From £87,4958
The new V12 Vantage S is fast, brilliantly balanced and sounds like thunder, but it's equipped with an occasionally sluggish automated manual gearbox

Our Verdict

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

The Aston Martin Vantage has an abundance of soul, and decent ability with it

9 October 2013

What is it?

Save for the limited run One-77, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the fastest car to ever leave Gaydon. Here are the headlines: a two hundred and five miles per hour top speed, and zero to sixty-two in just 3.9 seconds.

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 510 bhp, 6.0-litre (5935 cc, actually) engine from the DBS is the revised AM28 V12 that makes a staggering 565 horses at 6,750 rpm. Torque is up 27lb-ft at its peak to 457 and the curve is fattened, up especially at the bottom, where 376 lb-ft is available from just 1,000 rpm.

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 fulfills our wishes for how an unrestrained Aston Martin engine should sound, embodying pure, unbridled aggression.

What's it like?

Whether we like it or not, the manual, six-speed gearbox has been replaced by a decidedly improved Sportshift III seven-speed automated manual.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, it’s no surprise Aston Martin took this direction. 

The Sportshift III is latest development of the company’s automated manual that we’ve seen on the likes of the 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 kilograms over the old manual transmission.

Compared to Porsche’s PDK and Audi’s S tronic twin clutch 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 become 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.

Climbing the winding mountain roads near Palm Springs, California 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 Vanquish and Rapide S, 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.

While this may seem like a bit of unnecessary tech, on the ultra smooth asphalt of southern California, Sport seemed to be 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 565 bhp 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 Darren Turner to exploit its full range of performance.

Changes to the beautiful exterior lines are reserved for a new carbon fibre 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.

The American test car was fitted with the standard Sport seat, but the more hard core 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.

Should I buy one?

In a digital world, this mega Vantage is refreshingly analog 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.

Brian Makse

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Price £138,000; 0-62mph 3.9 sec; Top speed 205mph; Economy 19.2mpg; CO2 343g/km; Kerbweight 1615kg; Engine V12, 5935cc, petrol; Power 565 bhp at 6750rpm; Torque 457lb ft; Gearbox 7-speed automated manual

Join the debate


9 October 2013

"Should I buy one?"

Yes I should.

Anyone got any tips for effective bank robbing?


I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

9 October 2013
Frightmare Bob wrote:

"Should I buy one?"

Anyone got any tips for effective bank robbing?

1. Steal the car rather than rob a bank.
2. Don't get caught.

Though the flaw in this plan is the sound of that V12 wailing across the English countryside. The Police would hear you miles off.

9 October 2013

Forget the face-mask, sawn-off shotgun and get-away car and pose as an IT specialist instead.

They'll simply invite you in and you can then hack into their computer system at your leisure - someone will probably offer you a cup of tea while you do it.

9 October 2013
beechie wrote:

Forget the face-mask, sawn-off shotgun and get-away car and pose as an IT specialist instead.

They'll simply invite you in and you can then hack into their computer system at your leisure - someone will probably offer you a cup of tea while you do it.

Pose as an IT consultant, turn up for 6 days with a couple of mates, do sod all and submit an invoice for £140k. That'll give you your first year insurance as well, and you can't be prosecuted.

9 October 2013

Looks like someone popped down to Halfords, bought a job lot of black vinyl wrap and then spent a day covering the car in it. The rear light also look a little bit like the "Lexus" look applied to many a Corsa and C3.

Unlike the author however, I do like the yellow stitching,

9 October 2013

It seems to me that car prices have rocketed in the last couple of years, to the extent that this Aston might just look like a bit of a bargain. Power output to match a 458, proper noise and guaranteed exclusivity make it a genuine contender.

If only they had stuck with a proper manual, or managed to hook up a decent twin clutch unit.

9 October 2013

Price cast aside, this or a F-Type R? Either way, both are a damn sight more desirable, better looking and intoxicating that their German rivals, particularly on the inside where you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a normal saloon when sitting in a 911, R8 or SLS. If you include a 458 and Gallardo as rivals too, albeit mid-engined, then only they come close to the Brits in style.

9 October 2013

I really don't mind autos in sports cars but the automated manuals are a biiiig no no for me, they are useless.

Rather have a manual if I have to judge the change and lift my foot anyway!

Not tried an automated manual at this cost level but but Vauxhalls easytronic and PSA's nodding dog boxes have put me off for life!!

9 October 2013

Not sure what the similarities are between Vauxhalls easytronic and the auto box fitted to my Saab which has paddle shifters but I find it very convenient in town just left in drive and great fun on the open road when manual is selected too, I would probably select a similar system in a sports car too, lets face it most of us drive in the real world alongside others and not on the race track setting records.
Does anybody know if Saab used a different box to Vauxhall?

 Offence can only be taken not given- so give it back!

9 October 2013
DBtechnician wrote:

Does anybody know if Saab used a different box to Vauxhall?

Yes, I think so. Vauxhall's Easytronic is made by ZF. Saab's Sensonic gearbox used a standard manual 'box coupled with an ecu-controlled automated clutch. I'm pretty sure Saab made their own manual gearboxes for the 900/9-3. It wasn't one of their strong points.


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