but prudence and traffic intervened. This is one mightily rapid car, though; like the Audi R8 V10, similarly an enhanced-engine version of something already very quick, the ready torrent of energy from almost any engine speed is what really impresses. That, and the hard howl from the exhausts especially when the by-pass valves have opened.

The DBS has adaptive dampers which never quite let the car settle. The V12 Vantage has simpler suspension with normal dampers, and it both rides bumps with more suppleness (though it's still firm) and steers more progressively. That said, your first bends are taken in a series of darting movements until you learn the required lightness of touch and trust the front wheels' enormous and immediate grip. This done, you can squirt the V12 Vantage along sinuous roads like no Aston ever before. Seldom does a car hide its mass so well.

Just one snag. The accelerator has two modes, normal and sport. Both are troubled by an initial mushiness, which continues in normal but switches to a rush of energy in sport at a point infuriatingly hard to define. It's fine if you're rushing, frustrating when you want crispness but are not trying to break records. Ferrari ditched a similar system in the HGTE version of its 599, and it is now more natural and pleasing. Aston Martin should do the same. Make it simpler, chaps, and your V12 Vantage could really claim to be the greatest Aston of modern times.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
News
people
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 2 Teacher - Maternity cover

    £120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...

    KS1 Teacher

    £95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

    Upper KS2 Teacher

    £120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

    English Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments