Driven: 2011 Aston Martin V12 Vantage

A tight fit
The V-12 was such a tight fit in the Vantage's engine bay that engineers had to install a shallower sump, smaller alternator, and new oil filter housing. When engineers began working on the V12 Vantage, they were unsure they could meet U.S. crash standards, because the V-12 provides less underhood crush space than the V-8. The solution, though, was surprisingly simple. Two aluminum bars, about five inches long and one square inch in cross-section are added behind the bumper to direct crash forces from the impact points down toward the subframe.

The visual giveaways
Visually, you can identify the V-12 car by the carbon-fiber louvers in the hood that help cool the engine and reduce lift. A carbon-fiber lower splitter, brake cooling ducts in the front fascia, larger flared sills, a taller spoiler, and a new rear fascia designed to pull more air over the transmission oil cooler also differentiate the V12 from the V8 Vantage. Inside, there are unique instrument panel graphics, a new shift knob, and carbon-fiber door grabs. Other than that, it's the same Aston interior with great materials and mediocre electronics and ergonomics.

A tight fit, part II
The Vantage's small size may make it more agile than the $270,350 DBS, but it also makes for a tight fit in the cabin. At six feet, three inches tall, the seat back is forced forward as I slide the bottom cushion rearward. I'm able to get far enough away from the pedals, but I still struggle to find a comfortable position between the seat, wheel, pedals, and stick. After logging 300 miles in two days, my body feels like it's been flying coach class for twelve hours. The optional fixed-back, lightweight seats don't comply with U.S. regulations and won't be offered here.

The bargain Aston Martin
A big engine in a small car is a formula for fast, and it holds true here as the V12 Vantage is the quickest car in Aston's lineup (aside from the radical One-77), claiming a 0-to-62-mph time 0.1 seconds faster than the DBS. Consider the $90,000 discount over the DBS and we're starting to think that V-12 homogenization isn't such a big deal after all. Aston Martin isn't calling the V12 Vantage a limited-edition car, but only 1000 will be built. The V12 Vantage will be in U.S. showrooms in the fall of 2010, starting at a price of $181,300.

2 of 2
I got to drive the V12 Vantage at the dealership unveiling event yesterday. It is incredible. The speed and power of this car blew my mind and it handles like nothing I have ever driven before. I want one but my wife wonders why I can't be happy with the 2007 V8 Vantage I bought 3 years ago...

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