- Unreal exhaust sounds
- Big V-12 blast of acceleration
- Dripping with panache
- Styling is very similar to other Astons
- Neither transmission is particularly smooth
- Crystal keyfob: no keychains allowed
- Not a number-generating sportscar (911, GT-R)
- Styling is very similar to other Astons
The 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S raps an exotic soundtrack, and delivers unsubtle performance in a gentlemanly way.
The Aston Martin Vantage is the closest to an outright sportscar offered by the British ultra-luxury automaker—the rest of its lineup consisting of exotic grand tourers. Its smallest car, the Vantage is also the least expensive Aston, but with muscular V8 Vantage models priced from about $100,000 and topping out at the V12 Vantage S's base price near $185,000, it's not what you'd call inexpensive.
For that price, drivers get one of the most exclusive sports cars on the road, one with a choice between a powerful V-8 engine and a thrilling V-12 that is one of the car world's sheer aural delights. Either is very quick, but the V-12 is downright seductive, with its fantasy-ready soundtrack.
Last year, the Vantage gained some upgrades, including a Sport mode for V-8 modes, a rearview camera, and a sport exhaust for the standard eight-cylinder Vantage. This year, there's bigger news: the V12 Vantage goes away entirely, replaced by the much more powerful V12 Vantage S model with a new transmission and adaptive suspension. There's also a new entry-level Vantage GT model—entry in price point, anyway.
All Vantages have the same profile, a suggestively low hoodline and sleek, laid-back windshield, with rounded rear haunches that have become Aston's signature since it started building cars mostly from aluminum. There's more room for air to circulate on the V12, with more intakes slitted into the hood, and it wears new 10-spoke wheels, a blacked-out roof and a black panel on its exceedingly short decklid. The cabin's carried over with Aston's crystal keyfob taking center stage, and metal and Alcantara accents framing a well-organized dash—with carbon-fiber trim on V12s taking on accent colors.
For the exterior, Vantage GT buyers can choose from a series of eye-catching liveries with optional graphics packs. Inspired by classic Aston racing cars of the past, the liveries feature two-tone paint jobs and special details for the grille, mirror caps and rear diffuser.
Aston Martin Vantage performance
The standard V8 Vantage hangs on to its 4.7-liter V-8, pegged at 420 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque in base trim, lifted to 430 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque in the V8 Vantage S. Transmissions are a six-speed manual or a seven-speed, automated manual. The V8 Vantage S manages the 60-mph run in 4.3 seconds with a maximum speed of 190 mph, while the standard V8 Vantage takes 4.9 seconds and tops out at 180 mph.
Powering the Vantage GT is a 430-horsepower version of the V8 Vantage's 4.7-liter V-8, which can either be hooked up with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automated manual with paddle shifters. Owners can expect a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph.
For an electric experience without lithium-ion batteries, there's the V12 Vantage S, which replaces the former V-12's 510 horsepower with the same 565-hp, 6.0-liter V-12 found in Aston's Vanquish. Torque is rated at 457 pound-feet. The only transmission available is a seven-speed, automated manual. With its extra power, the V12 Vantage S is capable of a top speed of 205 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration in just 3.7 seconds. It has one of the best engine notes in the entire car world; if only the automated manual had the same smooth moves. It's less juddery than in other applications we've driven (Aventador, older BMW M3s), but the lurching that accompanies low-speed gear changes requires a gentle foot on the throttle. It's much smoother as speeds build in a blast of horsepower: we've seen 143 mph without stressing the big twelve in any major way.
The Vantage has a new three-mode suspension setup that toggles the sports car between Normal, Sport, and Track modes to vary the firmness of the ride. The settings also dictate throttle behavior, steering feel, shift speed (in automatic-equipped models), and the exhaust note to enhance—or dial down—sportiness. Regardless of setting the Vantage range has crisp steering and handling, edging closer to performance against other models in its class.
Sticky 19-inch Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires are standard, but more compliant P Zero rubbers can be swapped in without extra costs. The carbon-ceramic brakes on the V12 Vantage S are some of the best we've ever sampled; they're phenomenally confident without being grabby.
If you're after high-horsepower V-8s and V-12s, you shouldn't expect great gas mileage—and you won't find it with the Vantage range even if you do. The V8 Vantage and V8 Vantage S rate 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined with the manual transmission, and 14/21/16 mpg with the automated manual. The V12 Vantage S hasn't yet been rated.
Aston Martin Vantage comfort and features
The entire Vantage range shares similar cockpit and seating features, with low-slung but comfortable seats, a wide and relatively simple center stack, and good forward visibility. In all, it's a nice environment for sporty driving or even extended cruises, but it's not particularly roomy.
As you'd expect with a high-performance two-door, there's not a lot of room for luggage or other gear. The trunk is adequate for a weekend getaway at most, and there's very little storage in the main passenger compartment. Given the Vantage's objective—high-speed touring and sporty weekend driving—that's probably not an issue for most buyers.
Materials and finishes are generally excellent, though as with any hand-built car, you may find individual variations in some panels. Leather (Luxmill or semi-aniline), Alcantara, and metallic trim are the main staples of the Vantage cabin, with tasteful use of high-end plastics to fill the gaps. Aston's trademark crystalline key fob is also found here, plugging into the dash to become the push-button starter. We'd opt for the available carbon-fiber interior trim, which covers the center stack and door pulls in the material, even tinted if you so desire.
As is common with low-volume, exclusive sports cars, the Aston Martin Vantage range hasn't undergone crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). All models come standard with stability and traction control, a full complement of driver and passenger airbags, and rear parking sensors.
The V8 Vantage and V8 Vantage S come with plenty of standard features, including a 160-watt Aston Martin audio system with six-CD changer; Bluetooth; integrated iPod and USB connectivity; and a 3.5-mm auxiliary input jack. Electrically adjustable sport seats, a full-grain leather interior, organic electroluminescent displays, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, and power-folding heated exterior mirrors are also standard. Stepping up to the V12 Vantage S brings all of those features plus standard navigation, auto-dimming mirrors, three-position memory seats, and various carbon fiber and titanium interior and exterior accents.
In addition to the strong base feature set, there are many available upgrades, plus Aston Martin's ability to personally configure your car with nearly any feature you might want--provided a large enough bank account.