What's New for 2011
The 2011 Aston Martin V12 Vantage is an all-new model.
Aston Martin is not afraid of trumping its most expensive, famous and fanciest car. You'd think taking the V12 engine from its Aston Martin DBS and stuffing it into the more nimble Vantage would be a no-no, as the baby Aston would actually outdo 007's ride in almost every parameter of performance and handling while costing much less besides. Yet Aston Martin has done just that with its 2011 V12 Vantage, a measure of the company's eagerness to be respected for sports-car performance as well as GT sophistication.
The 6.0-liter V12 in question cranks out 510 horsepower, 90 more than the base V8. But since the V12 is about a foot longer than the Vantage's normal V8, Aston had to do a fair amount of engineering to shoehorn the engine beneath the Vantage's hood. Changes include a few tweaks to the front structure, cooling vents in the hood and revised suspension tuning. Overall curb weight has increased by about 150 pounds, and the car's weight distribution slightly now favors the front of the car a bit. But the V12 Vantage is definitely a sports car, with aggressively revised bodywork and carbon-ceramic brakes and more aggressive bodywork.
The rest of the 2011 Aston Martin V12 Vantage is pretty similar to the regular V8 Vantage. Inside, it's the same interior design, with impeccably finished materials. The V12 Vantage doesn't get the DBS's two-stage adjustable suspension, but you won't likely miss it. On the move, the Vantage stays glued to the road without crashing or banging as the DBS is prone to do when you select the suspension's Sport setting.
Compared to models outside the Aston family, the V12 Vantage's luster dims a little. Similarly priced exotics like the Audi R8 5.2, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Porsche 911 Turbo S all provide varying mixes of quicker acceleration or stronger grip. But in this company, there's really no way to lose. And if you're just looking for the ultimate driver's Aston, the V12 Vantage is the most delicious performance machine to emerge from the house that David Brown built.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 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, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a hard-drive-based 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 700-watt premium surround-sound audio system or a 1,000-watt 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 700-watt audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 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, shift lever with fistlike knob and metallic-finish instrument cluster. As such, the V12 Vantage features a high-class cabin truly befitting its lofty price tag and its celebrated Aston Martin badge.
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, limiting visibility and making 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 2011 Aston Martin V12 Vantage moves confidently while feeding its driver useful information about what's happening at the pavement level. It also offers a surprisingly comfortable ride and is easy to drive, making it a plausible choice for road trips (though not as good as the Aston Martin DB9 or DBS).
Of course, here comes the standard Aston Martin caveat. If you're looking for a sports car, there are tougher cars from Germany or Italy. For as impressive as this car is, and as well as it measures up against the Ferrari 599, an Aston Martin remains an elegant and even practical GT car first and a sports car second.