Words by Matt de Prez @mattdeprez
Photography by Rowan Cullen @rowancullen
If you’re a car guy (or girl), it’s pretty likely you’ll have a dream car garage. It may be one car, or three or ten but its a place where your every wish as a petrolhead is granted and you can spend as much time as you wish thinking away about what machines will fill it.
Whenever such an opportunity arises to discuss such a space – and it does quite regularly – there is one car that is always on my list and has been since I first caught eyes on it in 2009.
The Aston Martin Vantage, initially launched with a V8 engine, was designed to compete -at least on price- with the Porsche 911. It was a light, nimble, 2-seat, rear-wheel-drive sports car.
And it was beautiful looking – with an engine note so deep it could stir the deepest parts of your soul. It was cheap for an Aston too. There was however one fly in the ointment and it was something Aston Martin could have remedied from the start.
The problem was, in terms of performance they already had a Porsche 911 rival – the DB9 – but it was considerably more expensive. Therefore, the V8, although a rival by price never really cut it in the performance stakes; because Aston wanted to retain a reasonable performance gap between it and its bigger brother.
Eventually, Aston Martin caved in and gave the Vantage the engine it deserved from the beginning, a 5.9 litre V12. It developed 510BHP a healthy increase over the 380BHP of the original Vantage V8. Aston also paired it with a manual gearbox.
The resulting car was magical. Receiving the highest level of critical acclaim for its performance and handling. Exterior modifications were limited to some bonnet vents and different wheels but the V12 Vantage had finally come to life and proved that low volume manufacturers can cut it with the big boys. Don’t forget, Aston Martin’s development budgets are far lower than its German rivals.
The V12 then received a new lease of life in 2013 when Aston squeezed an extra 55BHP from the engine and designated it the ‘S’. Now packing 565BHP and 457lb ft of torque, the V12 S could hit 60MPH in 3.7 seconds and run on to 205MPH. Making it, at the time, the fastest Aston Martin ever – if we discount the one-77.
The power increase came alongside a controversial move to switch the manual box to an auto. At the time Aston had been re-developing the Sportshift automated-manual from the vanquish and so this was the only box offered. Unfortunately it was the only negative thing about the car. Despite being far better at downshifting than previous Aston autos, the box was still far too rough on the up-changes. Rivals had already been perfecting both twin-clutch and full auto boxes.
Thankfully, this issue has finally been solved and Aston Martin are now offering the V12 Vantage S with a seven-speed manual gearbox – and what a box it is. A dog-leg first gear arrangement for speed shifting, automatic throttle blipping for downshifts and the box is able to support flat-throttle upshifts.
So the V12 Vantage started as a great car and has only got better and better. It’s magnificent to look at, outstanding to drive and the V12 sound track is even more addictive than the original V8.
With prices starting at £140,000 the V12 Vantage S will not make it to my actual garage but its place in my dream car garage is immutable.