The black prototype spotted by CarAdvice’s spy photographers is predominantly cloaked with the production body panels of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S coupe, though its uniquely flared wheel arches are a not-so-subtle hint that there are some serious changes under the skin.
Some are convinced that Aston Martin is testing its all-new vehicle architecture and believe the spied car is an early prototype for the successor to the Vantage and DB9, complete with a new Mercedes-AMG twin-turbocharged V8 engine.
CarAdvice understands, however, that the test car is actually a more hardcore, track-focused version of the Vantage.
Clearly the prototype features wider front and rear tracks, race-spec wheels and broader tyres, and a closer look also reveals a more open grille allowing air to flow more freely beneath the bonnet and larger outlets behind the front wheels.
It's expected the development team will focus on chassis and aerodynamic enhancements, given Aston only recently uprated the V12 Vantage's 6.0-litre to 421kW.
The V12 Vantage S track special is likely to be one of the company's last projects before turning its attention to its next-generation architecture and powertrain package.
The new platform will be the first from Aston Martin since the long-serving VH architecture was introduced with the first-generation Vanquish in 2001. It will debut beneath Aston’s DB9 successor that’s due to launch in about two years’ time, with the next-gen Vantage to follow, though not until 2017 at the earliest.
The new Vantage will benefit from the brand's technical partnership with Daimler, with the German company agreeing in July 2013 to supply Aston Martin with Mercedes-AMG V8 engines for its next-generation sports cars.
It won’t just be any V8 under the bonnet either. The German car maker’s new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 has already been showcased in the Mercedes-AMG GT and C63 sports cars, the latter boasting 375kW and 700Nm in C63 S specification.
The new engine promises to give the Vantage an almighty power boost, with the current model rated at 321kW and 490Nm in its highest S tune.
Click the Photos tab for more images of the Aston Martin mule.