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Friday 27th April 2012


TELL ME I'M WRONG: ASTON MARTIN V12 VANTAGE

Dan dares to suggest the mighty Aston could be a bit too mighty for its own good


I'm looking at the pictures I've downloaded from the Aston Martin media website to accompany this article and I think I may have already convinced myself I'm wrong. I mean, just look at it.

Insert 'shoehorned' desciption here
Insert 'shoehorned' desciption here
The stats as well. After all, if there's nothing that brings you joy at the idea of levering a 6.0-litre V12 into an Aston Martin Vantage and sending 517hp to the back wheels via a proper six-speed manual gearbox then, frankly, you're probably reading the wrong website.

Lunacy like this shouldn't happen these days, the V12 Vantage a very British two fingers aloft at the very health and safety, desensitised, risk averse, nannied world we now live in. Which is probably why Clarkson likes it so much. And that'll be the first alarm bell ringing right there.

Rule Britannia
Indeed, the V12 Vantage makes even the more mental GT2 911s look a little bit sensible, that a relatively mainstream company like Aston Martin can get away with things like this alongside the small volume guys like Noble and Ariel a heartening reminder of how Britain can still be considered the beating heart of the petrolhead world. That pretentious 'Power, Beauty, Soul' thing Aston flashes before you when you insert the 'emotional control unit' (we'd call it a key but there you go) into the dash does, whisper it, make a degree of sense in relation to cars like this.

So where did it all go wrong?
So where did it all go wrong?
But at some point in this gushing praise I'm supposed to tell you why the V12 Vantage doesn't quite work. And you can join the scramble to tell me I'm full of it.

It doesn't just stem from the fact that this car had me off the road in the most bizarre (and fairly alarming) of circumstances. OK, that's part of it. But even before that happened I was fighting a nagging doubt that, although it all added up on paper, the reality wasn't quite gelling properly.

Too much of a good thing
Maybe it's the case that I'm simply not man enough for the V12 Vantage. I'm hoping there's some mitigation in admitting I may well not be!

So is Dan just a bit of a jessie then?
So is Dan just a bit of a jessie then?
Wonderful example of engineering excess the V12 Vantage may be but I'm not convinced it's actually the best of its kind to drive. It's something to celebrate, something to be proud of and something to lust after perhaps. But to own, or drive? Not so sure.

Maybe the problem, if there is one, is that the 'regular' V8 Vantage is such a sweetly balanced package, not wanting for anything in terms of charisma, noise or, indeed, pace. Here, again, we run into the idea that, perhaps, bottom line figures relating to speed, acceleration or lap times don't accurately reflect the satisfaction or fun to be found at the wheel. For those obsessed by the need to prove quantifiable superiority over everyone else the spec sheet numbers of the V12 Vantage are there in black and white.

But how much driving actually has anything to do with this? Unless you race, or regularly figure cars very little indeed.

'There stands the body gorgeous...'
'There stands the body gorgeous...'
Yes, the V12 is the faster, more aggressive, more impressive Vantage than its V8 equivalents. But is it a better one?

The Bronze Adonis
For me the argument with the V12 Vantage is like the whole body building thing. And the balance of impressive over actually relevant. There's a danger the V12 tips over into the steroid popping, vein bulging world of the Men's Health cover star. Indeed, to my mind the V12 Vantage is the John CooperClarke's Bronze Adonis of the Aston Martin range. (NSFW recording here if you want the full effect with Clarke's trademark Manc drawl.)

 

"There stands the body gorgeous / men worship girls admire
He bravely bears the scourges and the squelch of squashed desire
What a physical jerk / no time for sex
Where's me bleedin' bullworker, baby oil and leopard kecks"

 

Enough cowering behind the work of a more accomplished wordsmith than I though, you want to know about that grudge I hold about it having me off the road.

Smooth, dry road? All is good...
Smooth, dry road? All is good...
Even before that point I'd had my concerns. For all the craftsmanship and impressive engineering there was a worrying lack of attention to the little details that make or break the driving experience. Things like the huge, baulky gearknob and my inability to dial into shifts and blips with any satisfaction or smoothness. The kind of things that, once you gel with a car, bring joy with every gearchange and corner. Put simply, there was no flow. Lots of noise and drama. But no flow.

Then there was its apparent lack of interest in staying on the road. True, wet, bumpy Welsh mountain roads probably aren't the area where a car like this is going to shine and this is your opportunity to shout MTFU and all that. But driving it back to back along the same piece of road with a Jaguar XFR - similar amount of power, also rear-driven of course - where the Jag could deploy its performance without too much interference from the ESP in the Aston at a similar pace the yellow light was ablaze, the chassis feeling over-sprung, under-damped and without enough suspension travel to really cope. Yup, a British car that doesn't work on British roads. And in the wet the sense that without the electronic interventions it would barely be able to stay on the road was overwhelming.

A British car too much for British roads
A British car too much for British roads
Inferiority complex
And entirely correct, as it turned out. A badly timed electrical error sent the nanny packing and, not long after, a mid-corner bump over a bridge on a trailing throttle at somewhere south of 40mph pitched the Aston backwards across the heather. Thankfully without ripping its sump out on a rock or even grazing its paintwork but a long, long way from the road.

There are no excuses to be made here. I clearly wasn't up to the task. Maybe after a day of outrageous driving Karma had finally caught up.

But I didn't need to be ankle deep in black Welsh mud, staring at a beached V12 Vantage and wondering how the hell I was going to get it out of there to arrive at the conclusion that you can, perhaps, have too much of a good thing.

So, tell me I'm wrong. And a wuss. You probably can't contain it any longer.


ASTON MARTIN V12 VANTAGE
Engine:
5,935cc V12
Transmission: 6-speed manual, (very) rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 517@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 420@5,750rpm
0-62mph: 4.1 sec
Top speed: 190mph
Weight: 1,680kg
MPG: 17.3mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 388g/km
Price: £135,000

 

 

 

Author: Dan Trent