The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S replaces the already-insane V12 Vantage – originally launched in 2009 – and as its name suggests, there’s a sportier edge to the car second time around.
As with its predecessor, the V12 Vantage S uses Aston’s 6.0-litre V12. However, the engine gets the same upgrades as the Vanquish, increasing power by 55bhp to 565bhp and torque by 37Nm to 620Nm. The torque curve has been broadened, too, with a meaty 510Nm available from only 1,000rpm – that’s 71Nm more than in the old engine.
The company has bowed to consumer demand for autos, and ditched the six-speed manual in favour of its latest Sportshift III automated manual box. This is the first time it’s been offered in conjunction with the V12, and it’s the main contributor towards a 20kg drop in kerbweight.
With such a powerful engine in a relatively small car, performance is ballistic. The Vantage S can sprint from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and hit 205mph flat-out. That makes it the second-fastest Aston you can buy, behind the One-77 hypercar.
As soon as you hit the road it’s clear that the new car retains its predecessor’s big-hearted character, but revs much more freely. The V12 sounds fantastic at low rpm, yet really comes into its own when howling towards the top of the rev range. There are some notable improvements to the drive, too. The adaptive dampers have Normal, Sport and Track modes, and help the car feel far more nailed down in corners.
Sport also enhances throttle response and evokes even more V12 booms and crackles from the exhaust. The steering has a quicker rack and now gets variable assistance – although you don’t really notice this and it’s always decently weighted.
The seven-speed automated manual (different to the six-speed torque-converter Touchtronic box in the Vanquish) is trickier to get used to. Downshifts are impressive, always responding smoothly and quickly to a flick of the paddle, with a corresponding flare of revs. Upshifts are less successful, though. Unless you’re really attacking a stretch of road, and changing gear at high revs, they are awkward and clunky, without the immediacy of an Audi R8 S tronic or similarly priced Porsche 911 Turbo.
However, we did get used to the transmission’s reluctance. We found that you can improve smoothness by lifting the throttle with each shift and by not changing gear as often, instead using the engine’s substantial reserves of torque.
The plate-type limited-slip differential isn’t particularly fancy, but it is predictable and trustworthy. This is what you want when the DSC is all the way off. It locks and stays locked to let you happily steer the car on the throttle – and execute lurid tailslides, too. Driven like this the V12 S really starts to make sense: it’s not a delicate, precision instrument like the Ferrari 458 Italia, but has a brutish, old-school charm that’s hard to find these days.
The Aston is pitched against some fearsome opposition. As well as the R8 and 911, there’s the 458 and Mercedes SLS AMG GT, although the V12 Vantage S’s £138,000 price tag is something of a bargain in comparison. Despite being very familiar with the Aston Martin’s shape, we’d argue that it’s still prettier than its competitors as well – although the optional carbon fibre aero add-ons are more of an acquired taste.