Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster review
Very few cars look or sound as special as the 565bhp Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster - but it is expensive
When Aston Martin decided to shoehorn a 6.0-litre V12 into the engine bay of the V8 Vantage coupe, a Roadster version of the V12 Vantage was never part of the plan. However, Aston's CEO Dr Ulrich Bez decided he wanted a V12 Roadster for himself, and the project was given the green light. The result is a compact, two-seater, open-roofed sports car powered by a potent 6.0-litre V12, which was upgraded from 510bhp to 565bhp in 2014. That update brought with it a few visual updates and some tweaks to the handling, too. Although it doesn't quite have the structural rigidity of the coupe, it still delivers sharp handling, wind in your hair thrills and a chance to hear that glorious V12 engine sing without a roof in the way. Available only with a six-speed manual gearbox – or a seven-speed auto on the updated S models – it's not the most advanced car of its kind, but has the charm to make up for it.
Our choice: V12 Vantage S Roadster
It may be getting on a bit, but the design of Aston's smallest model has stood the test of time - and looks particularly beautiful as a roadster with the roof down. To distinguish it from the standard V8 model, the V12 gets a series of vents in the bonnet - just like the coupe - plus new bumpers, side sills and unique wheels. There's also a more prominent rear spoiler, which adds visual aggression and vital downforce at high speeds. The interior is beautifully put together, combining soft leathers and chunky metallic switchgear, but the entertainment interface looks outdated and is fiddly to use.
There's a whiff of TVR about the way the V12 Roadster goes about its business. The driving experience is dominated by that creamy smooth V12 engine, while the steering needs a bit of muscle to operate. Plus, with all that power sent to the rear tyres, it requires a cautious right foot on greasy surfaces. Weighing in at 80kg more than the V12 coupe, this is no lightweight, and you can feel the bulk when you ask it to change direction too quickly. On long-sweeping corners, though, the chassis feels perfectly balanced, the steering wheel weights up nicely in your palms and the gargle from the exhausts is addictive. Our issue is with the automatic gearbox, which feels too hesitant to change gear. A Porsche 911 Cabriolet feels much more sorted as an every day car.
A small-scale manufacturer like Aston Martin can't compete with much larger companies like Audi in terms of durability, but things have improved significantly in recent years. There's an attention to detail that's tangible both inside and outside the car, so as along as it's not being flung around a track on a daily basis, no major mechanical problems are expected. Aston now offers a three-year, unlimited-millage warranty on all new cars, so if anything does go wrong, owners should have some peace of mind with AM’s small dealer network.
You'll be unsurprised to hear that practicality is not one of the V12 Roadster's strong points. The tiny 144-litre boot is less than half the size of the V12 Vantage coupe's, while there are slim storage pockets in the doors and central armrest. However, owners are likely to have something more practical on their driveway as well, so the lack of storage space isn't necessarily a problem for this car. The stitched leather seats are electrically adjustable, and soft and supportive, while the refinement with the roof up is almost on a par with the coupe. The suspension is as stiff as you'd expect, which aids the body control, but supple enough to make motorway trips a breeze.
If the £150,000 price tag is within your range, it's unlikely running costs will be much of a consideration - but even so, this small Aston will cost significant sums to run. Fuel economy of around 19.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 343g/km puts it among some of thirstiest cars on the road. Next to newer and more in-demand models like the facelifted Audi R8 and Mercedes SLS AMG, depreciation is likely to be steep, too - especially considering the Vantage (in V8 form at least) has been around since 2005.