Two key Aston Martin stories will have graced Autocar.co.uk within the next few weeks.
The first, a drive of the Aston Martin DB11, has already gone live, and the other, a track-based feature and video-fest, including an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S manual, is due online soon. So that’s Aston’s future, then, and past, all in the space of a few weeks.
It’s the past that’s adding buoyancy to my particular ship today, because the combination of the V12 Vantage S manual and a dry Blyton Park, where the Aston was attempting to keep up with a 2017 Nissan GT-R, has reminded me how magnificent the Vantage S’s chassis is. And how magnificent its 563bhp 5.9-litre V12 engine is. And how brilliantly it steers. And how average the manual gearshift is if you try to trouble it, and that the interior is past its best these days.
But let’s not worry about those last bits, because what I want to do today, dear reader, is pay homage to the V12 Vantage S. Next year the current Vantage model, and any interest surrounding it, will be overwhelmed by the arrival of an all-new Vantage, powered by a Mercedes-AMG V8 at first, which will be better, no doubt, than the current car in all major respects.
But the current Vantage in general, and this V12 Vantage S manual in particular, will forever nestle in the softest of places in my heart, filed in a place called ‘things I like but rarely sample’, right between the best of Del Amitri and a three-piece KFC meal (with extra piece). Because the Vantage has what I think is as close as you can get to the perfect brawny car chassis on a circuit. The big engine in the nose wants looking after as you turn in, so you have to judge your entry speed well, but from that point onwards, every corner is a blank page. The car’s attitude is utterly flexible and the angle of attack is all down to you.
If you were looking for imperfections – and every car has them – you’ll find them. Maybe the limited-slip differential is too slack in slower corners, and perhaps there’s not quite enough torque to easily balance the car on the throttle at lower revs. A turbocharged engine would probably sort both of those issues.
There are other things that a ride and handling engineer would want to change, I’m sure. Inefficiencies, unwanted feedback and harshness here and there, no doubt. I’m not blind to them. It wouldn’t surprise me if, looked at truly objectively, there was actually quite a lot that an engineer would find sub-optimal about the V12 Vantage S. It’s a bit old-fashioned. A bit backward. A bit primitive.
None of that matters to me. A couple of years ago, I think I placed a V12 Vantage S above everything including a Porsche 911 GT3 at our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest. I think it’s that good.
When it came to replacing the DB9 with the DB11, there was quite a lot of opportunity for Aston to change the car’s character. As you can see, it has taken it. But with the Vantage, I hope Aston doesn’t go very far from here at all.