Supercar manufacturers love to wax lyrical about how their products are intended for race use, or for crossing continents, or as art, but few fit the last purpose as well as the trio of the newest super speedsters, among which is the Aston Martin V12 Speedster.
This is a car that is intentionally designed to be rather average as a racer and absolutely useless as a grand tourer. However, it ticks the art box with conviction. This is no ordinary convertible and there is no luxury to speak of here. Instead, it's a visceral display of pared-back extremes with no roof, no windscreen, and nothing but your own two lips to stop you from garnering a collection of bugs in your teeth that would make an entomologist weak at the knees.
But is the most open-air production Aston on offer any good as anything other than a money-making scheme and an art exhibition? With a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 delivering 690 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, carbon fiber bodywork, and a mechanical LSD, it seems like the Speedster may be quite capable on a track too. There's just one small, also British, bump in the road, though, and that's the McLaren Elva.
The Aston Martin V12 Speedster is new for 2021 as a limited-production niche super sports car. As you can probably guess from the headlights, this car is based on the Vantage, but it's something of a monster a la Frankenstein's creation. The engine is from the DBS Superleggera and the Speedster has had most of the front end of the DBS grafted on to fit the powerplant. The DB11's gearbox is fitted, along with the mechanical limited-slip differential from the DBS. So while this thing may be part Vantage Roadster, it's essentially a Lego build of all Aston's current range of sports car offerings. Inspiration comes from past models too, including the One-77 and the Le Mans-winning DBR1, although these forebears only lend styling elements to this special edition, of which only 88 examples will be built. As it unsurprisingly does not meet regulations for road use in the US, buyers can only use this car under a Show & Display permit or on private roads and tracks.
While drawing influence from the 1959 DBR1 race car, Q by Aston Martin - the department responsible for its existence - took influence from another unlikely vehicle - the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet fighter jet. Hence, each passenger is sat in their own roofless "cockpit" with a blade running between the two compartments. A pair of perspex screens aim to deflect wind above your head, but no Speedster is complete without a helmet, so bring one if you plan on driving at any speed above 40 mph - there's even special storage for it behind the cockpit with perspex lids so your helmet is visible, even while tucked away.
However, the correlation between this and the CC100 concept is impossible to ignore. The sweeping hood features a "hood nostril" to allow the V12 to fit while also giving designers the opportunity to lower the front end. A gaping front grille is pure Aston while vents atop the hood add menace and draw the eye.
The shoulder line beneath which these vents are applied wraps all around the car, culminating in an integrated rear wing that sees its shape mirrored in the large rear diffuser housing two centrally-mounted exhaust tips. The wheels are diamond-turned items in the press pictures, but with an almost endless array of customization options, you can pick just about anything you like, with a cost to match the bespoke nature of your request.
As a limited edition, Aston Martin hasn't revealed too many specification details on this car, but we do know that the length is 178.1 inches with the wheelbase measuring 106.5 inches. Its width is pegged at 78.3 inches while the height is a scant 47 inches - no doubt lowered by the complete lack of a roof. As for curb weight, you're looking at a car that is considerably lighter than the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera yet is still quite heavy, tipping the scales at 3,891 pounds.
Each of these cars is built to order, so the colors available depend only on how much you're willing to spend. What we do know about the available hues is that Skyfall Silver is the launch color, a nod to the eponymous James Bond flick, and that a DBR1 specification can be chosen with Aston Martin Racing Green adorning the car.
The Aston Martin V12 Speedster is powered by, you guessed it, a V12. It's the company's biggest on offer since the naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V12 died in 2018, producing 690 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque from 5.2 liters of capacity with the assistance of a pair of turbochargers. Power goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox provided by ZF. According to Aston, it will get from 0 to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds and will top out at an electronically limited 186 mph, although Aston has later said that this will do 198 when derestricted. With an LSD at the back, one might assume that the Speedster is meant to evoke the kind of Le Mans-winning driving characteristics that its inspirational forebear made famous, but comically, this is tuned as a more usable vehicle. Adaptive dampers genuinely soak up imperfections in the road and the torque peak of the engine is much higher than in the DBS to make driving this car more approachable and less of a daunting challenge. Despite this, the open-air experience means that everything feels a little more frantic if you're doing any sort of reasonable speed, especially without a helmet on.
As we mentioned earlier, the engine and transmission are borrowed from other Aston products. A 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 boasts specs of 690 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque, less than you get in the DBS because the eight-speed automatic transmission borrowed from the DB11 can't handle too much twist. Nevertheless, the response of the engine is rather good, and you've got waves of usable torque in every gear. The higher torque peak also means that the power delivery is a little easier to manage as you don't get as much of the spiky response of earlier Aston products, something that CEO Tobias Moers is reported to have been very insistent on when he took over control of the company. The eight-speed auto from ZF is typically excellent, changing gears with almost imperceptible efficiency and quick responses. This makes the V12 Speedster well-suited to GT driving, but the lack of protection from the elements means that how the car drives barely matters.
As you can imagine, the driving experience is almost totally overwhelmed by the buffeting wind and the pain of any small fragment of road debris hitting your face. A half helmet may look cooler with some goggles and allow you to pretend that you're racing at Le Mans in 1959, but a full-face helmet is what you need if you have any hope of driving the Speedster at a reasonable speed. Sadly, whether you're wearing a helmet or not, you can't hear anything from the engine or the exhaust unless you're driving along at low speeds. The entire experience is dominated by the wind and driving this car fast is a challenge. The tail can easily get slippery thanks to that mammoth V12, but Aston itself says the car was "created to deliver an incredibly visceral experience", so it's not meant to be too easy to approach. The most fun is had at low speeds around tight turns, and with loads of carbon fiber and the Aston touch, this is still an agile car that feels easy to use. Still, it's more tailored to relaxed driving, and even with the dampers in their stiffest setting, this remains a comfy car if you can ignore the obvious causes for discomfort (wind, rain, sun, snow, bugs, et cetera). The low seating position does add to the occasion though, and seeing that long hood stretch out in front of you is a joy, but the only time you can really enjoy driving something as rare and expensive as this is when you have no fear of damaging it or yourself. We'd love to see someone take it to a track but that's unlikely - all 88 examples will almost certainly live their lives in temperature-controlled garages.
Gas mileage? Are you kidding? This car isn't even homologated for road use in the USA, so there's no chance the EPA will ever have mileage estimates available. Expect consumption to be high and the tank to be small. For reference, the regular V8 Vantage achieves figures of 18/24/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles while the V12 DBS manages 14/22/17 mpg on the same cycles. But if you're buying a niche supercar like this for its gas mileage, we have news for you - you're not the intended buyer at all.
The interior is pretty much the exterior, isn't it? Disappointingly, an ancient infotainment system is fitted, but it doesn't matter in a car where you can't even hear the engine. You also get automatic climate control and heated seats to keep your lower body warm, but we'd still recommend a scarf or a hat depending on the weather - unless of course you don't care if nobody knows you're the owner and wear a helmet when driving this. There are some nice things to look at, like the leather glovebox that can be removed and used as a bag and carbon shell seats with minimalistic padding that happens to exist in all the right places to provide both comfort and support. Headroom is endless and there's plenty of space for your legs, but we wouldn't call this cabin a masterclass in ergonomics. What it is noteworthy for is its detail - every panel looks and feels special.
As you can tell, this is a two-seater, but what you might not expect is that this car is frustrating even for taller drivers to use. The infotainment system and most of the buttons are obscured by the central blade, making this a difficult car to live with. Getting in and out via the windowless doors is easy enough once you deal with the wide sills, but again, taller individuals will experience more of the incoming air directly on their bodies. Still, at least most who sit in it will find that the doors are at shoulder height, so most of the elemental effects of driving this car at speed will only be felt from the neck up, unless it's raining. The seats do at least offer electric adjustability, so it should be possible to find a position that works for you while still making you feel cocooned. Ultimately, this car has enough space for anyone to fit in it, but the design means you'll never feel like you're lounging. You're directly connected to both the car and the outside world.
As a car built to order, you can cover the cabin in just about any material you choose, but the defaults are carbon fiber and fabric, for both lightness and resistance to the elements. A couple of leather accents also feature in the center console, on the middle of the seats, and on the doors and so-called glovebox, where the material serves as a strap.
Despite being tuned as a sort of grand tourer, the V12 Speedster isn't particularly practical - not that this should be a surprise. The aforementioned glove box is made up of a rolled-up leather bag, the door cards are barely big enough to hold a pair of sunglasses, and the center console is essentially just a spot to put your key. In the back, there is a trunk with a contoured shelf for a pair of helmets - visible through the glass panels that form the twin bubbles behind the driver and passenger's heads - but it's not deep enough to carry anything more than a duffel bag.
The V12 Speedster boasts a digital driver info display and adaptive dampers, but beyond that, Aston doesn't tell us much, and we can't imagine there being much use for any of the features anyway. We assume that the headlights are automatically activated and that the usual traction and stability management programs are no different to those in regular Astons, but there's not much to report on here besides the usual: dual-zone automatic climate control system, power-folding mirrors, a rearview camera, and heated seats with memory. Cruise control and automatic stop/start are also among the standard features.
Another pointless feature is the eight-inch infotainment display, which is both difficult to see and useless at normal speeds. If you can't hear a sonorous V12 engine, there's no way you'll hear anything over the speakers. It's also the headache-inducing COMAND unit from Mercedes, so you don't have a touch display, only a finicky and irritating controller, and the software itself is sluggish, awkward to use, and lacking contemporary functionality. Bluetooth and USB connections are possible, but neither Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is offered - only iPod and iPhone integration. Still, at least there is some sort of navigation system, albeit dated and a little slow.
Thus far, no reliability issues have been made known, and it's unlikely that any will surface in a car that is likely to never see road use. Even if there was an issue, it's almost a certainty that Q by Aston Martin will look after its customers and make sure that any niggles are seen to and dealt with appropriately. In any case, it is reassuring to know that neither the Vantage nor the DBS has suffered any recalls for the 2021 model year. The DB11 has proven similarly reliable.
As for warranty coverage, none is mentioned, but you can imagine that a vehicle like this isn't bought by someone who's worried about spending a few bucks on an overpriced oil change. That said, Aston's coverage on regular models includes a three-year unlimited warranty with ten years of unlimited mileage. Extended warranty coverage is available too.
The fact that this car isn't legal to drive on American roads should tell you all you need to know about the NHTSA and IIHS and their opinion on screenless speedsters. Hence, there is no review of the Speedster's safety. And, as a highly limited special edition, this particular Aston would never be intentionally crashed anyway.
Again, normal road use is not the focus of something like this, but the usual features like airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction and stability control systems do feature. Rain-sensing wipers are certainly not fitted.
Whether the V12 Speedster is any good as a car or not is irrelevant. This is designed to be something to look at and to admire, something in which the sensation of speed is exacerbated, something that serves no logical purpose other than to be experienced. It's just too expensive and too exposed to drive hard on the road, but those that do, if there are any, will surely appreciate that they needn't fight the car as much as they do the wind. The gearbox is incredibly smooth and, although the car is heavier than you might expect, you're still well connected and can almost perfectly see the corners of the car.
Is it just an expensive fad? In some ways, yes, otherwise it would be in series production with the rest of Aston's cars. But despite its relatively low price compared to offerings from McLaren and Ferrari, it remains a super-low-volume special and combines the proportions of a Vantage with the charismatic grunt of a DBS and the smoothness of a DB11. It's not cheap, it's not easy to live with day to day, the infotainment system is ancient, and it's not as taut and focused as it would need to be if it wanted to be any good at trackwork either. But it reminds you of who Aston is and was, and what kind of design feats the relatively small automaker can accomplish with a decent budget.
Ultimately, this is one of the worst and most useless cars ever made - with zero practicality and nothing we expect from an A-to-B daily driver. But perhaps its lack of sense also makes it one of the best in a very strange way. Why? Because it's worth the inconvenience of getting wet and windy for its sheer prettiness and sense of occasion. Yes, you can go faster in other Astons, but who cares? If it gets driven twice a year, that will be an achievement in itself, and an event too. Sure, the addition of a windshield would have made it more usable, but the whole theater of the drive would go out the window.
There's a saying that goes something along the lines of "art is something that serves no other purpose than itself". Because the V12 Speedster has no aspirations of being a practical commuter, it lives up to this adage - a vehicle that serves no purpose other than to be enjoyed for what it is - immense flaws and all.
At the time of its reveal, the price of the Aston Martin V12 Speedster was an astonishing £765,000. In American money, that translates to over a million bucks at the time of writing, although sources suggest Aston will sell it at a MSRP of $950,000. That figure excludes things like import fees and taxes, but as a vehicle that isn't street-legal, it's best to think of this car as an art piece that you buy simply to look at. Still, it's cheaper than the McLaren Elva (approx. $1.8 million) and the Ferrari Monza SP twins that start at €1.6 million ($1.95 million) apiece.
Just one iteration of the Aston Martin V12 Speedster is currently offered, but each of the 88 units will be tailored to the buyer's specifications. Under the hood lies a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 producing 690 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque. This is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential. 0-60 mph is achieved in 3.4 seconds and top speed arrives at a limited 186 mph. Features are scant, but you can expect automatic dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable seats, cruise control, adaptive dampers, and standard carbon ceramic brakes. An eight-inch screen displays info from the COMAND media system that Mercedes tragically supplied, but at least you have standard navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.
This isn't the sort of information that those who aren't on personal terms with their local Aston dealer would know about, but one of the available packages is the DBR1 specification, which features Aston Martin Racing Green paint with Clubsport White roundels, a Satin Silver anodized grille with a Clubsport "lipstick graphic", and 21-inch center-lock wheels with a diamond turned finish on the spokes and a lick of satin black paint. Conker saddle leather also features in the cabin (if you can call it that) with accents finished in satin silver, carbon fiber, and Viridian Green technical textile with Caithness leather. Pricing for this spec hasn't been mentioned, but with the body taking over 50 hours to paint in this finish, it won't be cheap.
The reality is, a niche product like this isn't party to pre-specified packages, and Q by Aston Martin will tailor the experience to your desires, provided you're willing to cover the extraordinary cost of it all.
Wolves don't lose sleep over the opinion of sheep, and if you have the money to burn and desire to own this most vulgar, or exotic, expression of Aston Martin's racing heritage, you likely won't care for our opinion. However, like its endless headroom, the sky really is the limit when it comes to the customization of the V12 Speedster. Built by the Aston Martin Q division, you can individually tailor every aspect of the car from the paint color and depth to the type of leather and how intricate you want the stitching to be. For us, the DBR1 specification hits the spot, not least of all because of the Aston Martin Racing Green paint and white roundels, which make it the perfect compatriot to the DBR1 race car that only the most discerning of collectors will also possess.
Ultimately, any version of this car will appreciate in time, and the V12 Speedster will surely be much loved by collectors.
At $1.8 million, the McLaren Elva is far pricier than the Aston Martin V12 Speedster, but with 149 examples being made, it'll be relatively common compared to the exclusive V12 Speedster, of which only 88 will be built. However, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 in this car is mounted amidships, so you do get a little engagement with the engine. Furthermore, the Active Air Management System vastly improves airflow over your head, making this a more usable and more enjoyable car to be in. That engine is also more potent than what you get in the Aston, producing a whopping 803 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. 0-62 is also claimed to take less than three seconds to achieve. Ultimately, the Elva is the most useful windscreen-free car you can buy, although for the US market, a windscreen is available to make it a road-legal roadster rather than a true speedster.
The Ferrari equivalent of the Aston Martin V12 Speedster is the Monza SP2. It costs almost $2 million and features the 812 Superfast's 6.5-liter V12. That means 789 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque, plus a 0-62 time of 2.9 seconds. But does that really matter? As we've mentioned a few times, the point of all these speedsters is to look good, and that's something the Ferrari Monza achieves with effortless class. This car is a perfect balance of old-school styling cues and modern technology, and with unique lighting elements and a near-seamless body, the Monza is arguably the best designed of the lot, even if it's also the most prone to the wind buffeting inside the cabin. Since it will mostly be used as something to look at, the Ferrari wins simply because it's the most beautiful and has the most glorious engine note. Viva Italia. Of course, Ferrari also has a trump card - since you couldn't possibly have a conversation with a partner, you could just opt for the single-seater Monza SP1 instead.