Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
There I was, another hectic day in the office, weather outside decidedly Autumnal, with the nights drawing in. Needing a bit of a lift. Then the phone rings. Would you like to road-test the Aston Martin Vantage S, I’m asked. Would I? Crikey, this job has its perks I say to myself. A few days later, I’m face-to-face with Aston’s latest, greatest Vantage. Bostin.
The Vantage S is the new range topper from the second most cool brand in the world (Apple comes top) so this is, logic dictates, the coolest car in the world. Period. And it certainly looks it. It has a presence that is attention grabbing but still understated and an athletic almost muscular beauty that comes of being designed for purpose – even the air intakes, essential to keep the engine and brakes cool, whilst lending an aggressive air have been designed to blend in rather than make a statement.
Same ethos inside. This is uber-cool Brit luxury at its best. Not too showy, but a confident, restrained and beautifully crafted statement of intent - resplendent in fine, hand stitched leather, carbon fibre and satin finish metal fixtures and piano-black surfaces. The driving position is low and snug and the sports seats comfortable and supportive.
Now to business. Hit the start button and the sonorous, nigh on symphonic, big V12 bursts in to life and it sounds wonderful. Release the fly handbrake to the right of the driver’s seat, a nice touch reminiscent of sports cars of old, and we’re away. Within a short distance I’m thinking this isn’t the fire-breathing monster I was expecting, it’s so easy to drive in comfort mode and with semi-auto box in drive. We’re stuck in traffic yet the Vantage doesn’t fuss – it’s quite happy pootling along. But it’s when we get out of the traffic and on to an A-road, whack it into Sport mode and start shifting via the paddles that the S’s real character emerges.
It absolutely is a monster, in the best possible way. The free-revving 6.0 V12 packs a colossal 565bhp and 620Nm of torque which can hurtle this relatively light car to 62 in 3.9secs and power on to 205mph, all improvements on the previous version, making it the fastest, most powerful production Aston ever. The sound is spine tingling, the shove in the back explosive throughout its rev range and the sensation of speed awesome. However, outright performance is only part of the story.
I’ve often felt, as someone who owns an older sports car, that though modern sports cars are incredibly fast and efficient, they’ve kinda got a bit too clinical and smooth. The Vantage’s hairy chested V12 performance goes someway to turning the clock back but another big plus is the 7-speed Sportshift III automated manual gearbox. The key is it uses a clutch, albeit electronically/computer controlled, which gives changes a more traditional feel. They may not be quite as smooth as other autos, especially if you forget to lift your foot of the accelerator as you change up via the paddle, but changes have a lovely mechanical charm which adds to the ‘analogue’ feel. Another nice touch is the blip of exhaust crackle as the box changes down, just like you’d get with a manual.
Handling is excellent thanks to a super stiff aluminium chassis and excellent weight balance, achieved by planting the V12 as far back as possible and putting the gearbox adjacent to the rear axle. This balance and the perfectly weighted, direct steering ensures plenty of driver feedback and satisfaction and with what little over steer there is easily controllable via the throttle some old school sports car fun can be had safe in the knowledge that the best in class ceramic brakes and on-board traction systems will get you out of trouble if need be. It’s also worth saying that even in sport mode, which firms up suspension, sharpens throttle response and tweaks gear change timings and speeds, the Vantage is no boneshaker and in comfort-mode it’s pretty refined.
It’s as though Aston have sought a return to the aspects of driving that made sports cars special – a sense of rawness, of thrill and dicing a little with danger (even if it’s illusory). Don’t get me wrong, the Vantage S is no brute but it hasn’t been sanitised and PC’d to the n’th degree in the pursuit of easily gotten speed in comfort. For me, that’s what makes this a truly involving and ultimately great sports car, the like of which cannot be found elsewhere. And all for a very reasonable, by supercar standards, £138k.
Top speed: 205mph
Stratstone Aston Martin Cardiff.
Tel. 029 2069 5713