Aston Martin Vantage V12 Vantage S
Stunning looks are a big part of the Aston's appeal
- Stunning looks enhanced still further in this guise
- V12 engine is hugely powerful and brimming with character
- Sharp handling yet more than acceptable ride quality
- Cut-glass image with motorsport heritage
- Some cabin elements feel a little tired
- Gearbox is slow in automatic mode and fast but brutal in manual mode
- High running costs unavoidable
- Cabin short on space
British icon Aston Martin is continuing to expand its range ever upwards, this time with the introduction of the Vantage V12 S. By taking its smallest car and fitting it with the latest and most powerful series production engine available it has created its fastest ever car available to the general public.
The Vantage range has been tweaked and enhanced many times over its lifespan, so much so that the V12 Vantage S feels a long way from the original 4.2-litre V8 car. The Vantage V12 model that appeared in 2010 first introduced the 12-cylinder engine into a car that was never designed to receive it, but the Vantage S version takes that to another level.
It is the most aggressive looking Aston Martin to date, with a deeper front bumper with an aerodynamic splitter and larger air intake that gives more menace to the front end as well as feeding the engine and cooling the brakes. At the rear there is a race-car-like diffuser which aids aerodynamic performance, while down the sides the more pronounced sill skirts are another racing-derived improvement.
Under the bonnet the Vantage V12 S gets the latest iteration of the same unit found in the flagship Vanquish model, and as such is one of the most powerful Aston Martins ever to take to the road. Following a move towards automatic and semi-automatic transmissions in high-end cars the Vantage V12 S is only available with the seven-speed Sportshift III automatic that combines an automatic mode for relaxed driving in traffic with paddle-activated rapid shifts on demand.
The Vantage V12 S also benefits from the latest generation of Aston Martin's adaptive damping control, which can be controlled independently from the Sport mode which alters the gearbox's shift speed, the steering map and the exhaust system; in Sport mode the large exhaust muffler is bypassed to allow the full sound of the V12 to be heard.
Our verdict on the Aston Martin Vantage V12 Vantage S
The basic Vantage may not be in the first flush of youth but there's no question that this is the finest iteration to date. It is a stunningly beautiful and yet aggressive car to look at, offers sensational performance and character from its V12 engine and yet it still comfortable enough to use every day. The only demerit is the slightly dim-witted gearbox, but even this niggle can't detract from the Aston's huge appeal.
Running costs for the Vantage will be very high indeed. The purchase price, fuel consumption and insurance are all at the top end of the scale, making it a car for the well-heeled only.
Space and practicality
The Vantage is relatively restricted in terms of space although most importantly front seat passengers are well catered for. The boot space is reasonable, and behind the rear seats there is also a little space that can be utilised.
Controls and display
The layout of the Vantage is logical and relatively easy to use as well as handsome. The gorgeous flood-lit instruments and clear digital displays speak volumes about the quality of the car as a whole and make it a particularly pleasant vehicle to travel in at night. The layout of the main controls in the centre console is quite spread out and requires a little familiarisation.
Although the ride is sporty and firm, the Vantage delivers impressive levels of comfort. The ride copes admirably with rougher surfaces and is surprisingly refined. Road and wind noise are well disguised and at a cruise the engine settles down to a discreet rumble. The seats are also very good, with full electric adjustment to attain an excellent driving position. The automatic shifts of the gearbox are somewhat hesitant which detracts from comfort levels.
Befitting a car of this price and exclusivity, the Vantage comes with an alarm and immobiliser as standard. This can be upgraded to include a tilt and intrusion sensor, while a tracking device is also on the options list.
With an immensely strong chassis the Vantage offers a high level of passive safety, while the high performance brakes and suspension, combined with a standard stability control system promise an equally high level of active safety. Traction control can easily be provoked, but is not intrusive.
This is currently the fastest Aston money can buy, and it all comes from that magnificent engine. It is essential to have the car in Sport mode to enjoy its full potential, with spectacular acceleration available from almost any speed accompanied by a terrific roar from the exhaust. The gearshift is fast if a little brutal, but the steering and suspension work superbly to keep the driver fully informed.
Family car appeal
The Vantage's family appeal is limited by its small rear seats - only the smallest child seats will fit and the boot is insufficient to carry large amounts of luggage.
First car appeal
The Vantage is much too expensive and powerful to suit even the richest first time car buyer.
Quality and image
The Vantage shows clear attention to detail and high quality materials throughout. The end result is a car that is a pleasure to operate, right down to switches on the dashboard or opening the boot. The same can be said for the Vantage's image, which is close to peerless. The combination of a famous back catalogue of fine performance cars alongside a highly successful racing heritage and cinematic appearances make it one of the most desirable cars money can buy.
Like all Aston Martins the Vantage uses the clever 'swan-wing' doors to make getting in and out easier. Even so, the Vantage is very low to the ground and so entry and exit requires a little care.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
All Vantage models are fitted with a premium audio system as standard, with a powerful 700W amplifier and a dedicated iPod connector. Steering wheel controls allow easy operation and the sound quality is exceptional, regardless of the input device.
Colours and trim
As you might expect at this price you can have your Vantage finished in a variety of trims and colours. The exterior is very colour sensitive as there is no chrome and even the vents can be chosen in a contrasting colour if desired. On the inside there is plenty of leather and carbon fibre or metal trim on the dashboard which is appealing to the eye.
Given its low slung driving position and lack of conventional bumpers, parking the Vantage can be a little nervy at times. These are not the kind of alloy wheels you would want to kerb, although its relatively compact dimensions do help. Rear parking sensors are a must have.
Tyre inflation kit fitted as standard
Petrol engine options - 4.7-litre (420bhp, 430bhp); 6.0-litre (510bhp, 565bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual or seven speed automatic transmission (V12 S only). Trim levels: Vantage, Vantage S, V12 and V12 S.
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