Overall rating: 4.5/5
Engine, styling and transmission revisions create the bombastic V12 Vantage S, Aston's most thrilling Vantage yet.
In the metal 5/5
The Vantage might be among the oldest models in the Aston Martin line-up, but age has done little to diminish its appeal. And V12 S revisions only improve its squat, purposeful looks even further. A new CC100 inspired front grille feeds cooling air to the V12 engine, while the bonnet mounted vents in black carbon fibre are a V12 signature, giving the Vantage a distinctively more aggressive face. Flared wheelarches, within which new ten-spoke alloys reside, the subtly kicked-up boot lid spoiler and further carbon accents create a Vantage that looks sensational.
The inside remains much as it always has, which means instruments that are tricky to read and a satnav and infotainment system that's lacking the ease of use of cars costing way less these days. With the V12 creating the soundtrack it's forgivable, as the basics are right, the driving position is great and the finish of the leather-lined cabin simply impeccable.
Driving it 4/5
To go any faster in an Aston Martin you'll need to own one of the One-77 hyper-cars that the firm built over the past two years. The 6.0-litre V12 engine delivers 573hp and a 620Nm of torque, with 510Nm of that twisting force available at just 1,000rpm. All that gives the V12 Vantage S the ability to reach 100km/h in 3.9 seconds from rest and a top speed of 330km/h. It feels every bit as fast as those numbers suggest too, the V12's delivery one that's seemingly unending in its force. It matters little which of the seven ratios it's in as the car is monstrously rapid in any, the forceful acceleration accompanied by a soundtrack that's every bit as enjoyable as the performance on offer.
If there's a weak link in the package it's the Sportshift III AMT (Automated Manual Transmission), a single-clutch, paddle-shifted seven-speeder. There are numerous convincing packaging and weight arguments for Aston's choice of transmission, but alongside the latest, smooth and quick-shifting twin-clutch autos from rivals, it feels old school in its operation, with yawning pauses on part throttle upshifts and brutal - though admittedly rapid - selection when pushing harder. Downshifts at speed are achieved quickly and smoothly, though slow things down and again you need to manage the shift with the throttle to try and smooth out its selection.
If the transmission sometimes frustrates the rest of the package utterly captivates and delights; the steering is fast and well-weighted, the 15:1 ratio quicker than the old 17:1 set up, its response linked to the adaptive damper selection. The Alcantara-rimmed wheel is faithful in its response and delivers decent feedback. Grip levels are huge, as is traction; the V12 Vantage S is a hugely rapid and capable car, aided by three-stage adaptive suspension that, while unsurprisingly firm, achieves an excellent compromise between ride comfort and control. It offers Normal, Sport and Track choices, with the ride deteriorating as you select the more focused modes. The brakes, Aston's carbon ceramic discs, with six-piston callipers up front and four at the rear, are mighty, resisting fade and delivering consistent, impressive performance regardless of what's asked of them.
What you get for your money 5/5
The standard specification leaves you wanting for little, except perhaps the optional lightweight sports seats. There's huge scope for personalisation should you want it, from interior and exterior colour schemes, contrasting black or silver roof and rear panel choices, or unique requests via Aston's special 'Q' division offering.
The One-77's development allowed Aston Martin to explore new technologies that have trickled down to the V12 Vantage S model. The rear muffler is such an example, weighing less than that of the V8 Vantage S's item, it's freer breathing and more sonorous, and it also makes up part of the rear crash structure.
A brilliant addition the range, the V12 Vantage S is the car the Vantage should always have been. The gearbox has the capacity to frustrate, but it's not so dominant to ruin what's otherwise a hugely entertaining and capable package. The best car Aston Martin makes, by some margin.