It was three years ago I got my first taste of a V12 Vantage. That was the first time Aston Martin shoehorned its biggest engine into its smallest car, and it was mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Fast forward to today and we're getting our first taste of Aston's latest incarnation of the same vehicle: the V12 Vantage S.
After three years, you expect change and the Vantage delivers. Fortunately, the company didn't stray far from its winning combination of striking good looks, both inside and out. It's also provided an even more powerful V12 engine.
In fact, Aston Martin managed to squeeze another 55hp and 37 lb-ft for your driving enjoyment. But the biggest change was its new transmission.
When first introduced, the V12 Vantage only came with a manual gearbox, but the V12 Vantage S only has a rear/mid-mounted Sportshift llI seven-speed automated manual transmission with electronic shift-by-wire control system. That's a long-winded way to describe a single-clutch semi-automated transmission...
During spirited driving, the Vantage S feels better than the original. It has great steering feel and weight, quick turn-in, incredible front-end grip (far more than you expect) and an engine that pulls hard. It's eager to rev and encourages quick shifts from the new transmission at redline.
With all the front grip, it's very easy to kick out the rear-end if you're a little too aggressive with the throttle exiting a corner, which is always a good thing. But my issue with the Vantage S comes not when revving out the melodious V12 on a canyon run, but in stop-and-go traffic, or just cruising around town. Having to stop for lights and signage is where the new transmission shows its weakness.
The gearbox caused us to laugh on more than one occasion as we discovered how it works in daily driving conditions. When pulling away from a stop sign or light, the clutch engages slowly. In fact, you can hear and feel it slipping. So when the shifts happen, unless you push yourself into the seat, your head and body bob forward and back with each shift. What seemed funny at first was soon incredibly annoying, since this is how the car will be driven 95% of the time. For me, this was definitely a deal-breaker.
Since Aston Martin claims it can't accommodate a dual-clutch trans in the car, please just give me either a traditional auto or the manual they used in the first V12 Vantage...
In addition to the limited gear shifting options, the V12 Vantage S only comes with carbon-ceramic brake rotors. These aren't exactly cheap to fit and, in my opinion, are completely unnecessary for the V12 S. Good old steel rotors with sports pads would be more than adequate to most situations. A track-oriented car can make a case for carbon-ceramic brakes, but since the V12 S will rarely see a track, there's no need for them.
The brakes are wasted on multiple levels: they're more expensive to fit, more to service and, when not hot, tend to be grabby. They're also noisy, which isn't something most Aston Martin buyers will appreciate.
Change is a necessity, preventing stagnation, but not all change is good. And in the case of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, we have great enhancements made to the styling, and the extra power is always appreciated, but the transmission was a bad decision. It's outdated technology and almost ruins a vehicle that otherwise, looks, sounds and drives beautifully.
2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S