Aston Martin Vantage S – Review

blue fast in mountains

By Liam Bird

We’ve all got fantasy garages – you know, the money-no-object car collections you keep in the back of your mind just in case the numbers on the telly match the ones on your ticket. Whether you’re a die hard petrol-head or just someone who uses the car to as a work tool, the chances are you allow yourself to daydream occasionally. You imagine what you’d like to fill that humongous lottery funded garage with should your windfall be a big one.

blue aston martin on country roadI always left space for an Aston Martin Vantage in mine, right next to the 911 and Miura of course, ever since I got to drive an N430 version a little while ago. So you can imagine my delight when I am invited (alright, I’ll admit I’ve been nagging them ever since) to Aston Martin’s HQ to drive the latest version of the Vantage – the harder, faster more focused and dare I say it, more exclusive Vantage S.

On first inspection the S appears strikingly similar to the standard Vantage. Look closer though and you begin to notice the details that make all the difference. The S gains a new carbon fibre front splitter and rear diffuser. The sills have been re-sculpted, and there’s a more pronounced spoiler on the S’s pert boot lid. It sits lower too, on a firmer suspension and six-pot caliper brakes hide behind wider 19″ diamond cut alloys.

“Steering feels beautifully mechanical”

aston martin vantage s interior dashboard steering wheel seatThere’s a more aggressive stance to the Vantage S but none of the rest of its family’s handsome good looks have been lost. Imagine a prize fighter in a Saville Row suit; you get the idea.

That theme seems to carry over to the hand-stitched interior too. Slimmer, lighter and snugger fitting seats have been added to keep both driver and passenger firmly in place. Alcantara (for better grip) replaces leather on the steering wheel rim. A glance in the rear view mirror highlights two aluminium struts bisecting the parcel shelf – further suggestions of structural stiffness.

After the initial whirring of the starter, the Vantage S fires with an angry bark before settling into a jagged, hungry sounding idle and although indulgent, it’s hard to resist blipping the throttle a few times to fully appreciate the hard-edged growl coming from the S’s lighter, more free flowing exhaust. Select drive by pulling back the on right hand paddle and the first of seven closely stacked ratios are engaged. Pull up on the fly-off hand-brake and it’s time to see if the Vantage S was worth the wait. Instantly the steering feels heavier than a standard Vantage, but despite its power assistance it feels beautifully mechanical and quicker too: turn-in is razor sharp.

“Show-stopping looks”

aston martin vantage s reviewThe view down the long bonnet remains familiar but the harder ride takes some getting used to and on the country roads around Aston’s Gaydon HQ the firmer suspension feels pretty unforgiving.

It’s clear from the outset the S is more of a track focused sports-car than a Gentleman’s GT and even with all of the electronic safety nets left on, a heavy right foot and 430bhp easily make the rear tyres relinquish their grip. Greasy roundabouts call for quick wits.

It’s those characteristics; the jaw dropping performance, the show-stopping looks, and the fact that the Vantage S’s talents run out way after mine do, that all add up to make the Vantage S an uncompromising, challenging and yet beguiling proposition. At £102,500 the chances of me getting to drive one again soon are slim. I’ll leave that space in the corner of the garage though, just in case the fantasy becomes reality.

Aston Martin Vantage S V8
Engine: all-alloy quad cam-shaft 4735 cc V8
Power: 430 BHP @ 7300rpm
Torque: 346 lbft @ 5000 rpm
Transmission: Rear mid-mounted Sportshift 7-speed automated manual
Performance: 0-62mph 4.5 sec
Max Speed: 189mph
MPG: 21.9 Combined
CO2: 299g/km
Price: £102,500


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