What is it?
This is the Aston MartinV12 Vantage RS, the surprise one-off unveiled alongside the company’s new Gaydon design centre last December. CEO Ulrich Bez promised to consider a low-volume production run if there’s a demand.
With 600bhp on tap and an all-up weight of just 1500kg, the V12 Vantage RS was always going to be the quickest roadgoing Aston ever built, which is what initially generated the headlines.
But it was also designed to show the supreme flexibility of the Aston Martin’s aluminium VH chassis system by matching a 600bhp version of the DB9’s 6.0-litre V12 with the lighter, more compact body of the Vantage, normally powered by a 4.3-litre V8 with nearly 200bhp lower output.
The RS uses a Vantage chassis with the engine cradle from a DB9 grafted in. The all-wishbone suspension is re-rated, the rack-and-pinion steering is modified, its track-rod ends are replaced by rose joints and there are mechanical tweaks all over.
There are specially tooled composite and carbonfibre panels all over the car but all of its noise-killing materials have been left out, and the RS doesn’t have to bear the weight of air-con, sat-nav, a sound system, ABS or traction control, so its wiring loom is considerably lighter than standard.
And because the standard engine management doesn’t have to support all these gizmos, Aston engineers have replaced it with a Pectel system that merely feeds and fires the engine – hence the 600bhp output, which improves on the production DBS by a cool 90bhp, and extends the redline from 6800rpm to 7600rpm.
Bearing in mind that the RS is 230kg lighter than the DBS, the claimed RS acceleration (4.0sec for 0-62mph, 0-100mph in 8.5sec) seems conservative. Our DBS test times were 4.2sec for 0-60mph (say 4.3sec for 0-62mph) and 0-100mph in 8.7sec.
What’s it like?
Step into the RS and you’ll find you sit lower than ever, with the base of the side windows more or less level with your chin. The modified DBS wheel is high and almost vertical in front of you, so you view corners over your knuckles, sighting directly down the long bonnet. The RS has a pair of firm and comfortable semi-race bucket seats by Recaro, trimmed in grey Alcantara.
The standard V8 instrumentation remains, but most of the dials don’t work. Instead, engineers have replaced their functions with a small data logger that presents engine rpm in digits and is topped by a row of gearchange lights that grows as revs rise.
“Change at three or four lights,” Craig Croot, Aston Martin's test driver advises. “That’s about 7000rpm. You’ll find the power as you get towards 7600.” Privately I doubt I’ll notice.
Beneath the yowl the V12 begins to deliver a full-throated roar as the accelerator gets into the second half of its travel. You’re thrust back in the seat, Silverstone's south circuit becomes narrower, kinks become curves. Straights are now short and I’m starting to see the shift lights. The engine sounds fantastic, whoop-cracking at every downshift. But there is no time to savour this. You’re concentrating on not arriving too fast at the next obstacle.
The brakes are phenomenal. They simply eliminate speed like nothing I’ve ever experienced, squeezing the car into the road and making you hang forward in the straps. I start leaving my braking later and later – until beads of sweat literally pop up on my brow – and yet I still discover so much retardation in hand that I wish I’d dived in another 100 yards later.