Best of the best: generations of the Aston Martin V12 flagship
To many, the V12 engine is something to aspire to. The biggest and most powerful iterations of road-going machinery made readily available to the lucky few and by extension, the closest they can get to channeling their inner Sebastien Vettel.
As a direct result of the automotive industry’s quest for greener motoring, the relative paucity of the ostentatious V12 engine format increases exponentially, and with it comes rising desirability. With more and more manufacturers releasing their last hurrah V12s, a thriving investor and collector market has taken hold as enthusiasts cling to the evocative, earth-shaking rumble that only this engine configuration can provide.
Aside from the obvious manufacturers – Ferrari and Lamborghini – there are still several advocates of the V12 in the industry. One such carmaker is Aston Martin and having revealed its final V12 Vantage earlier this year, the dialogue surrounding the finite nature of this particular automotive epithet has ramped up somewhat.
With that being said, several of these ‘on the brink of extinction’ examples lie in wait at The PaddlUp Rooms, waiting to roar once more…
First generation V12 Vanquish (2001–2007)
‘Project Vantage’, a concept conceived to replace the Virage, was the first Ian Callum-led blueprint and borrowed design cues from the iconic DB4 GT Zagato. Underneath the aggressive aesthetic of the Vanquish, carbon fibre elements created through a collaboration with Lotus and a unique bonded aluminium composite chassis were mated with a sophisticated independent suspension system. A finely tuned version of the DB7’s naturally aspirated 5.9-litre V12 was of course the focal point of the final all-new model to leave the Newport Pagnell premises.
Perhaps the V12 Vanquish’s biggest claim to fame was when Pierce Brosnan drove it in his final appearance as James Bond (Die Another Day) flaunting the customary futuristic weapons expected from the franchise. Rear-wheel drive was substituted for four-wheel drive and a 300bhp Ford V8 adapted it for the film’s extended ice sequences. A more track-focussed ‘S’ edition was launched halfway through the production phase and several limited edition versions followed including 50 Ultimate Editions. The original Vanquish was a hit with fans of the marque, customers and the press and went from 0–60 mph in five seconds.
DBS V12 (2008–2012)
A worthy successor to the original Vanquish, the DBS carried the flagship torch from 2008 to 2012 and reviving the moniker from Aston’s 1967–72 grand tourer. Like its predecessor, the DBS featured in a Bond film but this one would be Daniel Craig’s debut as 007. Renowned specifically for its dramatic 70mph, seven-roll stunt that became a new Guinness World Record, this car was significantly toned down when it came to weaponry but was no less memorable.
Based on the DB9, the DBS was the starting point for several variants, the first of which came in the shape of a convertible dubbed the Volante. In conjunction with Volante production, Aston also offered a number of limited edition versions named Carbon Black, Carbon Edition, and Year of the Dragon 88 Limited Edition, all of which largely comprised aesthetic options and carbon as far as the eye could see. 0 to 62 mph was achieved in 4.3 seconds and the DBS continued on to 192 mph.
Second generation Vanquish (2012–2018)
The only Aston Martin V12 flagship not to be driven by the UK’s greatest secret agent was the second generation Vanquish, but that did nothing to dispel its desirability amongst those faithful to the marque. In part that is down to the styling; an evolution of the DBS before it, the Vanquish also borrowed several design elements from the One-77 and the amalgam of the two sources of inspiration proved inspired. Of course, power was improved upon as well with an evolution of both the 5.9-litre AM11 V12 engine and the gearbox which was replaced midway through production to a ZF Touchtronic III eight-speed automatic gearbox. These elements propel the Vanquish from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds.
The second contemporary Aston to don the Vanquish appellation emerged from the state-of-the-art Gaydon facility but rather significantly dropped the V12 aspect of its name. Naturally, there were subsequent models released such as the S and the Ultimate, both of which added to the already ample exclusivity of the Vanquish itself. Further exterior and interior modifications came with the premium designations and, in the case of the Ultimate, three distinguishing themes to ensure they stood out from the crowd. With only 175 Ultimates leaving the factory, this is the true zenith of the Vanquish.
View the full listing for the 2017 Aston Martin Vanquish S.
For more information on the 2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S Ultimate click here.
DBS Superleggera (2018–present)
The DBS Superleggera brings us up to date, with the most complete, contemporary V12 offering from the British marque. With it, comes staggering performance statistics such as 664 lb-ft of torque at 1800rpm and 715bhp making it the most powerful full series production Aston in the brand’s history. The name is befitting of such an accolade with DBS paying tribute to the aforementioned DBS V12 and original DBS, whilst Superleggera – which has since been dropped from the title in 2022 – was an expedient homage to Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera which collaborated on the Aston Martin grand tourers of the late twentieth century.
A return to the James Bond franchise for the V12 flagship seemed inevitable with the culmination of Daniel Craig’s storyline as the iconic character. Despite featuring for only a minute of screen time in a film brimming with throwbacks to the Aston Martin’s of yesteryear, those in the know would’ve positively giddy at a glimpse of the crown jewel of the brand’s offering.
View more information on the 2021 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera here.