Not quite the same
Telling the V8- and V12-powered members of Aston Martin’s Vantage family apart can be difficult, even for keener-eyed spotters of Gaydon’s finest. The most obvious difference is the V12 Vantage’s extrovert body styling, most evident in the form of a bonnet bristling with bulges and vents. The V8 Vantage, on the other hand, is far more restrained, more Bruce Wayne than Batman, the suave counterpoint to the steroidal V12 Vantage.
Scratch a little deeper, and the differences become more apparent, especially when you check under the bonnet. The 4.7-litre engine in the V8 Vantage isn’t small, but it’s dwarfed by the 5.9-litre motor powering the V12 Vantage, which dominates just about every square centimetre of space in its engine bay.
It’s also of some note that the V12 Vantage’s motor is also found in Aston Martin’s flagship, the Vanquish. Given the weapons-grade 565bhp motor and relative lack of mass (it’s 74kg lighter and 343mm shorter than Vanquish), driving the V12 Vantage is at once an absolute riot and more than a little harrowing.
The V12 Vantage feels like an engine with wheels attached to it. Suffice it to say, it’s a car that demands respect, for it certainly has a considerable sting in its tail.
Adding to that hardcore vibe is how the V12 Vantage has a firmer suspension tune than the V8 Vantage, which can be stiffened up still further when the adaptive dampers are set to track mode. That, plus mighty carbon-ceramic brakes and a hair-raising V12-powered soundtrack makes the V12 Vantage feel every bit as muscle-bound as its looks suggest.
That’s not to say the V8 Vantage is lacking for drama. The 430bhp developed by its 4.7-litre V8 is plenty potent, its engine makes all the right noises and its chassis is game for frisky behaviour. More importantly, the V8 Vantage is possibly quicker than the V12 Vantage in the real world, despite the marked performance advantage the latter appears to have.
The V8 Vantage may have less power and sharpness than the V12 Vantage, but for mere mortals (that is, those who don’t hold valid racing licences and who don’t drive exclusively on racetracks), it simply means that the supposedly lesser Vantage is less intimidating, more exploitable and therefore quicker.
In that respect, the V8 Vantage is a triumph in the same way that a Porsche 911 is – equally happy on slower point-to-point drives as it is being flung around.
As for the V12 Vantage, it’s terrifically un-subtle and only truly shines on special occasions, namely, destroying your previous lap record at the track … or your driver’s licence, for that matter.
That said, if maximum attack is your mantra for driving, it’ll be the V12 Vantage or nothing. For everyone else, there’s the V8 Vantage’s heady blend of real-world performance, good looks and aural drama.
In either case, Aston Martin’s glorious naturally aspirated engines will soon be snarling no more, as the next-generation Vantage (as yet unannounced, but possibly due in 2018) will almost certainly have a turbocharged powerplant. So, if you’re still on the fence, perhaps now is the time to add one (or both) to your garage, as a memento of a soon-to-be bygone era.