The Aston Martin Vantage is not new, in fact, not many of Aston’s current cars are, because apart from the One-77 and the Cygnet, they’re all based on variations of the DB9′s aluminium, VH (vertical/horizontal) platform, which was first introduced in 2003. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s quite understandable in fact, when you consider that Aston Martin is independent and without the benefit of a massive parent company to draw billions of R & D funds from. In that sense then, and having driven this Vantage S Roadster, Aston Martin’s engineers have done an admirable job of continuously improving the VH platfom, of which the Vantage is arguably its finest incarnation.
The Aston Martin Vantage may have been introduced in 2005, but its design is as eye-catching, elegant and as enticing as it ever was, especially when studying the drop-top Roadster. With sleek and classic lines, muscular flares and bulges in all the right places, the Vantage S Roadster is a beautifully sculptured sports car and an enchanting interplay of classic lines and modern detail.
The ‘S’ signifies a number of enhancements over the standard Vantage Roadster, both in terms of aerodynamics and performance. From the front, a new lower bumper, finished in carbon fibre, houses a larger air intake feeding the 4.7-litre V8 engine and front brake discs. The splitter, combined with the added ‘flip’ in the boot lid, work to provide increased down force at speeds up to 305 km/h. New 19-inch ‘V’ spoke wheels are standard, while a set of optional 10-spoke, lightweight, forged alloys further reduces unsprung mass. The rear bumper has been given a hand-made carbon fibre diffuser and together with a revised set of side sills, gives the car a wider looking stance.
The Roadster’s roof is fully automated and can be operated at speeds of up to 30 km/h. The fabric provides good insulation from the elements and, when folded back, the roof is completely hidden behind the seats. The Roadster’s only drawback in this respect is that 144-litres of boot space are sacrificed over the Coupe, with just 156-litres available. Of course, being able to take the lid off a sports car isn’t actually a drawback at all is it? Especially one as charming as the Vantage S. This Aston, however, isn’t charming and suave in the traditional Sean Connery sense. No, it’s edgier, athletic and savvy, more in the mold of a Jason Stratham.
There’s a familiarity to the interior of the Vantage S, which means a lot of the buttons are too small to see and even more difficult to use until you’ve had time to study them, but it also doesn’t matter, because the Vantage S is a car to be driven. Sure, the Vantage can be kitted out with optional accessories such as Sat-Nav, a 1 000-Watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, personalised sill plates and more, but really, the only option that should tempt you, is that of the lightweight and extra-supportive carbon fibre and Kevlar sports seats, which save 17 kilograms over the standard items and match the S’s sporty demeanour.
It’s also likely the focus on sporty driving that makes for a dramatic change in perception of the Aston badge. When I drove the four-door Rapide, it was a driving experience that amounted to an overwhelming sense of occasion, purely for the elegant, hand-built grace of the machine, its rarity and authoritative 6.0-litre V12 powerhouse. The Vantage S is still hand-built, it’s still elegant, but the ‘sense of occasion’ is replaced with a sense of ‘let’s drive!’ and for good reason…
That VH architecture mentioned earlier, dictates that as much of the car’s mass as possible is situated within the wheelbase for improved weight distribution and low centre of gravity. The low and central seating position, together with the car’s compact dimensions, give one the sense of the car being agile even when standing still, but it goes a lot deeper with the Vantage S. Beneath its shiny exterior, the Vantage S benefits from Aston Martin’s racing experience with their VH platform, specifically with the Vantage N24.
In 2006, Aston Martin engineers and the CEO, Dr. Ulrich Bez, campaigned a road-legal V8 Vantage in the gruelling Nurburgring 24-Hour endurance race. Of the 200-strong field, the Aston team finished fifth in class and 24th overall – a testament to the implicit engineering acumen of the original chassis. Encouraged by this achievement, Aston Martin developed the Vantage N24, which went on to fill the podium at the 2008 Nurburgring 24-Hour, while in 2010, Vantage N24s once again took four class victories at the Dubai, Nurburging, Spa and Silverstone 24-Hour endurance racing events.
From the racetracks to the road, so too from the Vantage N24 to the Vantage S. Racing pedigree turns substance in the form of a quicker steering ratio of 15:1, (17:1 on the standard car), as well as 25 mm larger front brakes (380 mm) with larger six-piston brake calipers. New springs and dampers, together with wider rear wheels (295/35 ZR19) also contribute to chassis revisions. The car’s dynamic stability control (DSC) and hydraulic brake assist (HBA) systems have been tuned specifically for the V8 Vantage S, aiding with emergency braking situations and adding Hill Start Assist (HSA). The Vantage S is also fitted with Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tyres, that are specifically design for high-performance driving.
The absolute pièce de résistance, however, is the naturally aspirated, 32-valve, 4.7-litre, quad-overhead cam, V8 engine. Even though it’s not much more powerful that the standard Vantage, with 321 kW (up 10 kW) and 490 Nm of torque (up 20 Nm), the Vantage S is more responsive and eagre. The increased response and power are as a result of a revised air intake system that works in conjunction with remapped ignition timing. In terms of academics, the Vantage S Roadster is capable of a 0 – 100 km/h sprint in around 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 305 km/h. It’s no slouch by any means, but the figures are rather inconsequential when you hear the rasp of the V8 engine through the twin-exhausts. For the enjoyment of all humanity, watch and listen to the Vantage S montage below:
The V8 engine is mounted entirely behind the front axle, for a genuine front mid-engined layout. In the interests of ideal weight distribution, the transmission is located in front of the rear axle and connected to the engine by a rigid torque tube, within which is housed a lightweight and strong carbon-fibre propshaft. The automated manual 7-speed Sportshift II transmission is 24 kilograms lighter than that of the 6-speed unit found in the standard Vantage. Aston Martin say their 7-speed unit shifts 20 percent faster than the first generation Sportshift ‘box, but even so, it’s a gearbox that’s received mix reactions. For the most part it’s a bit sluggish by modern standards.
The nature of an automated manual requires the driver to work with the gearbox to achieve the desired change, which Aston say, “allows the driver to take an increased level of control”. Yes, requiring measured throttle inputs depending on your prevailing driving style does make for more involving drive, but yet the Sportshift II transmission still seems an unflattering compromise between a fully automated and a manual ‘box – especially in a Roadster that should be equally at home effortlessly cruising ‘the strip’, as it is in Sport Mode devouring mountain passes.
On the road, the Roadster’s suspension is expectedly stiff, but manages the majority of bumps without raising any eyebrows. Together with the thick-bodied steering wheel and the quicker steering ratio, the Vantage S Roadster is plenty of fun to pilot. The uprated suspension does a good job of keeping the Roadster’s 1 690 kg kerb weight in check during changes of direction, inspiring confidence to push the sports car closer to its limit. It’s at this point too that the balance of chassis becomes most evident, with little bias toward either over- or understeer unless provoked. Still, the driving experience is dominated by the rip-snorting V8 engine that renders grown men giddy with delight – childish, but instant gratification has never been so easy.
A better sounding naturally aspirated V8 you will not find. It’s so good in fact, that no one could be blamed for parking a Vantage S Roadster in their garage for that single reason. The gearbox seems to be an acquired taste, but I can’t helping thinking a dual-clutch option would serve the Vantage well. Then there are its looks – from any angle. The proportions are spot on and accentuated by captivating lines. It’s as satisfying to turn the wheel as it is for people to turn their heads as the Vantage rumbles by. The Vantage S Roadster pulls on many heartstrings, but in an increasing tech-laden world, that isn’t always enough.
|Base Price||R1 700 000 (est., subject to R.o.E.)|
|Engine Capacity||4 735 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||8-cylinders, V-formation|
|Power||321 kW @ 7 300 r/min|
|Torque||490 N.m @ 5 000 r/min|
|Transmission||7-Speed automated manual|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||305 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||12.9 L/100km (combined cycle)|
|CO2 Emissions||299 g/km|