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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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The 2010 Aston Martin V-12 Vantage is the perfect example of what springs from the deepest urge felt by enthusiastic automotive engineers: stuff the biggest engine into the smallest possible body. Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez, by all accounts, is truly an enthusiastic automotive engineer.

Proof? At Porsche, he spearheaded the 989 project, a four-door which still looks so right that the company won't let the prototypes come near the Panamera. Moving to BMW, he created the cultish Z1 roadster. He finally took the ultimate position at Aston Martin in 2000.

A Hot Rod for the Old Country

And so Dr. Bez could not leave his smallest child, the stunningly beautiful, compact, and neatly packaged V-8 Vantage, alone. He wondered whether the 5.9-liter V-12 that powers the elegant DB9 and the more aggressive DBS would fit in the car’s engine bay. It was nearly a given, since the V-8 Vantage is based on the "VH" platform that also forms the foundation of the DB9 and DBS, but the smaller car was never really designed to hold the massive, Cologne-built V-12 engine.

You can see now that the transplant was successful, albeit after extensively revising the V-8 Vantage’s front structure. Nevertheless, Aston Martin managed to achieve a near-perfect 51/49-percent front-to-rear weight balance. The extra mass of the engine, an additional 200 pounds or so, is partly offset by carbon-ceramic brakes and lighter wheels, as well as lighter seats and rear quarter panels. The total weight of the V-12 Vantage, at around 3700 pounds, is only about 100 pounds more than the V-8 Vantage.

This extra weight is effortlessly neutralized by the V-12's 510 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, available at 6500 rpm and 5750 rpm, respectively. The engine is tuned the same as in the larger DBS and thus catapults this relatively tiny coupe into a completely different league. We peddled a DBS to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds—a time identical to the one posted by the V-8 Vantage. Aston says the sprint from 0 to 62 mph takes 4.2 seconds in the V-12 Vantage, so we expect it would become the fastest Aston ever were we to test it—well, the fastest until the One-77 goes on sale. Top speed is now 190 mph, up from 180 for the V-8. However, what really makes the difference is the incredible agility and responsiveness of the engine.

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