It has been on the market for almost ten years, but the latest iteration of V12 Vantage S has never been better. Paul Maric slips behind the wheel to see what the fuss is about.
There are few cars on the road that have been on the market for almost ten years, yet manage to still look as good as the day they were rolled out to the public.
The Aston Martin Vantage series initially started with a V8 engine with manual or semi-automatic gearbox options. In 2009 the range expanded to include the V12 Vantage, which was then replaced in 2013 with the V12 Vantage S, taking the two-seat coupe from a fast rear-wheel drive sports car to a mind-bending V12 supercar.
Producing 422kW of power and a mammoth 620Nm of torque, the 5.9-litre V12 engine under the bonnet propels the car from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds, sending torque through a semi-automatic seven-speed gearbox.
The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S’s heritage is undisputed, with the manufacturer choosing to stick with the front-engine, rear-wheel drive combination, effectively pushing all-wheel drive to the side in favour of outright rear-drive performance.
Our $354,300 Volcano Red V12 Vantage S was finished with a stunning exterior carbon package, satin black lightweight wheels and a red textured interior.
From the outside, the Vantage still strikes a gorgeous line in traffic, with this colour combination turning heads on many occasions. The sleek Aston Martin lines have been emulated by many manufacturers, but never perfected in the way that Aston Martin has done.
Fine details such as upwardly-cambered doors, an inverted rev tachometer and discreet boot release make this car a signature Aston Martin product.
Equally as impressive is the noise that comes from both the engine and exhaust. Using a variable exhaust system based on Aston Martin’s One-77 supercar, the note gets louder as the revs rise. The unique noise can’t be mistaken for anything other than an Aston Martin, with a deep thrum rising to an echoing wail close to the car’s 7200rpm redline.
The seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox can change gears in just 70ms, making for a vicious swap between gears under full throttle. The experience is further enhanced with blips on downshifts and the ability to skip gears where required — unlike a conventional semi gearbox.
Another aspect that’s unlike a normal gearbox is the often-clunky nature of gear shifts. Sure, much like any semi-automatic gearbox, if you lift off the throttle prior to an upshift the process is made easier. But, it’s an automatic gearbox; it should be able to change gears smoothly and without driver intervention.
This aside, the gearbox does a magic job of wrangling the power and torque on offer from that stunning V12 engine. Under full throttle, gearshifts are nothing short of savage. The gearbox will manually disconnect a gear and select the next gear in a quick, but harsh fashion. It’s reminiscent of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Spyder Performante with the way it rips through cogs in its Corsa mode.
Three suspension modes and a Sport mode help tailor the V12 Vantage S’s handling and performance. A normal, sport and track mode each vary suspension stiffness, while the Sport mode sharpens throttle response and makes the exhaust even louder — like it was ever lacking in that department.
In Sport mode, throttle response is superb, as is steering feel from the hydraulic steering rack. Braking is taken care of by mammoth carbon ceramic brakes that sit on all four corners, measuring 398mm with six-pistons at the front and 360mm with four-pistons at the rear. Brake pedal feel is excellent and progressive, which often isn’t the case with carbon ceramic brakes.
The chassis is incredibly stiff and made even more so in the Sport and Track suspension modes. On rough surfaces there can even be a hint of rack rattle as the car shuffles rigidly over the road when it encounters a bump mid-corner.
Normally this would be a negative trait, but it doesn’t affect the V12 Vantage S’s ability to get torque to the ground, with throttle inputs on corner exit resulting in pure acceleration. The only time that we encountered a hint of wheel slip, it was easy to counter and control thanks to the progressive nature of the naturally aspirated V12 engine.
When driving closer to the vehicle’s limits, it’s easy to place on the road and visibility is great out the front and sides. The driving position is next to perfect, with the only complaint being the size of the steering wheel, which could be slightly smaller.
Around town the V12 Vantage S rides surprisingly well, absorbing bumps at low speeds and catering for all manner of pot holes thrown at it. The front end can scrape on sharp entries and exits, but it was only an issue on very rare occasions.
Parking is made easy thanks to front and rear parking sensors, but don’t expect to get much value out of the reversing camera. The low-quality camera is almost unusable at night time, and with tinted windows it can be quite difficult to see out of the car when there is minimum daylight outside.
The best part about the package is that at highway cruising speeds, the car can be quiet and sedate, giving you the chance to listen to some music through AM/FM, DAB+ digital radio, USB or even over Bluetooth media streaming. The easy-to-use satellite navigation system mates with an exceptional nine-speaker sound system that was optioned with Aston Martin’s premium 700W sound package in our test vehicle.
From next year, the MY16 Vantage will pick up the modern infotainment system and dashboard layout as seen in the Vanquish, which will give the interior a much needed update.
The practical 300-litre boot offers enough room to store several overnight bags or even a golf bag. The interior also offers storage space behind the driver and front passenger seat, along with a usable glove box and centre console.
In terms of layout, the interior is a nice place to be. The controls are in logical locations and it is spacious enough to store odds and ends. It’s also fairly easy to get into and climb out from, which is something some vehicles in this segment struggle with.
You will spend a lot of time getting out of the car, considering the official fuel use figure of 14.7L/100km is hard to reach when continuously playing back that exhaust soundtrack.
There’s no denying the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S offers a connection between driver and car. There is an underlying soul and emotion that is missing from a lot of modern supercars.
The fact that you can live with it day-to-day, drive it to serene locations and still walk away feeling satisfied is testament to the high standards of engineering. If you are yet to find that ultimate sports car and want an engaging drive that is jam-packed with emotion, it’s difficult to look past the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.