The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S combines Aston's biggest, most powerful engine with its smallest car. It's a scary prospect: something that might excite a spped freak like Guy Martin, in fact.
Guy Martin is the motorbike road-racer with the Wolverine sideys and a slightly wild look in his eye. Blokes like Martin apparently need to almost die to feel alive. So what’s the car that Guy bought for a four-wheeled rush? The Aston Martin V12 Vantage.
The recipe was simple: open a V8 Vantage’s bonnet, stuff in the DB9’s V12. Except now V12 Vantage has become V12 Vantage S, with power and torque rising by 55bhp and 37lb ft to 565bhp and 457lb ft. The same engine as a Vanquish, in effect. I think Guy just twitched.
The V12 Vantage S costs a heady £138k, but there’s more to it than simply squeezing 12 cylinders under that vented bonnet. It gets the Sportshift III automated manual as standard – ‘a major development of the gearbox in the V8 Vantage,’ says Aston. ‘Saves 25kg over the six-speed manual’ – plus lightweight forged alloys, carbon-ceramic brakes and three-stage adaptive damping. There’s also a quicker 15:1 steering ratio and two-stage steering assistance.
Early sensations are promising: the hydraulically assisted steering is crisper than a poppadum, with feel that teaches the new 911 GT3 and Jag F-type a thing or two. Nudge that Alcantara-wrapped wheel and the nose darts eagerly left to right, the body feeling flat and composed. The ride’s very connected, but there’s still a suppleness that prevents it from feeling abruptly curtailed. That’s a line that Sport can overstep; take Track literally. So, leave the dampers in Normal and press the other Sport mode, the one that adds noise, quickens the shift and gives that long-travel throttle extra pizzazz.
Go hard and this is a very quick car, but there’s still a hole low-down the rev range – peak torque hits at 5750rpm – and it’s that and the sticky Pirelli Corsas that allow the V12 S to deploy its power surprisingly well. Shame there’s another hole when you change gear: the automated manual just doesn’t carry the same momentum as the F-type’s torque converter. Little cough, swig of water, where was I? I, er… Gear!
I’ve never been entirely sure about the Vantage’s handling balance, and greasy roads probably aren’t the best time to put that one to bed. I prefer the more languid feel of the longer DB9 and Vanquish, and to me the Vantage always seems to communicate it’s going to slide from a point behind you; I like that feeling to be pushed further up the car. It’s ultimately benign enough, though you still need to have quick reactions.
Putting a V12 into a Vantage sounds deranged, but the fact is it simply brings the Vantage into line with current expectations: the Porsche 911 Carrera S or Jaguar F-type R Coupe if anything feel faster – though both lack the Aston’s 0-62mph and top-speed bragging rights – and they’re certainly more frugal, based on fresher designs and cost £50k less.
It’ll take more balls than a 130mph TT lap to buy an Aston V12 Vantage S, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.