This is the latest baby Aston – the delectable Vantage S. It should look very familiar to you and underneath the handsome skin Darwinian evolution is the order of the day, too.
The now-familiar 4.7-litre V8 now has 430bhp (up 10bhp) and 361lb ft (up 15lb) thanks to improved breathing and more accurate spark ignition. A new exhaust system is both lighter and (this is hard to believe) even fruitier in Sport mode.
Perhaps most significantly the Vantage S comes with a brand new seven-speed Sportshift gearbox, which promises shorter stacked ratios for greater acceleration and much reduced shift times.
Sounds good, what’ll the new Aston Martin Vantage S cost me?
Prices start at £102,500 for the Coupé and £110,700 for the Roadster – that’s up from £93,995 and £102,995 respectively. That’s a whole heap of money and means Vantage S rivals could be as diverse as the Maserati MC Stradale, Audi R8 and Porsche GT3/Turbo. All great cars.
However, with the styling tweaks (new carbon front splitter, more aggressive sill treatment, more pronounced rear spoiler and a carbon diffuser), a modest weight saving (which can be enhanced with lightweight carbon seats and forged rims) and much revised chassis settings, the Vantage S should hold its own.
So is the new 2011 Vantage S a GT3-style baby Aston?
Not quite. It’s certainly more aggressive than the standard car and the launch venue of the Ascari circuit speaks volumes, but this is still a road-optimised package. Having said that the suspension is stiffer and lower even than the N420 limited edition, new six-piston front brakes hint at some serious potential and wider tyres on 19-inch rims suggest that grip and response will also take a leap forwards.
No complaints with the noise as it hares around Ascari. It’s incredible – sharp, jagged, angry. The S feels considerably quicker than a standard car too, thanks to that small increase in torque coupled to shorter gearing. It feels more nimble, too. A faster steering rack helps the car snap cleanly between direction changes and the revised suspension keeps the body in check even when you’re flinging it from kerb-to-kerb.
Of course this is a front-engined, rear-drive sports car and that means a transparent balance, great adjustability and a more forgiving nature than all that grunt and grip suggests. There’s some understeer through quicker corners, but that can easily be neutralised and the S slides with real grace should you have access to a circuit and feel like taking it off the leash.
Hard to say with just track driving. However, there’s no question this will be quite a firm car on the UK’s uniquely bumpy roads. That seven-speed ‘box is also tricky to judge purely on a circuit as paddle shifters (even the bad ones) tend to shine in this environment. What is obvious is that it won’t have the seamless quality of something like an M3’s DCT ‘box, nor the precision. And it has nothing like the brutal speed of Ferrari’s old F1 system as fitted to 430 Scuderia.
I can’t help feeling the Vantage S would be a more appealing package with a good old fashioned manual ‘box.
So should I just stick with the standard Aston Martin V8 Vantage?
At this stratospheric price point the price premium for the S looks pretty good considering it brings refreshed styling, more power, a new gearbox, quicker steering and a more focussed chassis. However, if you want your Aston to be more GT than sports car its revised suspension could be too uncompromising.
On this evidence the increase in grip, control and agility makes the S the pick of the Vantage range. Let’s hope that’s still true when we drive it on the road.