Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Manual (2017) First Drive

2016-05-20 Read: 341x

It's not a new car. And that makes it a better car.

The 565 hp V12 isn't new. The body looks the same. There aren't changes in the suspension, steering, brakes, wheels, or tires. Even the gearbox is the same, except it's also very different.

Aston Martin has only ever offered the V12 Vantage S with a seven-speed single clutch automated manual from Graziano. The 2017 V12 Vantage S has that same gearbox, but with a very obvious change. The paddles are gone, replaced by a shift lever and a third pedal. It took a lot of work for it to happen since this may be the first time that an automated manual has been made into a true manual.

It's worth it.

While every other automaker ditches the manual gearbox for a definitively faster, easier, and ultimately less involving automatic, Aston Martin has gone the opposite direction, putting a manual in the V12 Vantage for the first time since 2013. 

Aston's boss Andy Palmer is all about manual gearboxes and the driving experience. He's said that he wants his company to be the last to offer a manual in its road cars and has already confirmed that the replacement for the Vantage, which will have AMG V8 power, will also be available with a manual transmission.

"I'm not going to be the boss nor is this going to be the company that kills off the manual transmission," Palmer says. "We all have to move with the times but I still think there's scope within that for the true enthusiast sports car and I'd like to think there will always be home for those customers at Aston Martin."

As a sendoff for the Vantage, Aston has gone truly old-school with this manual and given it a dogleg first gear. For those who don't know, that means that first gear is all the way to the left and back, out of the way of the other gears. That puts the gears you use most on the road and track in straight lines from each other, making your shifts faster. It's also just cool.

Aston will import just 100 of the $199,995 V12 Vantage S to America, and they've already sold every one of them. So if you wanted a naturally aspirated V12 in a Vantage, you're already too late. But this does give you a hint of what the next Vantage will have to offer, so don't despair.

But what we have here is the only new V12 car with a manual gearbox and the only new car with a dogleg transmission layout. And it is, as the kids say, a thing.

Malibu's Mulholland Highway and Encinal Canyon are the roads I chose to get a feel for the V12 Vantage S. It's a combination of tight, technical turns, fast sweepers with good sightlines, long straights, V12-amplifying tunnels, and a dearth of traffic on a Monday morning. Perfect.


On these roads, the Vantage S is sublime. The carbon ceramic brakes are easy to modulate with great pedal feel and don't have a tendency to be grabby. The steering, which is still hydraulically assisted, is well weighted and communicative. It's not perfect, but compared to the electric assisted steering systems that are now prevalent in the market, this makes you wish no engineers ever figured out that you could use electric assist.

But the best part of this car is the drivetrain. The 5.9 liter V12 is the last of its kind, no turbos, start-stop, cylinder deactivation, or other fuel saving tech here. This is just pure gas guzzling feel goodery that ascends to the rev range heavens with absolutely no issue. It also feels totally different than a V12 from Ferrari or Lamborghini. Those engines can be manic, shouty, ferocious. The Aston's power delivery is smoother and feels more dignified, more baritone than hyper soprano. But it still makes 565 hp, which, if you were thinking otherwise, is a considerable amount of power. 

And that's linked to the aforementioned seven-speed manual. When it was automated, it was a let down. As a real manual, it's anything but. Instead of a sort of jerky hell at low speeds, it's suddenly smooth because you're operating the clutch and you're better than a machine. Throws are direct and the gates are well defined, but the new shifting pattern will throw you for a loop (Don't shift into reverse by accident. Don't). You will "downshift" from 4th to 5th instead of 3rd a few times, until you get used to it. Making it into a manual hasn't impacted performance either. The Vantage will hit 60 in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 205, the same as its paddle shifted brother.

A dogleg pattern makes the most sense on a race track, like Buttonwillow Raceway Park.

Buttonwillow isn't the most photogenic location; the entrance looks more like a recycling plant than a track. But that doesn't matter. Buttonwillow has blind crests and fast challenging corners combined with acres upon acres of runoff, that makes it the perfect place to push a car with few consequences, other than a run through dirt and dust.

And that's a good thing, because the V12 Vantage S is rather quick around the track. There's a hint of push on turn in, but that's easily adjusted with the right foot. The short wheelbase makes it eager to change direction quickly, but when you get it loose it's actually surprisingly stable and easy to hold a lurid slide. The best part is how communicative the steering and suspension are. You feel connected, you know what's going on with the tires and the suspension. Instead of the endlessly dull experience offered by so many cars, the Aston feels endlessly talkative, but you never tire of hearing what it has to say.

And then we have the gearbox. Oh that glorious gearbox. This is what a dogleg layout was made for. Putting the gears you use in straight lines just makes so much sense, you have to wonder why every gearbox isn't designed this way. You never risk putting the car into first by accident. Shifts are faster, more accurate. The Aston also has something called AM Shift, which is a rev-matching feature for smoother downshifts. If you don't know how to heel-toe, it works surprisingly well. It also allows for full throttle upshifts.

Even so, I left the system off. 

Without it, the Vantage is a reminder of how we used to connect with cars. Now, there's so much tech that you don't actually know how good or bad of a driver you are. It doesn't compensate for you. Turn everything off, and the only safety net is yourself. A lot of new cars blunt that connection in a pursuit of perceived excellence, and while you may look like a hero, you know it's the car doing the work. The Vantage S was never a car that would be called digital; of the cars in this class, it was the analog choice. Aston has now made it even more analog.

This V12 Vantage S doesn't feel like a new car, and that's because it isn't one. We're better off for it.

2017 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

  • Powertrain: 5.9 liter V12, 565 horsepower, 457 lb-ft, RWD, 7-speed manual
  • Weight: 3670 pounds
  • 0 - 60: 3.9 seconds
  • Top Speed: 205 mph
  • Price: $199,995

Discussion about article New topic

Photo gallery - Aston Martin Vantage V12 S

Aston Martin Vantage

This is an article about the model Aston Martin Vantage V12 S

Recall Aston Martin Vantage

China problems force Aston Martin into global recall of 1,658 cars.

Aston Martin is issuing a global recall for 1,658 of its Vantage cars because of a software issue with the clutch could lead to the car stalling, according to a Reuters. The global recall stems from a problem that seemed to be only affecting certain Vantage models sold in China.

The recall covers any Vantage that was built betwe...

Alpha Classics Racing

"Vantage Widebody Duo" 

Usually, when the phrase “widebody sports car” is uttered, it’s referring to machines like a Nissan GT-R or Ferrari 458. If you want to stance your Aston Martin V8 or V12 Vantage (or the zillions of special editions and derivatives thereof), you’ll have to have a customizing shop slice up and reshape the fenders or just forget about it…at least, that was the situation un...

Red Bull edition (2017)

2017 Aston Martin V8, V12 Vantage S get wings thanks to F1 tie-up

Two brand-new special edition Red Bull Racing models have been revealed ahead of their official unveiling, planned for this year’s opening round of the 2017 Formula One season in Melbourne. This time, though, thanks to a new relationship, they’re not Renaults but Aston Martins.

Due to make their public debut at the 2017 Australian...

Aston Martin Vantage GT8 (2016)

The 8 denotes the number of cylinders under the bonnet. The GT12 had, you guessed it, 12 cylinders – but it also had one other large number on the spec sheet: the price. That car cost a cool £250,000, while the GT8 costs a more reasonable (but only comparatively) £165,000.

Not quite. The V8’s been massaged to produced an extra 10bhp, for a 440bhp total, and there’s 361lb ft to help haul you up ...

What It Cost Owning an Aston Martin for a Year

The day has arrived: I've sold my Aston Martin V8 Vantage. My famous bumper-to-bumper warranty companion is gone, lost to the world, and now officially owned by someone else. This means two things. First, it's time for me to total up exactly what I spent to own it. And second, the people in the Aston Martin PR department can finally break out that bottle of champagne they've been saving up.


Aston Martin Vantage GT12 Roadster (2016)

One-off Aston Martin Vantage GT12 Roadster revealed

Aston Martin’s bespoke tailoring service has created a one-off Vantage GT12 Roadster, revealing the car this morning at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

A one-off customer commission completed by Q by Aston Martin, the GT12 Roadster is said to take the original Vantage GT12 Coupe’s hardcore ethos, adding in “the visceral thrill of open-top...

Aston Martin Vantage GTS (2017)

2017 Aston Martin Vantage GTS Is US-Only Model

After announcing that the V12 Vantage S will get a 7-speed manual transmission, the British sportscar maker has now confirmed plans to truncate their V8-powered Vantage US line-up into a single model for 2017.

Aston Martin Vantage GT8 (2017)

Aston Martin has revealed the upcoming GT8 variant, a race-inspired limited edition much like the earlier GT12. Only 150 will be built – 50 more than the 12-cylinder sibling. And like the GT12, none of those will be coming to North America, either.The car has already been offered to select customers, with a sketch depicting the car but without finalized photos, as the manufacturer wanted to keep t...

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S (2017)

A dogleg seven-speed manual gearbox connected a V12 in Aston's best looking body. That's a win.

Underlining its commitment to building exceptional sports cars that appeal to the most discerning enthusiasts, Aston Martin has ushered in its 17MY range by offering the sensational Aston Martin V12 Vantage S with a manual transmission.

True icons of pure performance blessed with exceptional agility, ...

The Ultimate Review of The Aston Martin Vantage V8

Aston Martin has been one of the leading names in the British auto industry for quite some time now and has established quite a reputation based on the excellence of design, high quality and the fact that each and every automobile is exclusively hand built. However, some cars have been criticized in the recent past as having been produced below the standard that fans of Aston Martin have been used...

Time to buy Aston Martin V8 Vantage (2005 to date)

It's not hard to see why the V8 Vantage has been such a massive success for Aston Martin. Just look at it. It remains one of the most perfectly proportioned cars available and it's also a good bet as a used proposition, with better quality control at the high tech Gaydon plant. Sometimes the solution to a problem is so apparent with the benefit of hindsight that one wonders why it proved such a th...

Aston Martin Vantage GT12

Hardcore Brit gets name change after Porsche claims ownership of GT3 badge.

This means war. A month ago, Aston Martin unveiled its race-inspired, road-going V12 Vantage, christened GT3. This week, it has emerged that the Gaydon firm has been forced to take a chisel to that GT3 badge, replacing it with one reading 'GT12'.

Why? Because Porsche.

The German manufacturer claims it has exclusive ...

Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 (2015)

Aston Martin revealed the first details of its most potent and uncompromising Vantage to date: the track-inspired Vantage GT3 special edition.

With production strictly limited to just 100 examples, the new model combines all of Aston Martin's learning from its years of sports car competition around the globe to produce its most performance focused road-going Vantage.

Equipped with a new iteratio...

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S vs Porsche 911 Turbo S (2014)

The crazy and the cool were never so damn good

It's the choice that dreams are made of. Before us are two cars that inspire shaky hands and moist palms. They each represent the pinnacle of performance from two world class brands, both offering a masterclass in horsepower and excess. They're priced most definitely in the 'serious' category, both hovering around the £150K mark with options. ...

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster (2014) review

First Drives

The Aston Marin V12 Vantage S is arguably one of the greatest Astons ever made – certainly it’s the best Aston currently on sale (sorry Vanquish). So naturally the firm wasn’t about to rest on its laurels, and is now building a V12 Vantage S Roadster as well.

Thanks to the success of the previous V12 Vantage Roadster, which was limited to just 100 examples and quickly sold out, ...

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster

Aston Martin is opening up a new world of exhilarating driving excitement with the announcement of the hotly anticipated V12 Vantage S Roadster.When it arrives in markets around the world later this year the new sports car will become the luxury British marque's most potent, fastest and fastest-accelerating series production roadster to date and follows in the broad tyre tracks of the V12 Vantage ...

Jaguar F-type R Coupe vs Aston Martin V12 Vantage S (2014)

From the big Healeys of the 1960s to the TVRs of the 1990s, we Brits have always known how to put together a properly exciting front-engined, rear-drive two-seater. Well, maybe not how to put it together, but you know what I’m getting at. Italy has supercars; Britain has the Jaguar F-type R Coupe and Aston V12 Vantage S, and we’ve climbed high into the Pyrenees to find out which is best.

CAR’s ed...

Charmim blonde & Aston Martin Vantage

Further evidence that links the exposed female body and shiny cars underlines the sensuality and attractive ladies luxury on four wheels. Blonde Andrea Brezovicova & Aston Martin Vantage it behooves greatly.

Andrea comes from Czech Republic, city Hranice na Morave. It holds the title Miss summer 2013 , which makes it ranked among "Sexy iGirls" and came before the lens of photographer Robert N...

2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Aston's least costly car is also its best.

Aston Martin’s V-8 Vantage is the company's least expensive car, but it looks a lot like its V-12–engined big brothers, the DB9 and the DBS. Although only car nerds can distinguish which current Aston is which, the Vantage's short overhangs, taut lines, and absence of gratuitous scoops and fins make it the best-looking of the bunch. Even in DBR9 racing g...

2005 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

A first drive of Aston's smallest. And finest.

Everyone agrees: Aston Martins are gorgeous. They are also expensive and fast. And usually lacking in cabin space and complete reliability. With the V-8 Vantage, which goes on sale here in January, Ford's boutique brand moves a little closer to the shopping mall. Not that far, mind, as production is limited to 3000 cars a year and the price will be a...

Tereza & Aston Martin V8 Vantage N400

Among the gray bridge pylons blaze of orange gem in the form of ultra exclusive Aston Vantage N400 him. The special edition celebrating the victory on the N24 Ring in 240 numbered copies, and only 40 of them in the paint Karussell Orange.

Aston Martin V12 ZAGATO

When you combine the brands of Aston Martin and Zagato you're setting the scene for some fairly major expectations.

You might think back to that original collaboration from the early 1960s, the DB4 GT Zagato, a superb concoction of style and menace wrapping thoroughbred British engineering; Jim Clark sublimely drifting '2 VEV' at Goodwood. Then there's the V8 Zagato of 1985: I've not driven one, ...

Aston Martin Vantage Prodrive

Normally, when it comes to cars, it’s hard to get excited about anything as mundane as a button. But in the Prodrive Aston Martin V8 Vantage, one button in particular becomes something of an obsession. The soul stirring name, head turning styling, mouth watering construction and a spec’ sheet that’ll impress your 911-driving mates all play second fiddle to one little alloy disc on the steering col...

2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT

The terms "Aston Martin" and "inexpensive" have very rarely occupied space in the same sentence in years past. However, the British automaker appears to be making something of an attempt to change that. At a starting price of $99,900, the just-announced Vantage GT, which is scheduled to make its proper debut later this week at the New York Auto Show, is the first Aston Martin sports car in recent ...

Aston Martin V8 Vantage N430

Pure, unadulterated fun is what lies at the heart of the new V8 Vantage N430. Honed on the track to excel on the road, N430 - available in Coupe or Roadster form - boasts a power hike to 436 PS at 7,300 rpm that brings its output up to that of the spirited V8 Vantage S.

Ian Minards, Director of Product Development at Aston Martin, said of the new car: "N430 is all about bringing track-honed excit...

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Aston Martin is taking sports car performance to extremes with the announcement of the new V12 Vantage S.

The new car replaces the outgoing V12 Vantage in markets around the world and, with the exception of the One-77 hypercar, arrives as the fastest road-going Aston Martin yet offered.

Providing the most visceral yet engaging sports car experience in the British luxury car maker's current range...

Aston Martin Cosworth

This is an article about the engine Aston Martin Cosworth