What is it?
On the surface the Vantage S appears to be little more than a slightly pokier, slightly quicker version of the already excellent V8. Not that there would be an awful lot wrong with that; the Vantage is already one of the most handsome coupes money can buy, after all, with a range of dynamic abilities that has got better and better over the years.
In reality, though, the new £102,500, 430bhp Vantage S is more than just a logical progression of the species. As Dr Bez himself admits: “We do not need a revolution at Aston Martin right now.” Even so, it’s hard not to be impressed by just how different this car is compared with what’s gone before.
The real advances concern the car’s steering, which has a quicker, sharper rack; its suspension, which is “just about new from the ground up” in its detail and tuning; and the gearbox, a brand new seven-speed paddle shift item from Graziano that is lighter, faster shifting and features closer ratios than anything else offered previously in a Vantage, be that V8 or V12.
The styling, as intimated, has also been tweaked to make the V8 more muscular visually, though not to the point where you’d mistake for the full fat V12. Even the brakes are bigger front and rear, as are the wheels and tyres, though impressively the overall weight is down by some 30kg compared with the entry level V8.
What’s it like?
On the road the differences are immediately apparent and centre on four areas; the steering, the extra throttle response from the V8 when in Sport mode, the fantastic new NASCAR-like bark from the V8, and the superior shift quality of the new gearbox, which is quite fantastic.
Oh yes, and the new suspension, which somehow manages to make the V8 S feels sharper at speed but more compliant over rough roads; far better resolved, in other words, than our old long term V8 fitted with the optional sport suspension.
The most impressive aspect is the cohesion that now characterizes the driving experience. The V8 Vantage was already a well balanced car, with sufficient performance to unlock its traditional rear-drive chassis should you feel the need to drive it like a maniac.
But the S makes several leaps forwards in all sorts of directions; it’s sharper AND more refined; quicker yet more civilized; better to listen to at full chat but less intrusive ambling on a light throttle.
What it adds up to is a car that may look pleasingly familiar on the eye but which is, in fact, considerably better to drive in every dimension; one that’s both quicker and more refined (than any other V8 to date) but also more rousing and more exciting to drive. And a fair bit quicker, too.
Should I buy one?
At £102,500 the Vantage S is up against some stiff opposition. It’s priced to rival the somewhat formidable Porsche 911 Turbo, and it’ll also feel the heat from the cheaper, more powerful new Jag XKR-S.
In reality, however, the V8 S is one of those cars that delights not just because of its ability to hit Mach 2. This is one of the most charming sports cars you will ever drive and one of the best looking in the eyes of this writer, too. In light of which it’s worth every penny, and then some.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage S
Price: £102,500; Top speed: 189mph; 0-62mph: 4.5sec; Economy: 21.9mpg; CO2: 299g/km; Kerb weight: 1610kg; Engine: V8, 4735cc, petrol; Power: 430bhp at 7300rpm; Torque: 361lb ft at 5000rpm; Gearbox: seven-speed Sportshift II