First drive: Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
AM has gone to town on the V12 S to make it the most rip-snorting, thuggish car possible. We drive it
What is it?
The Aston Martin Vantage V12 S, the most aggressive version yet of the junior range. With plenty of other, more softly tuned versions in the line up, AM has gone to town on the V12 S to make it the most rip-snorting, thuggish car they could build. And they haven't done too bad a job.
Compared with the regular V12 Vantage, power is up 11 per cent to 565bhp, torque progresses nine per cent to 620Nm, leading directly to a lower 0-96kph time of 3.7seconds (4.2secs for the standard V12) and pushing the top speed to 330kph from 305kph. This is now the fastest Aston Martin you can buy.
The V12 S is around 20kg lighter than the Vantage coupe it replaces, almost all of which is thanks to the new, lighter Sportshift III gearbox. This seven-speed automated manual is the only gearbox available on the Coupe, the manual only sitting behind the engine in the V12 Roadster. Sportshift III boasts gear-swapping times of less than 70 milliseconds via the steering column-mounted paddles.
Three levels of adaptive damping are selectable by the driver: Normal, Sport, and Track. The biggest difference is between Normal and Sport, with Track just marginally stiffer. And the dynamic stability control has been recalibrated to make the most of this better chassis control - and the greater output of the drivetrain.
The third-gen carbon ceramic brakes now have the largest braking surface ever used on an Aston Martin, and the new 10-spoke wheels are 1kg lighter apiece than the standard V12 Vantage hoops. Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, which are almost as sticky as an F1 tyre, just with a slightly better life expectancy, are fitted as standard.
Other than the new wheel design, other exterior cosmetic updates include optional black or titanium mesh front grilles, with CC100-alike painted struts if you desire, and new bonnet vents. Inside, it's all familiar Vantage fare, apart from the reworked lightweight seats and a mercifully more modest glass key fob.
What's it like?
Restless is the best way to describe it. This car has absolutely no interest whatsoever in going slowly. It will move around at normal speeds but, even with everything in its softest settings, the car feels impatient and a bit awkward. Gearchanges at low speeds take a while to slur and you are left with no doubt that the car would much rather be yelling its lungs out - via its new exhaust - somewhere else.
Once you get out of town, it all starts to make much more sense in an Aston kind of way. It's still a stocky little fella at 1665kg, so you have to be fairly deliberate and confident with your inputs as it's not the easiest car to realign. But get that sorted out and the S charges around like a bulldog after a plate of fresh steak. Gearchanges ricochet up and down the ‘box, the steering weights up nicely and there's stacks of grip so you can get in, through and out of corners in a very pleasing way.
There is no doubt whatsoever that a GT3 or a 458 would walk away from this in a race, but those two cars do not have the Aston's effortlessly classy looks or badge. You might be the first one to the bar in the first two cars, but you'd be the last to leave alone in the Aston.
Should I buy one?
If you are in the market for a seriously committed Aston Martin, this is it. There are faster and better handling cars, but only one with this amount of performance and shopping-dropping design: the V12 Vantage S.
5,935cc, 12cyl, RWD, 565bhp, 620Nm, N/A kpl, 0-100kph TBC, 330kph, 1,665kg (est - yes, not even Aston knows yet)