2018 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
The range-topping model in Aston Martin's Vantage sports car range, the V12 Vantage S beguiles with stirring sheet metal and an operatic 565-horsepower motor. Unfortunately, an aging platform prevents it from matching the driving thrills of some rivals, and an unrefined transmission makes daily driving an uncomfortable experience.
The V12 Vantage S could well be thought of as Aston Martin's take on the classic Detroit muscle car formula. It was created when the British brand stuffed its largest, most powerful motor into the engine compartment of its smallest sports car, thereby bringing improved straight-line performance and an engine note of the gods to the Vantage lineup.
The engine in question is a 5.9-liter V12 that cranks out 565 horsepower at 6,750 rpm along with 475 lb-ft of torque at 5,750 rpm - 376 lb-ft of which is available at just 1,000 rpm. With all of that output coursing through the rear wheels, the V12 Vantage S is capable of sprinting from zero-to-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of 205 mph.
The Achilles' heel of the powertrain is a seven-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission that is about a decade behind the times. Compared with more sophisticated dual-clutch units, its shifts are more leisurely and, at slow speeds, are accompanied by a jerkiness that is reminiscent of a teenager learning to drive stick for the first time. Luckily, buyers can select a seven-speed manual which makes the V12 Vantage unique in its segment.
On the plus side, the V12 Vantage S is equipped with a three-mode adaptive damper system that lets the driver choose between "Normal," buttoned-down "Sport" and extra-firm "Track" settings. In addition to adjusting damper configurations, the modes also alter throttle response, steering assistance, gearshift speed and timing, and exhaust note. Overall, the V12 Vantage S is hardly a slouch when it comes to handling, but a basic structure that dates back to 2005 prevents it from exhibiting the poise and finesse of newer competitors.
Standard carbon ceramic brakes provide abbreviated stopping distances and nearly eliminate fade altogether. Air ducts positioned within the lower front grille feed air directly onto the brake discs to aid cooling.
Looking the Part
Outside, the V12 Vantage S is differentiated from humbler Vantage models by a quartet of carbon fiber hood vents that let the massive V12 motor shed excess heat. Carbon fiber also adorns the grille, front splitter, side vents and model-specific rear fascia, and 10-spoke forged alloy wheels, a black roof and a special bodykit round out the visual modifications.
The cabin is a variation on the design used by Aston Martin for the past decade, an elegant configuration with a simple three-spoke steering wheel, a raised center stack and unusual instrumentation with a clockwise-oriented speedometer and a counter-clockwise tachometer. Every surface is adorned with supple leather, fine alcantara and genuine metal trim, and a nearly infinite array of hide, trim and color choices is available for buyers to choose from.
Standard and Optional Features
The V12 Vantage S is fitted as standard with leather upholstery, automatic climate control, an AM/FM/CD stereo with a six-disc CD changer along with USB and AUX inputs, power-adjustable seats, xenon headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, rear parking sensors and 19-inch wheels.
Options include heated seats, a rearview camera, an alarm upgrade and a smoker's package.
All V12 Vantage S models are fitted with dual front and side airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Supercar rivals to the V12 Vantage are numerous and all offer their own distinctive traits. The Audi R8 combines a brutish motor with a user-friendly chassis, the Porsche 911 Turbo S uses Teutonic engineering prowess to provide blistering acceleration while the Ferrari 488 GTB brings Formula 1 technology and performance to the road.