Aston Martin V8 Vantage S review
Hardcore track-focused Aston Martin V8 Vantage S coupe adds power, improves handling and increases desirability
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage S is another niche model from the firm. It used to be relatively straightforward, going from V8 Vantage to DB9 and DBS. But then Aston expanded the Vantage range by adding the V12 engine from the DBS to create the V12 Vantage. And now there's the V8 Vantage S, which slots in above the 'basic' V8 but below the V12. It's a more handling-focused version of the smallest Aston coupe, designed with enthusiastic drivers and trackday regulars in mind. As a result, it loses some of the trademark Aston Martin refinement in favour of improved dynamic ability.
Our choice: Aston Martin V8 Vantage S coupe
Wider wheels and tyres, broader sills, a subtle rear lip spoiler, plus a carbon front splitter and diffuser are all that really set the S apart from the standard V8 Vantage, so it's not as distinctive as its V12 brother. And the standard car has recently been given some of these styling cues, too, so the difference has become even harder to spot. There's nothing wrong with the svelte basic shape, though, even if it is several years old by now. Interior upgrades are limited to some new trim options: carbon-kevlar bucket seats, piano-black dashboard finish and either an Obsidian Black or Alcantara-stitched steering wheel.
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage S excels in its intended natural environment of the race track, thanks to a razor-sharp seven-speed Sportshift gearbox, wider tyres and a 10bhp power boost over the standard car. Its suspension is even stiffer and lower than that on the previous N420 special edition, and it gets a quicker steering rack, too, so turn-in is instantaneous and body roll practically non-existent. The penalty for this is a harsher ride than Aston Martin owners will be accustomed to, particularly on poor UK roads. If you spend more time in Soho than Silverstone, the Vantage S may not be the ideal Aston for you.
Vantage reliability is generally good, but you'll need to keep a close eye on things (and reduce those service intervals mentioned above) if you frequently drive the S on the limit at trackdays. Owners have reported excessive brake dust, so regular cleaning of the alloy wheels is needed to keep them looking their best. There have also been a few reports of issues with the seven-speed gearbox, particularly at lower speeds in urban driving. As with other Aston Martins, there is no Euro NCAP crash-test score for the Vantage S, but the same electronic systems and powerful brakes that make it such a formidable driver's car also help prevent accidents.
Unlike larger Aston coupes, the V8 Vantage has always been a strict two-seater, and the S version doesn't change this, leaving you with a useful storage area behind the seats. It also has a bigger boot than its more expensive stablemates (300 litres) and a hatchback opening makes it easy to load suitcases in and out. So the V8 Vantage S is not a family car by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still comfortably usable by two people all the same. Rivals like the Audi R8 still make more sense as an everyday car, though.
If you want an economical Aston Martin, buy the Cygnet city car. In common with every other model in the range, the V8 Vantage S barely manages mid-teens fuel economy, and will struggle to achieve even that if you get too fond of its amazing exhaust note at high revs. Insurance costs are sobering, road tax is in the top bracket and the Vantage S needs an expensive initial service after 10,000 miles, then every 12,500 miles after that. And with a list price around £15,000 higher than the standard V8 Vantage, you'd want to be sure you really need the improved handling and extra power of the S to make it a worthwhile purchase.