IN TODAY’S list of the “world’s most popular goals” by goal-setting website 43 things, 19,131 people said that their goal was to “go on a road trip with no predetermined destination”. The pure pleasure of driving minus a defined objective came in first, before losing weight, falling in love and ceasing to procrastinate. It’s imperfect research but as a measure of the zeitgeist it’s an intriguing indicator of how important the motorcar, and the experience of driving, has become.
The Aston Martin V12 Vantage is the most direct embodiment of this I have experienced. Within minutes of its delivery an impromptu road trip is crucial. The sun is shining and I have the smallest Aston money can buy with the largest engine the company makes squeezed into it. I also have a deadline. And as the car sits and gleams in the sunshine, I sit and fume at the unfairness of my day’s obligations. I fidget like a four-year-old. The day is too lovely, the car too great. I last less than 15 minutes. I vow to write overnight if I have to.
It is easy to forget when the motorcar is under such environmental pressure to change, that after 100 years of evolution it has become a truly remarkable thing. And make no bones about it, the V12 Vantage is a remarkable thing. It’s basically the V8 Vantage with the 6.0 litre V12 510bhp DBS engine squeezed into it. In order to offset some of the weight from this extra-big lump, the car incorporates weight-saving measures including carbon fibre door inserts, carbon ceramic brakes and lighter aluminium wheels. Additionally, this Vantage has fixed-back, carbon fibre shelled racing seats fitted. It also has an Alcantara-covered steering wheel just like an Aston racer. Overall the weight of this car is only 50kg heavier than its V8 sibling. The result is a staggeringly quick and agile car, which somehow manages to deliver a race car experience while maintaining real world – and real road – Aston comfort. Even the lightweight seats are a pleasure to sit in and after two hours the only reason I have to pull over is what can politely be referred to as an internal distraction.
And by God is it beautiful. Even starting the car is a pleasure; no, even holding the key – which Aston calls an Emotion Control Unit – is a pleasure. The ECU is made of steel and glass, is really quite weighty and slots into the centre of the dash starter button to start the car. When the car first bursts into life it was quieter than I expected. It must be that Aston Martin refinement that distinguishes it from its rivals. A quick switch into Sport mode and the explosion of the engine is far more apocalyptic. It’s a shame that the car resets itself to the normal mode whenever it is switched off, because I’m far more of an “unleash the hounds of hell” kind of a person, particularly when the neighbours are watching.
Which of course is exactly what happens when you actually drive it. Once you step on the accelerator pedal, the car just keeps getting louder as it propels you faster. It positively howls, particularly in the Sport mode. Once switched on it is difficult to convince oneself that you no longer require it and can turn it off. Only later, off of the B roads and back on the motorway, can I bring myself to switch back to the normal setting to “preserve fuel” and because I want to listen to the Bang & Olufsen sound system and not just the engine. I watch the twin speakers – one at either end of the dash – emerge silently and quickly like a couple of acoustic ninjas. It’s a piece of extra drama that the car simply does not require (I love the fact that Aston Martin did it) and I sample the delights of Blur’s Song 2.
I am soon dreaming of a utopia that would allow me to drive at 190mph legally on the motorway at 3am from a standing start. In the real world Aston Martin organises race days that will allow you to truly experience what their cars are capable of, something that I will only touch on during our short time together.
In the corners the car is very, very impressive. I can’t remember a car cornering better and the steering feels super direct. I approach bends quickly and confidently despite the fact that there is so much power available that it could feel a little scary. Instead, the car offers the kind of exhilaration and excitement that one longs for in so many lesser cars. The V12 Vantage is addictive and delicious and worth every penny and should be acquired immediately should you be able to afford one. Failing that, befriend someone who can.
ASTON MARTIN V12 VANTAGE
0-60MPH: 4.2 secs
TOP SPEED: 190 mph
CO2 G/KM: 388
MPG COMBINED: 17.3 mpg