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Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster (2014) review

2014-11-30 Read: 378x

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, the S joins the Aston line-up as a regular production model. Meaning you’ve plenty of time to ponder the options list before taking the plunge. Good news, given this now includes the Aston Martin ‘Q’ personalisation service.

A V12 Aston without a roof? Sounds brilliant!

Ah, very good: the sound is indeed a big part of the appeal. With the electric soft-top stowed – a process that’s possible up to 30mph, so no nail-biting at traffic lights – you are fully exposed to the sonic theatre of 565bhp singing through 12 cylinders, 6.0 litres and a new lightweight exhaust system based on design of the One-77’s.

In the standard mode it’s surprisingly civilised – ideal for creeping back onto the estate late at night. As soon as you press the Sport button, however, you’ll be waking the dead.

We lost count of the number of heads that snapped round in passing, the crackling lower speed exhaust drama approaching Maserati GranTurismo-esque levels of thuggery; it’s amusing to watch the sense of middleclass righteous indignation crumble when confronted with the elegance of the Vantage, bristling with carbonfibre vents and bodywork enhancement though it may be.

Counterpoint to this are the sonorous musical heights of the upper rev range, which is so intensely visceral and spine tingly that we didn’t once switch on the Bang & Olufsen audio system. Tone it down by deactivating Sport again? The dead can sleep another day.

Didn’t the V12 Vantage have a reputation for being a bit of a handful?

Any car with 565bhp demands respect. And although its 457lb ft doesn’t peak until 5500rpm, the updated S engine means 376lb ft arrives at just 1000rpm; noise aside, massive capacity throttle response is the very essence of the V12 Vantage Roadster experience.

It’s not exactly intimidating. The steering is weighty and precise, grip well communicated and the three-stage adaptive damping ranges from iron-fisted Race to B-road friendly Normal, via usefully deft Sport. But the opportunities to use full accelerator travel during a damp September’s day on Corsa tyres are few and far between.

Even when you think you’ve got it hooked up safely – at speed on a dual carriageway, for example – drop that hammer and it will spin the wheels in third so fast you’ll be glad of the watchful sophistication of modern stability systems. There are three settings for this, too, if you’re after an alternative to that morning espresso.

Find those full-throttle moments and they instantly justify every penny of this car’s £147,000. The engine is a monster, the Roadster a cage it seems keen to break out of; rolling acceleration is so savage the quoted 4.1sec 0-62mph time is hardly fair warning. But for all that it isn’t a pussycat, the V12 S feels far more on-side than obstinate.

Anything new for the V12 Vantage S Roadster?

Aside from the engine upgrade, the other major change for the S is the gearbox. In place of the six-speed row-your-own manual of its predecessor is a seven-speed ‘Sportshift III’ automated transaxle unit.

This saves 20kg and allows you to keep both hands on the wheel for more of the time – no bad thing given 201mph potential. But in common with most robotised manuals (see: Maserati), the self-shifting action verges on embarrassing. Pull away from a standstill set to auto in town, and with the roof down you have the advantage of being able to hear people laughing, as the car lurches into second with all the grace of a first lesson learner.

Our advice? Ignore auto, select swifter-shifting Sport, embrace the noise and stick to using the paddleshifters, where a little lift on the gas helps smooth the way. Plus if you hold onto the downshift paddle into a corner, the car will select the lowest gear possible. Braking hard? It will keep downshifting, so you don’t miss out on the firework blippery.

Verdict

With all the performance you’d ever need to leave the rest of the world a distant, vibrating blur in the rear view mirror (what? You thought an Aston drop-top would be immune from scuttle shake? Are you crazy?), a gorgeously appointed cabin and those primeval good looks, there are few more attractive high-end open top motoring choices.

Statistics

How much? £147,000
On sale in the UK: September 2014
Engine: 5935cc V12 petrol, 565bhp @ 6750rpm, 457lb ft @ 5550rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed Sportshift III automated manual, rear-wheel
Performance: 4.1sec 0-62mph, 201mph, 19.2mpg, 343g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 1745 / aluminium, steel and composite
length/width/height in mm 4385/2022/1260

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