The serious bit is accomplished by lightweight carbonfibre and composite body panels, some major chassis stiffening measures, and quite a wide-ranging suspension makeover. This Vantage has 40mm-wider axle tracks than a V8; 40-50%-stiffer coil spring rates, with new secondary tender springs adopted at the rear axle; reappraised anti-roll bar rates (stiffer than on a V8 at the front, yet softer at the rear); all-new ‘Skyhook’ adaptive damping hardware; and recalibrated power steering.
Even allowing for that aggressively scooped carbonfibre clamshell bonnet, bumper and ‘wide-body’ front wings, the car is 110kg heavier than a V8 and yet it still has 20% more power to weight, because 690bhp.
Aston gave us an afternoon at its Stowe development circuit at Silverstone for a first taste of the car, as well as some time on local roads. On track, there’s a heft and accuracy to the steering and a grasping firmness to its body control that both speak of extra mass closely controlled. It corners in even more level and immediate fashion than a V8, with just a shade less perfect steady-state handling balance and greater high-speed stability, although still with some throttle adjustability of handling when you go looking for it. By and large, though, the V12 Vantage wants to be driven properly, and quickly, on a circuit – not goaded or trifled with. It has the braking power, the body control, the grip and the stamina to lap very quickly and consistently, as well as absolutely huge accelerative oomph – and going back to that well, lap after eye-widening lap, is probably where it’s at its best.
And yet, at all times, the car’s titanic engine always stands ready to rip its aura of composure apart at the seams. It can pour on torque that the driveline and chassis seem to simply throw their hands up in the face of. Mechanical slippy diff or no, you’re at constant risk of bonfiring your inside rear tyre if you come out of tighter corners too urgenty when the electronic traction control is switched off. On the road, while the car’s vertical body control is surprisingly supple at everyday speeds, startlingly guttural acceleration and short, snatchy and uncompromising damping are only a dip of the toe away.
The V12 Vantage feels like a bit of a brute wherever it’s let loose, to be honest, and so it should. But the mournful wail of the old GT12’s atmo V12 engine isn’t equalled by Aston’s modern turboocharged lump, and so the ferocity of the car’s performance is missing a dimension in dramatic expression.