When Aston Martin inserted its biggest and most powerful road car engine into its smallest and lightest car, the result was always going to be spectacular. The V12 Vantage is based on the V8 Vantage introduced in 2005, with a similar body based on Aston Martin’s all-aluminium ‘VH’ structure with a combination of aluminium alloy, steel and composite exterior panels. Experience gained from racing the Vantage has been used to reshape the body to improve aerodynamic efficiency and there are bonnet vents to provide an exit route for hot air from the engine bay. And they’re very necessary, because the front-end structure has been reworked so that the 4.3-litre V8 engine of the original car can be replaced by a 5.9-litre V12, essentially the engine from the range-topping DBS, boosting power from 380bhp to 510bhp.
Drive passes through a carbon fibre propshaft to a six-speed manual gearbox at the rear. Compared to the V8, the suspension has been lowered and stiffened, with more compact dual-rate springs at the back to liberate space for larger wheels and tyres within the existing bodywork. Carbon ceramic brakes, like those on the DBS, are standard fit.
Despite the much larger engine and bigger wheels, the V12 Vantage is just 50kg heavier than the V8, and the combination of light weight and massive power delivers breathtaking acceleration and instant response at almost any speed, in almost any gear. All this is accompanied by the classy V12 soundtrack, an urbane burble that snaps into a hard-edged howl at high revs, when valves in the exhaust system bypass some of the silencing. Quick steering and compliant suspension help the Vantage to feel forgiving as well as fast.
But you don’t have to drive the V12 Vantage hard to be impressed. The Aston pulls off the clever trick of always feeling special, even when ambling through a town or waiting in a traffic queue. Top-quality fit and finish play a big role, making the Aston’s snug cabin attractive and inviting, and that goes some way to justify the £25,000 premium you have to pay to drive a V12 Vantage rather than a Porsche 911 Turbo (which is even faster than the Aston). If the Porsche, great though it is, is just too clinical for you, this Aston might be just the car you need.