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Aston Martin V12 Vantage review:

Aston Martin V12 Vantage

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Typical Price: £130,000.00
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The Good Rather quick; sexy engine note; superb looks.

The Bad Odd seating position; fiddly manual gearbox; weird handbrake.

The Bottom Line The Aston Martin V12 Vantage supercar is as beautiful as it is fast. It has its foibles, primarily where day-to-day usability is concerned, but, on the whole, it's an epic machine

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CNET Editors' Rating

8.8 Overall

Review Sections

Aston Martin's V8 Vantage, with its relatively tiny body and huge V8 engine, is a savage car at times. But, in the face of more extreme competition, mere savagery just doesn't cut it. As a result, the company's chucked in an engine with four more cylinders. This, unsurprisingly, has transformed what was already a brute of a supercar into one of the angriest, most spiteful vehicles that money -- £130,000 specifically -- can buy: the V12 Vantage.

Road rage

'Angry' is perhaps the best way to describe the V12. It appears enraged with everyone and everything from the moment you start its engine. Insert Aston Martin's 'emotional control unit' (a key that doubles as a start button when placed inside a docking station in the dashboard) and the V12 detonates with a din that will terrify old ladies -- and you, for that matter. When idling, it snarls like a rabies-ridden pit bull terrier until you blip the throttle and that snarl gives way to an ill-tempered bark. It's not very subtle, but it is brilliant.

If looks could murder

The car's looks aren't particularly subtle, either. The large bonnet vents, which are necessary to keep the huge engine cool, don't come across well in photos. See and hear a V12 Vantage in the metal, however, and suddenly those vents make total sense. They're very much a part of this car's fiery personality.

There can be no debate regarding the rest of the car's appearance. The curvy rear end, voluptuous haunches and purposeful silhouette look breathtaking in pictures, but even more so in the flesh. It's small wonder that James Bond was such a hit with the ladies. Rab C Nesbitt would have pulled just as often if he'd had one of these.

Cabin fever

The interior of the V12 is basically identical to that of the epic Aston Martin DBS, except the leather and Alcantara of our test car were dyed in the blood of a thousand virgins. That's our hunch, anyway. They had a deep red colour, giving the cabin a part boutique, part slaughterhouse appeal that perfectly complemented the murderous vibe of the engine.

It's not perfect in there, though. The flyaway, rally-style handbrake mounted to the right (not the left) of the driver is unusual at best and a pain in the backside at worst. It always returns to its original flat position instead of ratcheting into place as you lift it, making it difficult to know when the handbrake is engaged.

Disengaging it is even trickier. You'll do it incorrectly at least once a day, particularly during hill starts, when there's a strong chance you'll stall the car, roll backwards into traffic and generally make a fool of yourself, no matter how good a driver you are. You can get around this to some extent by applying unusually high revs to rule out the possibility of stalling, but applying extra revs to this car's already furious V12 engine is like screaming out loud in a library -- everyone will think you're a prat.

Evil genius

The V12's cabin tech is surprisingly non-murderous. Having lost our rag with some of the tech in the DBS, we half expected this car to be just as frustrating. But all of its gizmos worked as if they belonged in a car that's far more civilised than this. The sat-nav, an item that'll be familiar to Volvo owners, now accepts full seven-digit postcode entry, which those in early DBS models didn't. Also, when dynamically recalculating routes due to excess traffic, it provides a full appraisal of how much longer or shorter the new route will be.

The Bang & Olufsen audio system, an optional extra, is well worth investing in. It was impressive in the DBS, but sounds even better here due, perhaps, to the V12's smaller cabin. The motorised acoustic lenses (tweeters) rise and fall from the dashboard in dramatic fashion; the subwoofer enclosure behind the driver and passenger booms imperiously; and the mid-range speakers positioned just behind your head, in the door panels, and by your feet deliver music with precision and soul -- a rare combination.

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