Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. REVIEW. ‘The most extreme’

crankandpiston takes the new Aston Martin V12 Vantage S into the Hatta mountains to see how ‘the most extreme Vantage to date’ handles the twisties.

Engine Power Torque 0-100kph Top speed Weight Basic price
V12, 5935cc 565bhp @ 6750rpm 457lb ft @ 5500rpm 3.9 secs 330kph 1615kg $224,300

It’s been a while since took an Aston Martin Vantage for a spin, and there are two very good reasons for that. The last time we attempted an epic road trip – in a V8 Vantage S – we were dealt a hammer blow by Mother Nature in the form of a gigantic rainstorm that almost left us stranded in the Hatta mountains. We were not, as you can imagine, particularly keen to chance our arm again.

The other slightly more significant reason was the availability of our latest test model, the all-new V12 Vantage S. The fastest road-going Aston on offer (the exclusive One-77 aside) first dropped onto automotive radar screens last June, and the crankandpiston team has been nagging Aston for a go ever since. Fate proved to be a damnable mistress though, for time and again, word came back from Aston GHQ that the V12 Vantage S was unavailable for ‘maintenance reasons’. Either its new rocket ship was hideously unreliable, or had a tendency of booting its occupants into the wall. Today, having wangled a day with the V12 S, we’re hoping to avoid both – and another rainstorm – on another drive through the Hatta mountains.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Rousing a rather grumpy James Davisoncrankandpiston’s lensman for the day – from his weekend plans proved a trickier proposition still, one only accomplished via stats and technical specs:

“So what engine is in it?”

“6.0-litre V12”


“Er, I’ve got the specsheet here, hang on…565bhp…and 457lb ft of torque”


“Plenty. 330kph top speed and 0-100kph in 3.9 seconds”


Enthusiasm suitably bolstered by performance figures, the next challenge was boosting enthusiasm for the looks.

Whereas on the V8 the GT4-levels of performance were hidden beneath a beautifully elegant Vantage body, Aston designers at the V12 design easel have clearly gone raving mad. Key changes – on top of the new Stratus White paint – include those whopping great air intakes carved into the bonnet in an effort to feed yet more oxygen to the V12 monster. There’s also enormous new 19-inch forged alloy (lightweight) wheels with diamond turned finish and widened wheel arches for added aggression. In an effort to showcase ‘the most extreme Vantage to date’, Aston has clearly pulled no punches, sacrificing no little amount of elegance in the process.

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This ‘extreme’ conditioning continues in the cabin too, thanks predominantly to the optional Carbon Fibre Interior Pack – in evidence on the dash, the door pulls, the paddle shifters and even the new black pedals – and the new Q by Aston Martin personalisation service. To create a car that ‘looks almost as thrilling standing still as it is on the move’, Q branch have added luminescent yellow atop the roof, across the Piano Black dash, the bootlid, around the front grille and upholstery stitching, and have still found room to throw in gold detailing on the centre console rotary dials and Aston Martin badges. Even the sports seats have been ditched for lightweight carbon fibre tubs. ‘Extreme’ certainly but a little overwhelming.

Not the greatest of starts then for the V12, and once we’re on the way again, things don’t get any smoother. Reach and rake options on the steering wheel mean that finding a comfortable driving position is relatively straightforward, but there’s only just enough headroom and legroom to house both James and I, six-foot plus apiece as we both are. We’ve also, with the temperature already dipping 30-degrees, discovered our mutual exhaustion with Aston’s temperamental air conditioning. Then there’s the carbon fibre seats, supportive though they may be, the limited manoeuvrability of which makes finding a comfortable position a little more difficult. Thanks to stiffened suspension for that on-track feel, the ride is also proving quite stiff, and an hour is about as much as we can take before we need to stretch our muscles.

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So far our test drive is proving a little disappointing, and we’re beginning to wonder if we should have heeded fate’s warning. That is until we head a little further into the Hatta mountains, leave traffic and civilisation behind us, and give the V12 a kicking. It kicks back.

The pull from the V12 is just extraordinary, my knuckles gripping to hold onto the steering wheel simply to stop myself from rolling into the boot. 565bhp being thrown to the tarmac via the rear wheels is just ferocious, and offers a glimpse into the raw power at your disposal in a car that weighs a not unimpressive 1615kg. It’s a pull that doesn’t wane at all the higher up the revs you climb, the resultant V12 boom ricocheting about the cabin proving both deafening and an incentive to push harder. This can be accomplished with aplomb thanks to the Aston’s magnificent poise through the corners. Good heft at the wheel, grip through the front tyres and tangible connection to the front wheels allow me to point the front end where I want it, all the time, everytime.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

There was a fear that all those angry stallions being thrown through the back end would lead to a feisty rear end (a demonstration of which which we are provided with on the slick tarmac when I give the right pedal a bootful). But there isn’t even a hint of give through the rears as I take long sweeping bends and sharp hairpins at pace, the realisation that the performance of the car underneath far outweighs my talents at the wheel almost more terrifying than impressive. There’s no sense of weight either under braking (even if the pedal does feel a little wooden), a low centre of gravity helping to keep the car balanced through the corners and filling me with a greater incentive to push harder. Not too hard, but hard enough that I daren’t take a look at the digital speedometer to see how fast we’re going.

Previous experience with the V8 and THAT seven-speed ZF transmission mean that driving the V12 gently is difficult: change gear as you normally would with paddle shifters, and the drop in revs is met with a very noticeable drop in momentum, the resultant lunge throwing you forward in the seat. Now imagine that for every gear change. For several hours. On the limit though, well into 7/8000rpm territory, 565bhp is ready to bite and the transition from gear to gear is not only rapid but a lot smoother. The pull though is no less aggressive. To really make the V12 Vantage S work, it must be driven on the limit, or at least your personal understanding of such.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

And of course therein lies the problem. On the limit, the V12 Vantage S – like the V8 – is beautifully balanced, offers enormous oomph, and allows you to not just take every apex but to muller them and leave each corner quivering with fear. But driving in the real world, especially in the Middle East where corners are a rarity, is rarely 10 tenths, and when you drop the V12 back into cruise territory, it seems to make less sense, in much the same way that a lion’s roar from behind bars doesn’t quite have the same impact. For an everyday driver, superb as the V12 Vantage S is, I’m just not sure it works.

I’d possibly think twice about the luminous yellow roof too.

Enjoy our Aston Martin V12 Vantage S test drive?

You can find more Aston Martin stories HERE, and more of our Car Reviews HERE

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
Engine: V12 / 5935cc
Power: 565bhp @ 6750rpm
Torque: 457lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed LDF dual-clutch transmission / all-wheel drive
Front suspension: Independent double wishbones incorporating anti-dive geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube dampers
Rear suspension: Independent double wishbones with anti-squat and anti-lift geometry, dual-rate coil springs and monotube dampers
Brakes: Ventilated carbon ceramic discs / six-piston monobloc calipers 398mm (front) / four-piston monobloc calipers 360mm (rear)
Wheels: 9J x 19” (front) / 11J x 19” (rear)
Tyres: 255 /35 ZR19 (front) / 295 /30 ZR19 (rear) / Pirelli P Zero Corsa
Weight (dry) 1615kg
0-100kph: 3.9sec
Top speed: 330kph
Basic price: $224,300

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