Few will argue that one of the oldest British car companies, namely, Aston Martin, still manages to produce some of the most beautiful sports cars in the world. It’s a remarkable achievement for a car company with such humble beginnings nearly 100 years ago.
Like many car companies of that era, building exotic road going sports cars seemed like a good way to fund the production of far more focused cars for the track, and clearly the more important exploit of the day. The whole venture was no more than a labour of love, and the idea of making money was secondary at best.
If you ask Aston’s CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez, or Design Director, Marek Reichman, they’ll probably tell you that building Aston Martins is still very much a labour of love, only now the company does what it’s supposed to do – makes a profit.
The very latest bit of sports luxury kit to emerge from the factory in Gaydon is the Vantage S. This is a more precise instrument than it’s V8 Vantage sibling, with more power, more torque, and less weight.
Does it get any better? Well, yes. You can always purchase the full-blown race-spec Vantage GT4, but you won’t be driving down to the shops for the milk and bread. No Sir, that beauty does all of its best work on the track.
The Vantage S is a little bit GT4 in that it’s been sharpened some, and a little bit V12 Vantage, from where it takes a number of specific aerodynamic design cues.
Does it go? We’ll know soon enough, when CarAdvice’s Anthony Crawford takes it out for a flat out spin on Spain’s famed Ascari race circuit. From all reports though, the Vantage S could be the most driver-focused road car to ever wear an Aston Martin badge.
It’s a logical extension for one of the world's most sought after sports cars. After all, Porsche has twenty-two 911 variants to cater for those well-heeled enthusiasts that want something extra; a distinct performance advantage over the standard car, however more exotic or expensive that might be.
The Vantage S will sit in between the standard V8 Vantage and the mental as anything V12 Vantage; a veritable supercar that’s had the 6.0-litre powertrain from the hard core DBS literally shoehorned into its Vantage engine bay, for one of the best behind-the-wheel experiences you’re ever likely to have in a car without a number on the side of it.
There’s no roll cage or door pulls as you get in a Porsche GT3, but that’s a very narrow niche indeed. The Vantage S is still a luxury sports car in the tradition of Aston Martin, but this one is quicker and more driver-focused.
The Vantage’s superb 4.7-litre V8 has been tuned to deliver 321kW of power, while torque has been boosted to a naturally aspirated 490Nm for quicker acceleration. The benchmark 0-100km/h sprint is all over in 4.5 seconds, while top speed remains unchanged at 305km/h or the same as the V12 Vantage.
For those in the know, outright speed is not the be all and end all when it comes to the V8 Vantage. Equipped with the one of the best chassis set-ups in the business, this is a sports car that is as precise an instrument as a scalpel when it comes to dissecting twisty roads.
With the Vantage, it’s all about the chassis balance, and there is none better when you’re threading together a string of fast S-bends. The steering is more direct than a Lamborghini Superleggera, and I know that’s a massive call, but I’ve driven both at the limit, and the Aston feels sharper.
So when I read that the Vantage S has a quickened steering rack ratio of 15:1 compared with 17:1 on its V8 sister, you can see why punting this car flat out around one of the world’s finest private race circuits is well worth putting off a marriage.
It’s not just the steering and engine that the engineers at Gaydon have played around with either; the brakes and transmission have had some special attention too.
When you're hurtling down the straight at more than 250km/h, lap after lap on those occasional track day fixes, the last thing you want to worry about is brake fade and not being able to pull up. I doubt that’s going to be problem with the Vantage S, as the front discs are bigger again at 380mm (and thankfully the rotors are slotted), with the addition of new six-pot calipers for extra bite.
Grip should be prodigious with wider rear wheels (10.0J x 19s) shod with Bridgestone 285/35 RE050 rubber, along with new springs and dampers.
While Aston Martin has so far resisted the move to a dual-clutch transmission due to weight issues (disappointingly for some), the Vantage S gets a new seven-speed single-clutch box by Graziano, which is said to shift 20 percent quicker than the currently employed Sportshift unit. The extra gear should mean more flexible ratios and a shorter final drive ratio.
Of course, on track at Ascari, the ‘Sport’ button will be permanently illuminated for a more aggressive throttle response and even quicker shifts between cogs.
I particularly like the more aggressive aero cues on the Vantage S, namely the proper carbon fibre front air damn and pronounced rear deck kick.
It’s difficult to think of better sound than a V8 Vantage in full flight at 6900rpm. The Vantage S is fitted with a new muffler and bypass valve for what should be both a unique and spectacular road going orchestra.
Stay tuned later this week for an on-track review of the Vantage S Coupe and Roadster, as well as a road drive of Aston Martin’s latest GT car, the Virage.