Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, Front view 18 Photos Zoom

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S put to the Supertest: Gran Turismo or supercar?

The jewel in the crown of the 2005 Vantage series goes by the name V12 S. It is not just a 565 HP, six-litre twelve-cylinder engine, but also a piece of racing history at the Ring. We put the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S to the supertest.

From what we hear, it is often best to steer clear of objects of exceptionally beauty. It is said that if they have distinct corners and edges, they will only ever want to put their own stamp on a particular situation. Beauty's legacy: being nice to look at. But when it is time to get down to business: you had best keep your hands off, as they are often far too intricate and complex.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S with consistent proportions

And yet, as the focus of public attention, the urge to hook up with it is difficult to suppress. But without a highly developed sense of self-awareness and without sufficient financial resources, there is only a vague chance the you could actually reach a long-term partnership agreement.

Unless the beauty of the year has been given an extra boost of desirability. In this case the edges are bevelled, character traits consolidated and whims disappear. If, to top it all, beauty also shines from within, it could become a wonderful relationship.

So that we understand one another correctly: we are talking here about the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, the most recent and the most powerful model within the Vantage range. There is no need to discuss its beauty any longer, as this is by no means a source of controversy. If you cannot acquire a taste for its form, then you must never have been that into cars in general and have certainly not developed a penchant for sports cars in particular. With balanced proportions, a top quality finish and sensible in terms of size, this two-seater Aston Martin variation should certainly be counted among the design icons, with a relatively unlimited expiration date.

Twelve cylinder that makes a majestic impression

There are also no lack of examples of inner beauty in the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S: your heart is sure to skip a beat at the opening of the bonnet, which features warlike ventilation slots. These include, in particular a twelve cylinder- for the first time ever in this comparatively compact body shape – that makes a downright majestic impression. With white painted cylinder head covers and large, polished Aston martin lettering. Sitting low down and fitting perfectly into the engine compartment, which is filled right to the corners, which presents the intricate mechanics in its most beautiful form, in place of the common mess of cables and hoses.

This now rare representative of noble twelve cylinder technology, which is equipped with a generous six-litre capacity, is an old friend of Aston Martin, on account of its crankcase. But one that has been brought in line with state-of-the-art technology, with the most recent Bosch engine management and even a race-tested crankshaft – a point emphasised by the manufacturer.

Of course, due to the engine, there is no lack of power or torque. In keeping with the car's character, 565 HP at just under 7,000 rpm and a max. torque of 620 newton metres at just under 6,000 rpm are available, delivered in a manner only possible from a large-volume twelve-cylinder naturally aspirated engine such as this.

The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S produces a flattering sound scape

This twelve cylinder, which is remarkable in every respect, is practically vibration-free, whether running idle or going full throttle – as if it has made it its primary goal to bring joy to the passenger, with every atom of its steel and aluminium alloys. And then there's the fantastic sound: in terms of sequence, the combustions processes are strung so closely together that it almost seems as though the engine of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is working at twice the rpm.

With a robust sawing sound, but never intrusive, it produces a sound scape of extremely provocative and simultaneously flattering tonality. The fact that, with its large-volume cylinder, it displays traditional consumption patterns is little wonder given its generous capacity: anyone who manages to complete a 100 kilometre journey with just under 15 litres of premium fuel must boast a sensitive foot on the accelerator.

They will inevitably have missed out on much of the temperament that the One-77 supercar, the second fastest ever built by Aston Martin – and only in homeopathic quantities at that – has up its sleeve.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S doesn't quite manage the factory specifications

In our tests, – as always performed with the tank full and two people inside the vehicle – we didn't manage to achieve the factory specification of 3.9 seconds for the sprint to 100 km/h, but that can't be helped: the gap of three tenths of a second between the factory specification and the measured value is presumably less the result of a lack of power and more the result of the naturally limited traction – this was of course particularly the case in the crucial early stages.

The waves of torque casually generated by the twelve-cylinder engine and the slightly front-heavy weight distribution of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S are reason enough to get the 295 series sports tyres (Pirelli P Zero Corsa) spinning – particularly when the semi-slicks that are intended for use in warm conditions are still a little too cold for the profile.

During deceleration – i.e. when braking – it is the same picture: the deceleration forces are not as strong in the cold physical state – a fact that is not typical of an Aston Martin, but has more to do with the increased temperature dependency of the sports tyres and the ceramic brakes.

From 0 to 200 in 12.6 seconds

The full force of the propulsion is thus only really properly revealed in the higher speed ranges. In the supertest, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S finally rushes past the 200 km/h mark after 12.6 seconds – based on experience, this too is not a value that will quite correspond with the audacious performance specification.

The dynamometer confirms this suspicion: of the nominal 565 HP, just under 533 HP are left on the roller. If you then take the weight into consideration – 1,697 kilograms with a full tank – you end up with an actual power to weight ratio of 3.18 kilograms per HP. The calculation based on the factory specifications (1,665 kg and 565 HP) of course looks a little more favourable: 2.95 kg/HP.

However, there is something else that prevents the „little“ Aston with the big heart from playing the big attraction all the time: overall, it has a very long gear ratio.

Granted, in the supertest this enables the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S to comfortably exCee’d the 300 km/h mark as per the specifications – according to the manufacturers it can hit 328 km/h – but this has the result that the rpm of the twelve-cylinder engine is essentially too low on account of the long secondary transmission and the broad gear shift spacing – an obvious approach when trying to take consumption into account.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S without unpleasant gear shift jolts

Viewed through sporty lenses, this technical alliance between engine and transmission is, however, somewhat of a compromise since, with it, the car does not manage to make optimal use of the performance curve of the twelve-cylinder engine in all circumstances. The seven-speed sports transmission from Oerlikon Graziano used in the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is, contrary to the popular trend, not a dual clutch transmission, but rather an automatic manual transmission as already used in the eight-cylinder models.

Even if the gear shift speed is not quite as fast as a DCT and not quite as polished as a torque converter, the most recent generation „Sportshift III“ seven-speed transmission with electro-hydraulic actuators turns out to be much more constructive and smoother than before.

In the alternative Sport mode, in which the engine characteristics, the exhaust valve control, the damper characteristics and the gear shift speeds are modelled depending on the intended use, the flow of power when shifting gears is barely interrupted: there are no unpleasant gear shift jolts. Acoustically, the gear shift is also of highly professional entertainment value – the race track sends its greetings.

Just under 200,000 Euros

Only in Normal mode, that is in automatic switching mode, can the switching pauses sometimes be considered annoying. This is unless your accelerator foot has learned to compensate for the pauses that occur during the automatic coupling and decoupling procedures by means of sensitive modulation. The following can be extrapolated: with a shorter overall ratio and/or more closely spaced gears, the driving dynamic talents of the almost 200,000-Euro Brit could be put on display to much greater effect.

The bodywork and chassis are in any case ideally suited to do justice to the challenges of the more than 20-metre long mountain and valley Nordschleife course, as one of the most difficult racing environments that the world has to offer. The set-up of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S has ultimately been developed on the Nürburgring – during a host of races as part of the VLN Long Distance Championship, among other test runs.

Therefore, to draw the conclusion that you have to forego a reasonable level of comfort is false. It is common knowledge that the Nordschleife is by no means a refuge that would reward extreme spring tension and damper characteristics. If there is one thing it can do, it is to mercilessly expose any chassis weaknesses – and it will do so within the first three corners. The powerful rear-wheel driven vehicle provided confidence-building proof of light handling and sporty talent from the moment it entered Hatzenbach – without showing even a trace of uncertainty.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S with accurate steering

The far from ridiculous fear of fishtailing that comes with this ample power and conventional drive system is unfounded: even if, in the heat of the moment or in the event of misjudged handling, the feared swinging out of the vehicle's tail does occur, with the help of extremely accurate and therefore in no way twitchy steering, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S can be easily righted.

Here agility and directional stability – two, to some extent contradictory, requirement profiles – are combined in genuinely convincing fashion. The suitability of the ceramic brakes installed as standard is the icing on the cake of the overall design structure, that strives to breach new territory with practically every fibre of its being. However, in no way does this mean that everyday driving in the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is negatively influenced – neither with regard to comfort nor practicality. Solidity and confident style are written all over its face.

A certain otherness when it comes down to detail, as an expression of its exceptionally individual character cannot be overlooked – buzz phrase: a high proportion of manual craftsmanship. The fact that the cool Aston – 100% Brit and from a respectable manufacturer – makes sure to remain somewhat aloof, definitely gives it a certain charm and is ultimately thoroughly in keeping with the brands sophisticated self-image.

However, on the other hand a little more cosiness wouldn't have gone amiss. As such, in spite of its long maturing time, the V12 Vantage S still has a few small corners and edges that you could scratch yourself on or bump into. Incidentally, my elbow knows just what I am talking about.

Horst von Saurma

Author

Photo

Rossen Gargolov

Date

19 July 2016
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