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Aston Martin V8 2012 Review

EXPERT RATING
7

Pine plantations, as the apparent preferred location for man's inhumanities, silently have witnessed some mind-numbing events. 

But rarely have their nuts been shaken by something as spine-chilling as the coarse vibrations of an almost open-ended Aston Martin exhaust. 

The sound of the latest Aston, the Vantage S, on test distorts and echoes down the perfect vertical line of trees - more the angry noise of an animal in pain than a V8 engine that has been grudgingly enticed to release even more power. 

Aston Martin developed the V8 Vantage S as an evolutionary model. More power, more torque, more noise and more driver exhilaration has pushed it one step closer to the race track. With a hard-edged seven-speed automated manual and a $275,000 price tag, clearly it's not for everyone.

VALUE

Let me repeat that figure - $275,000. Value for some, possibly, but this is a purchase where value isn't the first port of call. If you want your car right on the edge of performance and yet want a dose of luxury clothed in the world's sexiest car body, then this may represent value.

The Vantage S, obviously based heavily on the $250,272 V8 Vantage, doesn't miss out on much in the way of features but there's a sense that this may be an upgrade on a car first made six years ago.

Some of the kit includes a Bang & Olufsen audio, iPod/USB connectivity, leather and alcantara, sat-nav and cruise control.

DESIGN

This is the most beautiful car in the world. You may disagree, but you'd be wrong. I recognise that it's six years old but it would be a brave man - or woman - who takes on drawing the next shape. 

Because it is essentially a grand tourer coupe, it's made to be low and fast and carry the bare minimum of people. Instantly, it's going to be big on engine space and light on cabin room. 

But for those who travel light between European countries at Mach 1, cabin room is sufficient and if the road's smooth, is comfortable.

TECHNOLOGY

Lots to talk about here. It gets the same basic 4.7-litre V8 engine as the cheaper Vantage, but adds an adjustable intake plenum and a lot more spark from the ignition. More air, more spark, more bang. Power goes up 7kW to 321kW at a dizzy 7200rpm and torque rises 20Nm to 490Nm. 

The gearbox is a Graziano seven-speed automated manual - that Aston calls Sportshift II - integrated with the diff. It's made specifically for this car. It is controlled by the same panel of round buttons - including the must-have Sports switch - atop the centre console but individually selected by the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. 

Aston says shift times are quicker than a manual and the box is 50kg lighter than a dual-clutch system and 24kg down on the standard Vantage's Sportshift I transmission. No manual box is available on the "S". 

Compared with the standard Vantage, the suspension is firmer, steering quicker with less turns needed, the brakes are grooved as well as vented and the tyres are meatier. Oh, and it goes faster.

SAFETY

Four airbags, all the electronic aids known to man and a non-existent crash rating. Many expensive, low-volume cars don't carry a crash rating in Europe, the US or Australia. 

DRIVING

I apologise now for waking up the neighbours when I plunged the glass key into its slot. The noise of the engine cranking is like the precursory gurgling of an aroused volcano and the eight cylinders firing is the explosion of jettonised lava. 

Honestly, if I could push start it to the bottom of the street I would have. Noise is the essence of a performance car and the Vantage S doesn't disappoint. 

True, I could have stopped myself from pressing the "Sport" button, but where's the fun in that?
Off the mark, at slow speeds, the automated gearbox is sluggish. It needs a lot of revs and feels like it's not connected to the wheels. Upchanges have a frustrating pause between the cogs when left in the auto mode. 

But use the Sport button and the paddle shifters, keep the engine on the boil above 3500rpm and this is one of the sweetest road rockets around. It doesn't particularly like traffic and occasionally bumped and hopped as the transmission tried to figure out which gear it needed. 

Away from the grind, up in the hills and out to where the roads cut through pine plantations, it found home. The steering is perfect, the engine response brilliant - to the point of scary - and the glorious noise of the open exhaust brings a broad smile.

But the road needs to be relatively smooth for imperfections jiggle the suspension and relay them through the thinly-padded carbon-fibre seats. Tiny switches also make the dashboard initially difficult to operate. But I'm being pedantic. 

VERDICT

This is where emotion and engineering meet. The Vantage S is built for people who have unrestricted access to sweeping roads, premium fuel and time. I don't.

But I understand this car. It's imperfections - loud, firm and awkward at low speeds - are just part of its character and all wash away when you pull on the right-hand paddle and bring up the numeral four on the dash, then five, then six and when the road flattens and stretches, seven.

ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE S

Price: $275,000
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km, roadside assist
Resale: n/a
Service Interval: 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 12.9 l/100km; 299g/km CO2
Safety Equipment: four airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC. Crash rating n/a
Engine: 321kW/490Nm 4.7-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual
Body: 2-door, 2 seats
Dimensions: 4385 (L); 1865mm (W); 1260mm (H); 2600mm (WB)
Weight: 1610kg
Tyre: Size (ft) 245/40R19 (rr) 285/35R19. Spare tyre none

Pricing Guides

$70,070
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$0
Highest Price
$140,140

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Vantage Roadster 4.7L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $118,360 – 136,070 2012 Aston Martin V8 2012 Vantage Roadster Pricing and Specs
Vantage S Roadster 4.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO No recent listings 2012 Aston Martin V8 2012 Vantage S Roadster Pricing and Specs
Vantage 4.7L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $111,430 – 128,040 2012 Aston Martin V8 2012 Vantage Pricing and Specs
Vantage S 4.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO No recent listings 2012 Aston Martin V8 2012 Vantage S Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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