Aston Martin's V12 Vantage is a fitting example of Aston Martin's many achievements in design and engineering, but it's also something of a sleight of hand, a conjuring trick that sees the company's veritable V12 engine shoehorned into a platform originally designed to take a V8.
The car's raison d'etre is performance, and the V12 Vantage has this in spades. Lighter and more agile than Aston Martin's flagship DBS model the Vantage is emphatically not intended to be refined grand tourer. Instead, it takes inspiration from the race-proven Vantage N24 racing car, encouraging the driver to push the car to its limits.
As a result, the V12 requires a level of driver commitment that simply isn't suitable for public roads: it's most at home on the track. But that doesn't mean the car is not easy to live with. The engine's broad power band means leisurely progress is a breeze, with the occasional screaming overtaking manoeuvre allowing the engine to earn its keep.
There's a tad too much tire and wind noise at cruising speeds to make it truly relaxing, although the beautifully trimmed cabin and controls are well up to AM's usual high standards. As it's based on the V8 Vantage there's also a decent amount of luggage space, reached via the handy rear hatch.
The V12 Vantage is uncommonly quick, even by Aston's standards, providing rich rewards for any driver adventurous enough to exploit every last drop of the 510 horsepower on tap. Aston Martin will build just 1,000 examples of the V12, distinguished from its eight-cylinder sibling by the deep bonnet vents, flared sills, carbon ceramic brakes and extensive carbon fibre trim.
In Britain, the V12 Vantage has had journalists waxing lyrical about eras ending and the sun setting over the days of the brawny British sports car. We think it's unlikely to be Aston Martin's swansong; although there is no denying this car is something special, it is far from being the last of the line. For a start, there are credible rumours of a V12 Vantage Roadster arriving early next decade and the imminent One-77 supercar is a clear demonstration that AM are not about to go quietly into the post sports car era. But for a pure distillation of the Aston Martin experience, the V12 is as good as gets for now.