BASE PRICE $230,000 (est)

DRIVETRAIN Front -engine, RWD

ENGINE 5.9L/510-hp/420-lb-ft

DOHC 48-valve V-12

TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual

CURB WEIGHT 3750 lb (mfr)

WHEELBASE 107.9 in


U can't touch this

V-12 Vantage fails U.S. crash, « succeeds at everything else f

ASTON Martin's packaging engineers must have played a lot of Tetris. They've squeezed the company's snarling 5.9-liter V-12 under the pert little hood of their smallest car, the Vantage. Despite devising a new crash structure, sump, induction and cooling system, they didn't meet North American crash regulations, so the 1000 examples they're building will go elsewhere.

A shame.This is one special Aston. It's a compact little missile, endowed with performance akin to casual violence and face-bending cornering ability.

No need to fuss about which gear you're in. They are relatively close, and the torque curve is generous. In third gear, a 60-mph corner converts to a 100-mph straight in a sneeze. The V-l 2's intake and exhaust music is as aristocratic as you'd hope, though by no means taxingly loud.

The car adores curves. It feels more biddable than the DBS, and improved feedback through the very direct steering provides confidence to push hard through gnarly backroad twists. You need to be alert even in a straight line: The stiff setup means it constantly dances and weaves over bumps.

New ground-effects bodywork all around the car cuts lift at both ends. The brakes are carbon-ceramic, the suspension substantially stiffened and lowered, and the tires Pirelli PZero Corsas, 255/35 front and 295/30 rear, on 19-inch rims. We never once defeated the front tires. But the Pirellis are a special dry-optimized compound and pattern, so if it's damp, drive as if a truck has just shed a cargo of ball bearings ahead of you.

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