Dan Trent: Aston Martin V12 Vantage – too much of a good thing is just enough

18th September 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

Little wonder James Bond and Aston Martin get along so famously. Suave charm and underlying thuggishness are there in both, evolved in Aston Martin’s case from the elegant DB models of the '60s through to the well-dressed muscle cars of the late 70s and 80s. And it’s definitely there in the V12 version of the Vantage. 


In 007 terms this car is less Sean Connery’s well-dressed bodybuilder and more Daniel Craig’s borderline psycho, all bulging eyes, thin lips and pumped-up physique. And about as scary and intense if you catch it in the wrong mood. 

I speak from experience here, being one of several to return from an autumnal group test in darkest Wales with vivid memories of the original V12 Vantage. I’ll leave it to your imagination but the combination of a wildly overpowered Aston Martin on Corsa tyres and greasy, bumpy Snowdonian B-roads was … intense. Truly scary cars are rare in this day and age but the original V12 Vantage is definitely one of them. On the power, wild oversteer was a twitch of your toe away. But if you backed out of it things got even worse, the tightly-wound limited-slip differential basically acting like a gentle tug on the handbrake if you panicked and lifted off the throttle mid-corner. Bond may have faced some scary life and death scenarios in his career but, on that day, I’d have traded a fist fight with Jaws on the roof of a swinging cable car for battling a V12 Vantage on a wet Welsh moor.

The S version that arrived in 2013 with more power, softer suspension, improved steering and the automated manual Sportshift gearbox was actually far more civilised, all things relative. And the updated S manual launched last year is perhaps the best of all of them, assuming you can get your head around the dog-leg seven-speed transmission.


That unhinged original seems held in great affection by those who worked on it though, not least Paul Barratt, whom I met recently on the launch event for the DB11 V8. Very much the studious engineer and a man with a fine taste in cars (anyone building their own vision of the perfect step-front Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT is alright by me) he comes across as a sensible type. Even if the monster he and his team created was anything but. Recalling the V12 Vantage project he wears the guilty grin of someone who knows they got away with something a bit naughty, his enthusiasm enough to have me facing my fears and off to the classifieds. 

Updated S versions with the more powerful engine and Sportshift automated manual transmission are well over £100,000 while the most recent models with the seven-speed manual are around £140,000. Those original cars are now more like £80,000 though, the apparent stigma of having ‘only’ 510bhp/517ps opposed to the later car’s 565bhp/573ps no problem for me. 510bhp/517ps is plenty, thanks. Frankly I prefer the understated menace of the early cars compared with some of the more extrovert liveries offered with the later ones too – if you’ve got an engine as big, noisy and uncouth as that under the bonnet you really don’t need stripes or two-tone paint. 


Even better news – I’ve found one in a colour and spec I like with an especially interesting history. Privately offered by an enthusiastic sounding owner, he’s had the car for six years and is only selling it to make way for a new Vanquish. This is encouraging but the real interest stems from the first name on the V5, that being Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s design director.

The engineer who led the project still thinks it’s one of Aston Martin’s most exciting cars. And the finer points of paint, leather and other trimmings applied to this particular one are the personal choices of the bloke who designs them. Well-dressed but with a licence to kill? With apologies for the cheesy conclusion, I’m no Bond but I’m ready to accept this mission!

Photography courtesy of Pistonheads

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