Aston Martin’s evergreen Vantage has been treated to numerous upgrades, refinements and special editions throughout its lifetime, but this latest model could be the greatest of them all.
Last year the fastest Vantage ever arrived in the shape of the V12 S and now the thumping 6.0-litre unit and all the upgrades that went with it have been dropped into the beautiful drop-top Roadster body. Combining mighty performance with the thrill of the open air, this could be the most thrilling Aston Martin money can buy. But is that the case?
The Vantage’s shape is a familiar one, having been only subtly tweaked over the years, but the add-ons that go with the V12 S package make the absolute most out of the shape. The most notable change is the grille, where there are near vertical body-coloured bars rather than horizontal vanes that give a visual link to Aston’s GT racers.“…this could be the most thrilling Aston Martin money can buy.”
There are more options for carbon fibre trim and brighter paint shades as well. Combining this car’s satin black wheels with light blue paint, for instance, makes for a stunning combination. It may not be the newest model on the block, but it turns heads like little else.
Ultimately the V12 Vantage S should be regarded as a selfish pursuit, as there’s not much in the way of space for anyone or anything other than you and a friend. Cabin space is respectable, but if you are over six feet tall you might find headroom an issue.
There are no rear seats whatsoever but there is a narrow space to stuff an umbrella or perhaps a coat or two. The boot is just 144 litres, which is enough for a couple of big squashy bags if you pack carefully. A small cubby behind the gear lever, modest glove box and thin door bins improve the situation somewhat. Pack spare pants and sunglasses; leave everything else at home, basically.
Performance and handling
There’s an expectation the Vantage V12 S Roadster will be a little more compromised than the stiffer and lighter Coupe version, but you never feel that from behind the wheel. From the second you fire up those 12 cylinders you are never in any doubt this is a modern interpretation of an old-fashioned hot rod.“…a modern interpretation of an old-fashioned hot rod.”
The new Sportronic III automated transmission is occasionally hesitant in automatic mode and gets by in slow traffic, but the truth is you are better off shifting yourself. Put the car in Sport mode and you get the full orchestral performance from the exhaust as well as sharper throttle response and quicker gearshifts. The 201mph V12 S Roadster is best left in this mode.
Wring the V12 out for all it’s worth and the Vantage utterly demolishes the road ahead. Traction is excellent and you have the excellent three-stage ESP system to help you out, too. With the roof down the sensation of speed is even greater – it’s hard to see a need for anything quicker.
The handling and braking match the performance. Despite the monstrous power, the car is only too willing to help out; the steering is quick and accurate, the carbon ceramic brakes reassuringly strong and it’s surprisingly drift-happy for a car costing more than £150,000.
Economy and environment
Don’t expect to be winning any green friends if you decide to drive a V12 Vantage S Roadster. A naturally aspirated 12-pot motor might be good for acceleration and sound effects but it’s eye-wateringly thirsty.
The Sportshift III helps a little here as it’s lighter than the previous manual gearbox, but the combined figure of 19.2mpg is behind the key rivals. CO2 emissions are 343g/km, significantly more than the bigger yet similarly powered Rapide S.
Bear in mind a forthcoming partnership between Aston Martin and German Mercedes tuner AMG will pave the way for more efficient turbocharged engines, so this could be one of the last production V12 cars available.
Equipment and value
The standard specification for your £147,000 list price includes some carbon fibre exterior trim, leather on the electrically-adjustable seats and dashboard, tyre pressure monitoring and 19-inch forged alloy wheels.“The gearbox is not as good as some of its rivals…”
That excludes the B&O audio system standard on bigger Aston Martins – it’s a £5,495 option here that includes sat-nav. The superb lightweight carbon fibre bucket seats (£2,495) are a worthy addition for keener drivers. You will probably want parking assistance, too, in the form of front sensors (£395) and a reversing camera (£995).
Our test car cost £172,070, thanks to some choice add-ons such as beautiful satin black wheels at £3,745 and the aforementioned B&O audio system.
It’s a drop-top supercar but the V12 Vantage S has a stiff and strong aluminium structure and pop-up roll-over protection. You can also rely on the impressive three-stage ESP system, superb brakes and faithful grip from the wide tyres. It’s not been tested by Euro NCAP but you can rely on it getting a high rating.
Aston Martin’s V12 Vantage S Roadster is not without its flaws. The gearbox is not as good as some of its rivals, running costs are going to be high and some of the cabin architecture is feeling a little dated. But this is a car that is all about sensation; the thrill of the performance and handling, the pleasure you get from having the roof down and the sheer joy of looking at its beautiful exterior.