2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage Coupe - FROM $180,535
Though it doesn't offer the ultimate performance and handling of other exotic sports cars, the 2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage has its own unique appeal.
What's New for 2012
The V12 Vantage gets a new, more user-friendly navigation system for 2012.
Don't show up the star. It's a good rule of thumb in show business and common sense in the sports car world. After all, wouldn't it be foolish for a brand to outdo its most expensive, famous and fanciest performance car with one that's cheaper? You'd think, but that's exactly what the 2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage does.
As the name implies, it has a V12 engine -- specifically the same 6.0-liter 510-horsepower V12 found in Aston Martin's DBS flagship. Since the Vantage is smaller, Aston had to do a fair amount of engineering to shoehorn the engine under the hood. Changes included a few tweaks to the front structure, giant cooling vents in the hood and revised suspension tuning. Overall curb weight rises by about 150 pounds compared to the V8 Vantage, but it still weighs about 30 pounds fewer than the DBS with its carbon-fiber body panels.
That means the V12 Vantage is just as quick (if not quicker) than James Bond's ride, while the Vantage's more compact dimensions lend greater agility that the more grand-touring DBS cannot match. The V12 Vantage is also the more aggressively tuned driver's car and a bit of a beast to be honest, with an intense power delivery and a firm ride less suited for day-to-day driving than its siblings. If there was ever a car that could defy the frequent Aston Martin complaint of not being as sharply tuned as its competitors, this is it.
And yet, even if the V12 Vantage can match or surpass the DBS on a performance scale, its luster still dims compared to similarly priced exotics like the Audi R8 5.2, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Porsche 911 Turbo S. They all provide varying mixes of quicker acceleration, stronger grip or even comfort given the Vantage's firm ride.
However, in this rarefied automotive air, such comparisons matter little. This is all about image, character and your preferred manner of on-road thrills. The 2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage stands apart with its gorgeous body injected with an ample dose of testosterone in the form of its bulging vented hood and exaggerated side skirts. And while the Vantage may not corner with the tenacity of its competitors or sprint to 60 with the same gusto, there is something truly special about a classic V12 mashed into such a small package and singing the glorious wail that only an Aston Martin can deliver. This is a car of histrionics, not precision, and that can be just as desirable.
Plus, the V12 Vantage does cost about $100,000 less than the DBS. It would be too simplistic to ponder why someone would throw down the extra dough, but it certainly makes you rethink the notion of showing up the star.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage is a two-seat hatchback coupe available in regular and Carbon Black trims. The V8 Vantage coupe and roadster are covered in a separate model review.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, high-performance tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, a limited-slip differential, xenon headlamps, power-folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, a battery-disconnect switch (for extended storage), cruise control, automatic climate control, eight-way power seats with memory functions and adjustable lumbar, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a 160-watt sound system with six-CD changer and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Besides the nearly endless combinations of exterior and interior color choices, the V12 Vantage can be equipped with optional front parking sensors, heated seats, satellite radio, a premium surround-sound audio system or a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system.
The Carbon Black gets the requisite selection of blacks from Aston Martin's color palette, plus diamond-turned gloss-black wheels, a chrome-finish grille, front parking sensors, piano-black interior trim, satellite radio and the premium audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage is powered by a 6.0-liter V12 that cranks out 510 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available. Aston Martin estimates a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds, which would be a tenth quicker than the DBS. Fuel economy (should you care) is an EPA-estimated 11 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 13 mpg combined.
The Aston Martin V12 Vantage comes equipped with carbon-ceramic disc brakes with ABS and brake assist, while other standard equipment includes traction control and stability control (with a track mode), and side airbags that provide head and torso protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
As long as you don't peek over your shoulder, you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two-passenger V12 Vantage and the pricier DBS, which offers the option of vestigial seats or a parcel shelf. Otherwise, the two cars share the same center stack, metallic-finish instrument cluster and gearshifter that looks like a metal fist. As such, the V12 Vantage features a high-class cabin truly befitting its lofty price tag and its celebrated Aston Martin badge. Plus, for 2012, it gets a navigation system you should actually be able to use.
In terms of practicality, the V8 Vantage falls between the exotic Audi R8 and versatile Porsche 911. The stylishly taut roof compresses the window area, limits visibility and makes the occupants feel hunkered down in an elegantly trimmed bunker. Space for most drivers is adequate, but larger occupants may find the seat and footwell too narrow. Still, the cargo area beneath the coupe's hatchback provides 10.6 cubic feet of usable space. This is one area where it solidly beats the R8, whose trunk is barely large enough to handle a simple overnight bag.
How do you improve on what was already the best-handling Aston Martin? Why, add a 510-hp V12, that's how. The resulting car presents the precision of the Vantage with the all-out thrust of the DBS -- a combination with which it's hard to argue. On a winding road, the 2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage moves confidently while feeding its driver useful information about what's happening at the pavement level. Unfortunately, its firm suspension makes it less friendly for road trips than other Aston Martin models.
There's also the standard Aston Martin caveat. If you're looking for an ultimate performance machine, there are sharper and quicker cars from Germany or Italy. For as impressive as this car is, even this Aston Martin remains an elegant and even practical GT car first and a sports car second.