Aston Martin is a very different car. The V12 Vantage S is a very different Aston Martin.
This car loves drama, and pausing for effect. The drama comes largely from the fact that Aston Martin’s smallest car is equipped with its most powerful V12 engine. The drama growls in your ears when you shift to its sport button. And the world stops for a brief moment when a gear is dropped, before revving up and slicing through the vacuum ahead – shaking up the occupants and leaving the driver in a lurch.
UPSIDE: Great power on wide rpm range, Aggressive design, Delightful ride, good boot space
FLIPSIDE: Automated manual needs acquaintance, not for passenger comfort, expensive
The Price: AED 900,000 (approx.)
Specs and Dimensions: 6.0L V12, Sportshift III 7-speed transmission, 565bhp @ 6750 rpm, 620 Nm torque @ 5750 rpm, Top speed: 330 km/h, 0-100 in 3.9 sec / 4385 mm long, 2022 mm wide, 1250 mm high, wheelbase 2600 mm, kerb weight: 1665 kg
The First 5 minutes
The last time I got a rap on my head for letting a car shudder in gear-shift shock was in a distant epoch and age, when my young calf muscles would almost cramp in the weariness of disengaging the clutch. The lessons, sans the rap on the head, were reintroduced into my driving life when the man from Aston Martin, trained at HQ to optimize gearshifts and make the most of the manualised transmission of the Vantage S, shared his knowledge in three precious minutes.
The trick is in disconnecting your calf muscles from the throttle power and allowing the driveline a quick breath, before it changes smoothly into the next gear. Gauging the throttle response, judging your need for power and playing clutch with your throttle pedal is the alpha and omega of learning to drive the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S.
There is no Family Drive this time
What family? You are not even a social animal with this. You might even think twice about choosing this car over your Nissan Tiida to go to work. On comfort mode, your girlfriend might still put up with the noise and the firmness of the drive but only till you switch to the track mode. Once she comes to terms with the noise (if she ever does), you may try rolling down the windows for her to enjoy the full performance of the 12-cylinder engine.
Nothing comes close to the Aston Martin Vantage S V12 roar. It is positively intimidating and exhilarating in the same breath (of fire!) and explains why most cars ahead would just switch to the second lane without a honk, with a little help from its aggressive front.
Long snout, long upturned doors, it is a mess in a parking lot with someone parked too close and the Vantage S V12 takes the award for the very first car that I had to park rear first into my parking lot equation.
Cabin and Controls
Inside the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, you could be left wondering what makes it worth the million dirhams (actually it’s 900K) you shell out – regardless of the excellent leather seats, the Alcantara steering wheel and the expensive skin that is all over the cabin. My V12 test car comes in the Vantage race edition styling in a nice grey topped with a yellow strip running between the carbon fibre console décor as well. Despite a good dose of carbon fibre inside and outside the car, including the inserts between the rear lamps, the rear fenders, air dams and diffusers, here and there, the car does show signs of not so expensive stuff. But these preocupations are drowned in the V12 snarl, gradually releasing its power at the nudge of my right foot.
Though not numerically, somehow on the Aston Martin console, buttons came across as one too many. But what concerns us are the 8 circular buttons that stand out at the top and the bottom. Apart from the traction control button, there is a button to change the tautness of the adaptive suspension – from normal to sport to track. The sport button monitors the fireworks, besides delaying the gear shifts.
Following the drama of the rising satellite speakers, the Bang and Olufsen system vied for attention with the Sport mode SFX, till the silence at settled speeds – relative silence rather – let me enjoy the music.
The hand brake is classic. In a brief show of muscle, you reach out to your left, pull it up and then leave it, to release the brake. The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S rides on 19 inch, 295/30 ZR P Zero from Pirelli. Surprisingly the boot actually took the entire suitcase of our camera equipment that we had to leave behind on our Jaguar F-Type shoot – more than reasonable for a track car.
You drive the Vantage S on its terms before you prove yourself capable enough to override them. Which is what makes the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S a driver’s reward and recognition.
To begin with, the seats have a fixed tilt of around 90 degrees. You can tilt it as far back as you want but your thighs rise along with it so that the seating angle always remains the same. The seat is very comfortable but because of the flanking buttresses, you lean forward and that could in the long run, prove slightly taxing to your arms.
The Aston Martin Vantage S could have my license cancelled before you count to 10. It hardly took 4.5 seconds with a wheel roll delay, to get to the 100 mark and the Vantage S doesn’t stop thanks to the high torque available from 1000 rpm onwards and all of the 558 hp and almost 650 Newton metres of torque available almost all the way to the red line. (Imaginary redline, because there is no redline in this car and gear-shifts are prompted on the instrument panel!) The 0 to 100 is best tested using paddle shifts, because it makes the transitions effortless and very smooth if you mark the revs right. The paddles tide over the abrupt jump that happens with the foot pedal.
On the back roads where thousands of cars rolled through the ages and polished off the tarmac, the torque played havoc with the traction. I call it the ‘dynamic dance of the traction’ of the Vantage S. Because of this, which is nothing more than a hint of fishtailing, it seemed almost impossible to actually get to the 0 to 100 time specified in the books. But the way the car picks up with the enormous power, that explodes through the exhaust in the sport mode and almost demands gloves on the grip of even the Alcantara steering, compels me to believe that this V12 engine can drive this car through the 100 kms mark in 3.9 seconds as promised. It is indeed the most powerful car that I’ve driven so far.
Now, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is a front engine rear wheel drive but behaves like a rear engine car in terms of the tail twitch; but on the track mode, even with enhanced power, the twitch was way less! It does show a hesitation to get in line until you intervene. But unlike most cars where you end up calling bluff on the steering skills, this only enhances the engagement quality of the Aston Martin Vantage S.
While it started off with this dynamic dance, the Vantage S showed exceptional stability while taking ramps and corners. The real wheel drive car anticipates a late turn-in but the car held on to the tarmac without any fuss or body roll, as it turned race track styled corners at a 106 km per hour. The 7 speed automated manual gear box is probably not the smoothest but that is because it actually sticks to the manual mandate to the dot.
A manual purist’s automated nirvana
Left to have its way, the shifts are jerky and abrupt yet it climbs to top gear at speeds as low as 60kms per hour. And thanks to the immense power that is available at any point, the car goes uphill even in the 7th gear without shifting gears. A foot-induced stepdown of the gears is always effective: losing three levels at once. Drifting in with a vice like grip, the Aston straightens up with a jiggle: the car is once again ready for an explosion.
The V12 Vantage S returned 230 kms for 52 litres of fuel but the long term meter showed 18.6 litres per 100kms. Now for a 6 litre engine and a car that is built for the track, well, I don’t see much point in counting those figures especially after what you invest in the car.
The essential Aston Martin Vantage S V12
This Aston Martin might not be the perfect example of the smoothest or the sharpest drive but it is one of pure engagement, and that’s what makes the Vantage S a different car. I don’t expect to see many V12 Vantage S on my morning drive to office. That’s not only because many who can afford the badge would perhaps settle for the DB9 after a test drive of this car. The ones that get bought by those who do tame the stallion still won’t be found on regular roads. They will be sticking to the tracks, deaf in their ears, sore in their arms, and yet happy as a hash-head.
Drive Courtesy: Aston Martin Middle East
Images: Orkun Orcan/ Sudeep Koshy