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Road Test: Aston Martin Vantage S 2dr Sportshift III

£140,495 when new
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Extreme isn’t a word you’d normally associate with Aston, unless you are talking about your chances of owning one. But you’re going to hear it a lot when anyone talks of the revised AM Vantage V12 S.

Now the fastest Aston Martin you can buy - with a top speed of 205mph - it’s not super-light or super-clever… think of it as a carbon-fibre-reinforced boxing glove. And Queensberry Rules do not apply.

Featuring an upgraded version of the AM28 6.0-litre V12 engine, power has been hoicked to 565bhp and torque to 457lb ft. The Sportshift III gearbox is still an automated manual, but it now has seven speeds instead of six, weighs 25 kilos less than the last one and has the ability to shift faster than ever before.

The chassis now features three-stage adaptive damping - Normal, Sport and Track - that works with the quicker electric power steering to vary the amount of steering effort. On top of that, there’s now a Sport mode, selectable through a dash-mounted button, which makes things instantly more interesting. It sharpens throttle and gearshift points and opens the exhaust valves.

Cosmetically, the Vantage S now has a carbon-fibre grille that was inspired by the CC100 Speedster Concept, new 10-spoke wheels and a subtle graphics package that covers the roof and part of the boot. But that’s it, really. And it’s enough.

The last time I drove a Vantage a couple of years ago, I got out of it wondering what all the fuss was about. It went fine but was totally outclassed by the Porsche, Lambo and Ferrari we were running it with. Now, rather than try to pursue those cars, the Vantage S has apparently taken its own route forward: into something that should be called “British Gentleman Performance”.

It’s a parallel universe where you just imagine that none of the other cars exist and that yours is the best there is. And because there aren’t any others, it is. The funny thing is, it works in the Vantage S. The gearshifts are neck-snappingly sharp and aggressive, the power is endless and the handling is remarkably linear. Plus it makes a great noise, looks fabulous and has the coolest name in the industry.

It isn’t the lightest or the best-handling car you can buy in this class, but it’s definitely the most British. And that’s all it really needs to be.

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