The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the fastest regular production model to ever leave the company's factory.
Here are the headlines: a 205mph top speed, and a 0-62mph time of just 3.9sec. These are only topped by the £1.2million Aston Martin One-77, which was only ever produced in a limited 77-model production run.
Like the V12 Vantage before it, the new S is the most raw and visceral model in the Aston Martin range, but with a boost in power and some serious updates it promises even more performance.
Replacing the 510bhp 5.9-litre V12 engine from the DBS is the revised AM28-spec 5.9 V12 that makes a staggering 565bhp at 6750rpm. Torque is up 27lb ft at its peak to 457lb ft and the curve is fattened up, especially at the bottom, where 376lb ft is available from just 1000rpm.
While at idle, the V12 sounds authoritative and commands your attention because there is a disparity between what your eyes see, your ears hear, and what your bones feel. At first glance, you immediately think that a Vantage shouldn’t sound like it has six litres of engine displacement - but this one certainly does.
Outside the car, you feel the low frequency pulses that can only come from a large displacement V12. At full song, it fulfils our wishes for how an unrestrained Aston Martin engine should sound, embodying pure, unbridled aggression.
Whether we like it or not, the manual, six-speed gearbox has been replaced by a decidedly improved Sportshift III seven-speed automated manual. Given that fewer enthusiast cars are available with true manual boxes (including the Porsche 911 GT3), it’s no surprise Aston Martin took this direction.
The Sportshift III is the latest development of the company’s automated manual that we’ve seen on the likes of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage S, for example. On the positive side, downshifts are impeccable and audibly rewarding, with the right kick of the throttle and perfect timing for clutch release.
After a downshift, the pops and burbles from the exhaust on overrun are simply delightful. In addition, you’ll never be able to make the expensive, potentially tearful, fifth-to-second downshift. Furthermore, this Graziano-sourced box saves 25 kilogrammes over the old manual transmission.
Compared to Porsche’s PDK and Audi’s S tronic twin-clutch auto gearboxes, the Vantage’s gearbox feels antiquated, but as long as you treat it for what it is – an automated manual – it can be especially rewarding. Upshifts are accomplished faster than a human-operated shift, just not as quick as the latest transmissions.
Remember to lift your foot off the throttle, as you would with a manual box, and upshifts are smooth. On the other hand, keep your foot pinned to the floor on upshifts and the transmission becomes recalcitrant, lengthening shift time and noticeably impeding your forward progress.
The gearbox is, however, more satisfying and effective than any previous Sportshift II we’ve driven and the paddle shifters undoubtedly broaden the appeal of the V12 Vantage S. Get on the right road in this Vantage and you immediately forget about the gearbox.
The same great hydraulically assisted steering is here, slightly quicker than before and still delightfully unburdened by the weight of the additional four cylinders over the front axle. The revised steering system is enhanced by two levels of power assist, which is tied into the new electronically controlled dampers.
As with the new Aston Martin Vanquish and Aston Martin Rapide S models, the V12 Vantage S is also fitted standard with a three-mode Adaptive Damping System from Bilstein. The driver can choose from Normal, Sport and Track modes, but note that Sport mode isn’t simply limited to damping. It also quickens throttle response and speed of gearchanges, and opens further the already sonorous exhaust.
Sport is the perfect all around setting, for the damping, throttle, steering assist, and gear change optimisations serve to enhance the driving experience. These subtle changes make it possible to attack the road with a slightly higher level of confidence than before. That’s what we want from our sports cars, isn’t it?
The excellent carbon ceramic braking system is retained and confirms that Aston Martin still delivers some of the best carbon brakes available today. Lighter weight, ten-spoke alloys, still fitted with Pirelli’s P Zero Corsa tyres, help unsprung weight and, when painted black, look entirely the business.
Some could argue that with 565bhp on tap, the front 255- and rear 295-section tyres aren’t wide enough, but we’d suggest that this Vantage still retains its exemplary balance. While understeer is rarely present, the degree of oversteer can be dictated by the amount of throttle you wish to use. With the confidence you feel behind the wheel and the chassis’ superb balance, you don’t need to be a GT racer to exploit its full range of performance.
Changes to the beautiful exterior lines are reserved for a new carbonfibre grille opening and when paired with the signature yellow paint, the effect is striking. Visually, it’s more like art than it is automotive styling.
A Sport seat is standard, but the more hardcore character of this Vantage demands the available lightweight buckets. The perfectly positioned, correctly sized, and Alcantara-covered steering wheel carries over.
The interior is unchanged from its refresh in 2009 and while the instrument panel still accomplishes everything that’s expected of a modern car, its styling hasn’t kept pace with the competition. An interior refresh akin to that of the Vanquish would be a welcome update.
In a digital world, this mega Vantage is refreshingly analogue and its raw, aggressive nature is boldly apparent, just as Aston Martin intended.
If the deeply integrated electronic systems of other sports cars don’t appeal to you - like those found in the new, tech-laden Porsche 911 GT3 - the V12 Vantage S might just have the right blend of speed, style and character you’re looking for.