S takes Vantage into 200mph club
“I was determined that whatever the top speed was, it would start with a 2,” admits Ian Minards, Aston Martin’s Product Development Director. He’s achieved his goal too, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S coming with a quoted maximum of 205mph. That makes it the fastest Aston Martin you can currently buy – for a greater V-Max in an Aston you’d need a One-77 – and the V12 Vantage S is also the firm’s most accelerative model, reaching 62mph in just 3.9 seconds.
It feels every bit as quick as that too. The 6.0-litre V12, which a few ECUs aside is shared with its Vanquish relation, feels ridiculously potent under the carbon fibre vented bonnet of the V12 Vantage S. That S is significant, as it signals a development of the old V12 Vantage, which felt very much over-engined, and not necessarily in a good way.
The new V12 Vantage S changes that, using lessons learned from last year’s V8 Vantage S. So there are subtle aero enhancements, a new front grille (its aperture aping that of the recent CC100 Speedster Concept), new ten-spoke alloy wheels and the option of some contrasting black or silver roof and rear panels and, for want of a better term, ‘lipstick’ around that re-profiled grille.
Inside, the car’s age is apparent, betrayed mostly by the fiddly infotainment with its haphazard buttons. But the basics are right, and you’ll forgive it a lot when you start that 6.0-litre V12 and the cabin fills with its deep, bassy tones.
We’re in Palm Springs for the V12 Vantage S’s launch, and Ian suggests trying the V12 Vantage S through town in auto mode, saying it’s significantly improved when shifting itself over its predecessor.
That may be true, but the yawning gaps as the AMT Speedshift III selects the next ratio is decidedly old-school in a seamlessly-shifted twin-clutch world. Aston has stuck with the automated manual with seven speeds, citing packaging and weight, but the argument wears pretty thin when driving it in auto. Take control via the paddles and it’s smoother as you can ease the shifts with a judicious lift of the accelerator, but it’s a chink in the Aston’s appeal, regardless.
The transmission works so much better at speed, downshifts in particular are executed with a speed and slickness that’s impressive. Upshifts are quick, if somewhat brutal at times, and that suits the V12 Vantage S’s character which screams brawny from the first time you pin the accelerator to the floor.
Having experienced the same 6.0-litre V12 elsewhere in the Aston range, the V12 Vantage S’s differences are stark. This car over-delivers, rather than under, with hot-rod pace allied to a chassis with masses of grip and seriously surefooted composure. There’s the opportunity to fiddle with the suspension, throttle, steering and stability settings via the Sport and adaptive damper buttons, but doing so adds little but a busier ride.
Switch everything off and, even with all that power and torque, such is the grip that you’ll need to work hard to loosen the tail in the dry. The steering, with a new quicker ratio, allows the V12 Vantage S to be guided into and through a corner with an accuracy that’s absent in its predecessor. Indeed, it feels like a different car, the old V12 lacking this new-found sophistication in the bends, and over tricky tarmac.
So it’s fast, and easy – ignoring the issues with the gearbox at least. You’d live with that though, as the rest of the package is so intoxicating, so ludicrously quick, that the V12 Vantage S arguably has what it takes to be considered a real contender at its £138,000 price point.
We’d have one over the newer Vanquish too, and not just because it’s cheaper, but because it’s faster and way more fun.
Top speed: 205mph
Engine: 6.0-litre V12
Transmission: Rear-wheel drive, 7-speed automatic
Wheels: 9J x 19in front; 11J x 19in rear
Tyres: Pirelli P Zero Corsa 255 / 35 ZR19 front ; Pirelli P Zero Corsa 295 / 30 ZR19 rear
Power: 565bhp at 6750rpm
Torque: 457lb ft at 5750rpm
On sale date: Now