WORDS: ELLIOTT HUGHES | PHOTOGRAPHY: aston martin
“Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.” Breaking the news of a new car with a quote from Dr Seuss is not something Magneto has felt inclined to do before, but we think the final generation of Aston Martin’s V12 Vantage justifies it.
That’s because all corners of the motoring press have been forecasting the death of the V12 engine for over a decade now; from Ferrari and Lamborghini to Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin, no V12 model could be spared from immense environmental, economic and political pressures. Indeed, it was none other than Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson who solemnly prophesied that “cars like this will soon be consigned to the history books”, while behind the wheel of the original V12 Vantage back in 2009.
So, the importance of the latest generation of V12 Vantage, which has arrived in the unlikeliest of circumstances, cannot be understated; the 333 examples that Gaydon will build represent the very last of an endangered species.
It’s reassuring that the new car’s significance is not lost on Aston Martin CEO Tobias Moers, who promises to “bring the bloodline to a close with the most spectacular example yet… [The new V12 Vantage] is a celebration of its forebears and an embodiment of Aston Martin’s intensifying focus on driving dynamics. It ensures the V12 Vantage goes out on the highest of highs”.
The way in which Aston Martin aims to achieve Moers’ objective naturally begins with the car’s heart: the 5.2-litre quad-cam V12 shoehorned under its vented clamshell bonnet. Some will bemoan the fact that the V12 Vantage’s DB11-derived engine has been fitted with a pair of sound-muffling turbos that were absent from the original, but the pros undoubtedly outweigh the cons; releasing a new, naturally aspirated V12-powered car with current emissions legislations would prove extremely difficult, and forced induction means the latest model has 690bhp and 555lbft of torque on tap. Even the limited-edition V600 Vantage – the apex of the previous model – pales in comparison. Those meaty figures yield a 0-60mph time of a mere 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 200mph.
Aston Martin’s engineers have also worked to ensure the car is as lightweight as possible to mitigate the weight penalty of four extra cylinders over the standard V8-powered Vantage. Predictably, much of this weight saving comes in the form of various carbonfibre bodywork pieces including the front bumper, bonnet, front fenders, side sills and performance seats. Meanwhile, the rear bumper and bootlid have been manufactured from composites, and weight is further reduced by a lightweight battery and a model-specific centre-mounted stainless-steel exhaust system.
All this means the V12 Vantage’s kerbweight comes in at 1795kg – just 165kg heavier than its eight-cylinder sibling. The weight-saving efforts are made all the more impressive when the new car’s increased dimensions are taken into account. What Aston Martin calls a “dramatic new widebody design” denotes a 40mm increase in width over the standard Vantage, allowing chunky 275/31 R21 front and 315/30 R21 rear tyres to be accommodated under the bodywork, which hones the handling characteristics for increased power. The company will also offer optional lightweight wheels that shave off a further 8kg of unsprung weight.
Although positioned as an analogue supercar, the V12 Vantage reflects the marque’s involvement in motor sport in its sculpted bodywork, to give up to 204kg of downforce at its 200mph top speed with the optional rear wing in place. Buyers looking for a more subtle look can opt to delete the rear wing and rely on the floor, front bumper and front splitter to provide aerodynamic adhesion.
Other motor sport influences can be found in the braking and suspension specifications. Brembo carbon-ceramic stoppers are standard, with six-piston calipers biting 410mm x 38mm discs at the front and a four-piston, 360mm x 32mm set-up at the rear. As well as resisting fade at temperatures up to 800 degrees, the high-performance brakes relieve the car of 23kg of unsprung mass.
The suspension architecture remains double wishbone front and rear, although there are new bushes and spring rates that are 50 percent stiffer at the front and 40 percent at the rear, while the top mounts are 13 percent stiffer. New anti-roll bars are five percent stiffer at the front for a sharper steering response and 41 percent softer at the rear for better grip.
Stiffness has also been increased in the body, with additional front and rear sheer panels, a rear suspension tower strut brace and fuel-tank bracing. Aston Martin says this has increased the overall stiffness of the bodywork by eight percent, with a 6.7 percent increase in lateral rigidity. Compliance and comfort have been retained with the stiffer bodywork and suspension set-up with the inclusion of adaptive damping and the introduction of a rear tender spring that provides a lower spring rate than the main spring without sacrificing performance.
The V12 Vantage’s handling and performance capabilities are completed with the fitment of ZF’s venerable eight-speed automatic transmission and a rear-mounted limited-slip differential. Gaydon says the adaptive software it has developed for the transmission delivers rapid shift speeds while providing refinement and usability that is beyond the capabilities of a dual-clutch system. Unfortunately, there is no mention at this stage of the option for Aston Martin’s dogleg seven-speed manual.
Aston Martin has endeavoured to ensure the V12 Vantage feels just as uncompromisingly special in the cabin. Owners can choose from myriad standard options such as woven leather or Alcantara seat inserts, various trim inlays and anodised rotary dials, which can be specified to match or contrast with the exterior body colour.
The options list increases exponentially with Aston Martin’s Q bespoke service, which allows customers to create a unique example from a range of materials, colours and graphics. Finishing touches to the V12 Vantage interior include the visible strut brace across the open rear load space and semi-aniline leather decorated with a ‘Wings’ quilt and perforation pattern on the seats as standard.
The realisation that the new V12 Vantage truly does represent the bittersweet end of an era is not lost on Aston Martin’s customers; the order book is already full and first deliveries are expected in the second quarter of 2022. And it you’d like to remind yourself of the original model, Magneto drove V12 Vantage and V12 Vantage S back-to-back here.