565 Screaming Ponies: We Push the 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S to the Limit
In just a few seconds, more than a million dollars and 2,500 horsepower will blow by me. Helmet in hand, I'm in the pit of Palm Beach International Raceway waiting to get behind the wheel of Aston Martin's most ferocious beast this side of the 750 hp One-77 hypercar. The five cars that will be turning the corner and coming on the straightaway in front of me are not in sight, but I know they're coming. As if a pride of lions has collided with unruly enemies off in the distance, the growling, snarling, and screaming only gets louder; The 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S doesn't go about its business quietly.With the 2015 V12 Vantage S, Aston packs a lot of engine into its smallest car. Pop the hood and 6.0 liters of this V-12 fill every crevice. An approaching ant looking to crawl in might turn away dismayed. Employing a new Bosch engine management system, the luxe British sports car maker is able to up power from 510 hp from the previous V-12—ample and commanding respect, to be sure—to a blistering 565 horses. Acceleration? This is the quickest Vantage ever, hitting 60 from rest in just 3.7 seconds, says Aston. Power is channeled through a seven-speed single-clutch automated transmission, and while on the track, I use the paddle-shifters exclusively. For the 2015 V12 Vantage, this is the only transmission on offer. While some purists will bemoan the lack of a row-your-own manual transmission, apparently those aren't the same purists who are in the market to actually by a car of this magnitude; The take rate on the manual is a puny three percent--not enough to make a cheery business case.Walking up to the V12 Vantage S, one is greeted by an elegant, sporty car with no shortage of presence. The V12 Vantage isn't as dramatically styled as the similarly priced Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG or Audi R8 V10 Plus, but it will catch your attention and turn heads. The flagship of the Vantage range looks muscular and fit; The new grille is inspired by the Aston Martin CC100 Speedster Concept, and its 10-spoke wheels and carbon fiber accents draw the eyes in. Once inside, plush materials are abundant: unique circular buttons in the dash can be pushed to select drive, reverse, and neutral, and so on. The seats feature firm but comfortable bolstering, cross-stitching that matches the exterior paint color, and carbon fiber accents can be amplified with the Carbon Fibre Interior Pack. Once the attractive key fob is pushed, a ripping growl erupts. We'd imagine new owners could spend a respectable part of their day performing this very action over and over again. There are three driving modes: Normal, Sport, and Track. I alternate between Sport and Track, which give the car a decidedly more firm, tight suspension. Shifting from first up through third, I enter the track and let it rip. Despite the refined presence of the V12 Vantage S, when driving on the track, there's a raw, primal feel. The V-12 shoots you back into your seat and taking a tight corner you quickly discover that you can place confidence in the V12 Vantage S. On switchbacks the car is planted, occasionally swerving for a blink and instantly correcting itself. Once you get to the long straightaway, it's time to floor it. In a blink I'm careening at 140 mph and the Castrol Oil adverts are blurred paint. Just as quickly I'm thumping the carbon-ceramic brakes and down-shifting and confidently, almost effortlessly cut speed down to 40 mph to calmly take a hard right.It should be noted that the 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage takes a little getting used to, a little finessing to drive "smoothly," something I never really achieved. The transmission is meant to be sporty, and driven more like a manual transmission. This means that the instant shifts that you get on other supercars, are more dramatic here. There's a lull and whack as you fall back into your seat. It's certainly different. I didn't let up slightly on the gas between shifts like the Aston Martin racing team suggested, and I also out of habit may have been shifting early at times, as the powerband and torque curve come on progressively and allow you to stay in gear longer. As with any manual transmission sports car, there's an initial orientation, a learning curve, as you learn that car's shift points to drive it optimally. Granted, the majority of the time owners will be driving these cars in cities and glamorous locales, and not at 140 mph on a track; For those environments, the Vantage S will tame some of its performance savagery and make for an ample luxury cruiser about town. Our time in the 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S was brief, and left us wanting more. The addictive, sonorous exhaust, the instant pull of the acceleration, and the plush cabin and styling are enough to merit consideration for anyone shopping the luxury supercar segment. The V12 Vantage S starts at $184,995, and climbs quickly as you add on the niceties. Deliveries begin the first quarter of 2014.
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