Most people get confused and wonder why there is some strange growling noise when my phone rings. But with the push of a button, I’m able to educate those around me, since my ring tone is the sound of Aston Martin 6.0-liter V-12 starting up.
Not that I told anyone this while I had the V12 Vantage in my possession, but my ring tone is actually of the V-12 from the last-generation DB9. Not that it matters, because Aston’s twelve-cylinder sounds so very sweet no matter what vehicle in which you find it. The 6.0-liter vociferously roars to life when you push the glass key into its slot and treats anyone within earshot to its siren song at 4500 rpm (or at 3500 rpm with the active exhaust system enabled).
The V12 Vantage delights all five of your senses. Audibly with the sonorous growling, wailing, snapping, popping, crackling, and barking of the intake and exhaust of the V-12 and the fantastic Bang & Olufsen audio system. Visually with the sinuous, glamorous, understated, eye-catching, artfully crafted exterior design. To the touch, with a cabin swathed in the highest-quality hides, Alcantara, real metal, and glass. To the smell, with the scent of burning hydrocarbons, which always seems sweeter when it comes to you through the open window of a sports car that has been revved to its redline of 6800 rpm. And even to the taste, as the flavor of adrenaline comes into your mouth as your blood pumps when you react to the combination of all of the above.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Donny’s right, this six-liter V-12 sounds glorious no matter what Aston Martin uses it. But with apologies to Orwell, some Astons are created more equal than others.
Last fall I was blessed my first stint behind the wheel of an Aston Martin — the beautiful DBS Carbon Black. The car was everything I ever expected it to be, simultaneously stylish, seductive, and sinister, and an absolute blast to wring on winding country roads. If you’d asked me then, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to order a twelve-cylinder Aston.
But after a night with the V12 Vantage, I’m whistling a different tune. Aston Martins are far removed from American car culture, but the V12 Vantage that when you shoehorn the biggest engine possible into the engine bay of a smaller car, the result is a hot rod. The Vantage is the most compact model in Aston’s portfolio, yet the engine is essentially the same V-12 found in the DBS. It makes the same 510 hp, and it makes the same 420 lb-ft of torque. It also makes the same ungodly scream with each twitch of your right foot. (You’ll undoubtedly find your right foot twitching rather frequently).
But when packed into the space within the Vantage where a V-8 once lived, this same V-12 is tasked with moving less car than to which it is accustomed. Though the Vantage and the DBS both make use of Aston’s aluminum VH platform, the Vantage rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase that’s 5.5 inches shorter than that of the DBS, while the Vantage’s overall length is shorter by a foot as well. All this means that the Vantage undercuts the curb weight of the DBS by nearly 200 pounds. (The margin is 150 pounds between the Vantage and the DBS’s successor, the Vanquish.)
The change doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re behind the wheel, the Vantage feels far more nimble, responsive, and communicative than its already impressive sibling. Further heightening the driver’s involvement with the car is the six-speed manual transmission. No, not a sequential manual or a manua-matic, but a proper, old-school, three-pedal manual transmission. It’s one of the last remaining in Aston’s sports car lineup, which is a damn shame. The effort level of the clutch pedal is perfectly weighted, the engagement take-up is smooth and predictable, and the shift linkage itself is improbably light to manipulate, despite the chunky shift knob that serves as its crown.
Like any relationship with an exotic supermodel, my night with the V12 Vantage did have some quirks. The aging, Volvo-derived infotainment system is a little slow to respond at times. More seriously, the power steering pump occasionally decided to cut assist at low speeds despite having a reservoir full of fluid. And it was wearing snow tires in May.
But these things barely dilute the emotional appeal of the V12 Vantage. Dynamically, this might be the best Aston available. Unfortunately, this might not be the case for much longer, because dealers are no longer accepting orders for the car, and word from corporate headquarters in Gaydon suggests the V12 Vantage is no more. I can only hope a second-generation model is in Aston Martin’s future.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Of course the V-12 Vantage would be painted “Skyfall Silver.” People who knew nothing about cars knew I had a “Bond car” for a night. Those who knew it was an Aston got a chuckle out of the paint name. It’s difficult to think of a stronger cross-platform branding tie than James Bond films and Aston Martin. Driving the Vantage one wishes for a story as interesting as Bond’s that would explain why it’s in his possession. Instead, I’m driving it for a night for reasons I still don’t understand.
I stopped by my gym on the way home to show one of the trainers the Aston. There was only enough time for a 30 second ride through the parking lot before his next appointment, but that’s more than enough time to floor it, hit the 1-2 shift, and do a little engine braking to indulge the auditory sensations of driving a V12 Vantage. It doesn’t take much time with an Aston Martin to produce an ear-to-ear grin and I’ve got my first satisfied customer mere minutes after leaving the office.
Next up is a quick stop at Costco for paper towels, dog food, and a few other bulky staple items. I’m shocked when it all fits in the hatch with room to spare. Although this is the smallest Aston, it’s perfectly adequate for extended touring for two. I’m now wishing I had it for a weekend trip.
I spend the rest of my night making up excuses to drive places. The sound of the V-12 is intoxicating and the six-speed manual is a dying breed in these ultra-expensive GTs. Slightly anachronistic, the car perfectly fits the Bond mold. I can see why 007 feels so at home in an Aston.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage
MSRP (with destination): $186,360
PRICE AS TESTED: $195,440
Horsepower (hp): 510 @ 6500rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 420 @ 5750rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
19-inch aluminum wheels
255/35R-19 96W Pirelli Sottozero Winter 270 Serie II front tires
275/35R-19 100W Pirelli Sottozero Winter 270 Serie II rear tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo: 10.6cu ft
Legroom: 42.8 in
Headroom: 36.7 in
Skyfall Silver/Obsidian Black
Front and rear parking assist
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Carbon-fiber front splitter and rear diffuser
Six-piston front brake calipers
Carbon-ceramic brake rotors
Leather- and Alcantara-trimmed interior
Power-folding exterior mirrors
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Auxiliary audio jack
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Bang & Olufsen audio system- $8330
Heated front seats- $750
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
19-inch diamond-turned aluminum wheels- $1595
After a four-year run, Aston Martin is killing off the V12 Vantage like it was a used-up Bond villain. And, yes, it came to us on winter tires in May.