Overall rating: 4/5
Old-school charm and thundering performance define Aston's latest Vantage Roadster, the V12 S Roadster, and while it isn't without its flaws, it is still a very beguiling choice despite them.
In the Metal:
No surprises really: the new V12 S Roadster borrows its signature cues from the coupé, which means a grille that's influenced by the CC100 Speedster Concept and a vented bonnet to cool the monstrous 6.0-litre V12 engine mounted underneath it. The looks is arguably a touch less successful in the roadster, the more extrovert, road racer styling suiting the coupé better, but you're never going to fail to gain attention - which is kind of the point.
Traditional tricky to read instruments are made worse with the roof down, which is an issue is something that gathers speed so easily. Leather covers everything inside, while Aston's usual ergonomic quirks remain, and the infotainment system is woefully fiddly - though the V12's a big compensator for that, it sounding so good you'll not want to listen to anything else.
The Vantage V12 S coupé is Aston's most hardcore offering and turning it into a Roadster is more transformative than you might imagine. Everything remains the same aside from the ability to drop that roof, which enhances your appreciation of the V12 that's so central to the driving experience. With 573hp and 620Nm of torque - some 510Nm of which arrives at just 1,000rpm - the 6.0-litre V12 isn't short on performance. Get it right and it'll reach 100km/h in 4.1 seconds, a scant 0.2 slower than the coupé - though it'll not sound any slower. That 0-100km/h time could inevitably be improved with a better gearbox. Aston Martin's Sportshift III AMT (Automated Manual Transmission) remains a defining feature in the V12 S Vantage - coupé or Roadster. Compared to the latest dual-clutch systems from rivals the AMT is ponderously slow, its shifts requiring management of the accelerator to smooth them through. That's arguably less of an issue win the Roadster than it is with the more hardcore in feel coupé, but it's an old school requirement that's fine when you're concentrating, but tiresome when you're not. Get it right and it'll upshift swiftly and without a yawning pause in the drive, though time it wrong, on a part throttle and it shifts with all the finesse of a day one learner. Downshifting reveals no such issues.
Leaving it in drive doesn't help, the AMT best shifted manually via the paddle shifters. Pressing the Sport button significantly improves things - resulting in a sharper throttle and quicker gear change. The V12's massive flexibility helps, allowing you to leave it in a higher gear and do without swapping cogs, which is why it's a shame that Aston doesn't allow block downshifting by holding a paddle to drop multiple ratios for more immediate, savage acceleration.
While the gearbox isn't without its quirks it's difficult not to be won over by the V12 S Roadster. Not least as its many sanitised rivals now offer their ridiculous pace without any effort from the driver. The Aston requires a fair amount of input, and if you get it right the rewards are tremendous. It's monumentally rapid, the engine sounds fabulous and the steering is quick, well-weighted and delivers some real feel. Grip levels are high - even if the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres need care in the wet, but the traction and stability system, with its three modes of Normal, Track and Off, does what's asked of it; even the Normal setting allows the Vantage a bit of slip before it intervenes. The adaptive damping system offers further choices, but adding firmness only reminds you that the Roadster's not quite as stiff as the coupé and delivers more road imperfections to the driver.
What you get for your Money:
Little is left out of the standard equipment list with this being the range-topping Vantage, but there's the ability to spend a great deal more via plentiful options and Aston's Q personalisation service. Go for the lightweight sports seats, which are expensive, but worth it for the excellent support and comfort - once you're in them.
If you want the fastest V12 Vantage out there you'll need the coupé, as it'll creep past the Roadster's 323km/h maximum on the way to its 330km/h top speed.
The Aston V12 S Roadster is not without its flaws, but it's utterly beguiling despite them. The gearbox can frustrate, but embrace it as an element of the driving experience and it can be enjoyed. It's a mind-set thing. Get that right and it's difficult not to be seduced by the V12's charisma, soundtrack and shocking performance.