Aston Martin V12 Vantage - a manual masterclass
Substance as well as style
Sticking a huge engine in a small car is a formula that will always be appealing. The Vantage isn’t exactly tiny, but the 5.9-litre V12 shoehorned under the bonnet is certainly a snug fit, especially given that the car was originally launched with a 4.3-litre V8.
The Vantage has always been a stunning car in any form, but the V12 has a particularly muscular squat look about it. The twelve-cylinder cars are easily identifiable by the array of vents in the carbon fibre bonnet. The boot lid is also carbon fibre to help compensate for the extra weight that accompanies four extra cylinders.
The car you see here is a Carbon Black edition, with paintwork that Aston claims takes 50-man hours to apply. You also get a set of diamond-cut wheels as well as black leather with silver stitching.
Step into the interior of the Vantage and you’re immediately struck by a few things. The first is the identifiable Volvo warning bong, and the second is the peculiar handbrake. It looks just like a normal handbrake aside from being situated right by the door to the right of the driver’s seat, but the action required to use it is a little bit different. When you pull it up you’ll initially question if it’s broken or not as it’ll be limp, you then have to push the button in at the very top and let it back down to release it.
Gloss over those intriguing features and you’ll see that the interior has some tasteful touches. The headliner, seat centres, and the steering wheel are all covered in Alcantara, whilst the remainder of the interior is engulfed in leather. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the gear knob that takes centre stage, which is ergonomically unique. The seating position is fantastic as well, even with the electrically adjustable seats you’re still able to sit snuggly in the cabin.
Push the key into the start button and you’ll immediately be made aware that the Vantage is unequivocally unapologetic about its powerplant, it’s not trying to be discreet with its cylinder count like a Bentley or Rolls-Royce 12-pot. The startup noise is prodigious and once all twelve cylinders are firing you get a soothing yet somewhat sinister thrum at idle.
On the go, the sound that emits from the tailpipes is burly and brash but manages to sound just as epic cruising around at low speed as it does when spinning it up to the redline. If you don’t really fancy the sound of twelve cylinders then there’s always the 700-watt sound system instead.
Hit the sport button and the throttle sharpens up but isn’t overly sensitive, it only entices you to press the loud pedal further. Just over 80% of the torque is available at 1000rpm, so it’s certainly not an engine you need to wring the neck of to get the most out of it. It really is a peach of an engine, the likes of which we’re unlikely to see again in a car like this.
The ride is firm enough to remind you that it’s no wafty cruiser, but it’s definitely not crashy, though British B-roads can bring the worst out of any performance car's suspension. Old-school hydraulic steering means you get a pleasant feel through the wheel, and a fabulous set of carbon ceramic brakes mean that coming to a halt is no trouble at all. The V12 Vantage never feels like a widow maker with 295-section rear tyres offering up plenty of confidence-inspiring grip.
The V12 Vantage is a fabulous reminder of how great not only Aston Martin can be, but also performance cars in general. V12 crammed under the bonnet, manual gearbox, and timeless styling. It’s almost impossible not to love it.