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Aston Martin V8 Vantage S - First Drive

Sharpen the blades

Karl Funke
Sep 17, 2011

With the S iteration, the Aston Martin Vantage range “comes of age,” states the official aston press release. As it turns out, the press office isn’t far off. With each iteration and special model, the V8 Vantage has seen significant technical improvement. This time, the car has been roundly improved in just about every area.

Epcp 1110 01 o+aston martin v8 vantage s+driver side front view Photo 2/3   |   Aston Martin V8 Vantage S - First Drive

The 4.7-liter V8 has been massaged to offer slightly more power than the standard Vantage (430 vs. 420), as well as more torque (361 vs. 346). Probably the biggest news is that the engine is hooked to a new automated manual gearbox, Sportshift II, employing seven forward gears mediated by a single clutch. The company claims it offers a 20 percent reduction in gearchange times and its ratios have been selected to optimize the fatter V8 torque curve. As with all Aston transmissions, this one is mounted in the rear, and like the engine, as close as possible to the passenger cell in order to optimize overall weight distribution.

In addition to fully automatic “D” drive mode, the Sportshift II trans offers a Sport mode that quickens the gear changes, lets the gearbox hold ratios closer to the rev limiter. Engine management is also remapped for more aggressive throttle response, and a series of exhaust bypass valves uncork to reveal the V8’s true voice on hard driving. It’s two-thirds the cylinders of an Aston Martin V12 with all of the aural soulfulness.

Throwing the Vantage S around the tight road course at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, it is immediately evident that the Vantage has once again been honed to an even finer degree. In addition to the quick-shifting gearbox and extra power, the S has been endowed with a quicker steering ratio of 15:1 (compared to 17:1 on the standard V8), as well as bigger brakes up front (six-piston calipers closing on 15-inch discs).

Epcp 1110 02 o+aston martin v8 vantage s+v8 dohc engine Photo 3/3   |   Aston Martin V8 Vantage S - First Drive

Sharper turn-in, more power on the exit… what’s not to like? As with the company’s V12s, the nature of the V8’s power delivery really encourages you to rev the piss out of it, keep it high in the rpm range and enjoy the soundtrack raging out of the back end. You can listen to it all day and never get bored. —KF

2011 Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Coupe

Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

4.7-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve

Seven-speed Sportshift II automated manual

Front and rear independent double wishbones, coil springs and monotube dampers, antiroll bars

Six-piston calipers with 380mm ventilated rotors (f), four-piston calipers with 330mm ventilated rotors (r)

Length/Width/Height (in.): 172.6/73.5/49.6
Wheelbase: 102.5 in.
Curb Weight: 3,549 lb

Peak Power: 430 hp @ 7300 rpm
Peak Torque: 361 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Top Speed: 189 mph

MSRP: $138,000

By Karl Funke
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