Engine: 6.0-liter V12 with 565 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual
Fuel economy: 12 MPG city, 18 highway, 14 combined
Price: $202,320, including the gas-guzzler tax and $2,825 in destination fees
If you want an open-air Aston Martin you have a few choices. There’s a drop-top version of their DB9, you could opt for the brand’s Vanquish Volante, a convertible variant of their ultimate grand-touring car, and then there’s the Vantage Roadster.
Getting pedantic there are technically three different convertible versions of the brand’s most affordable model but the one that really matters features a dozen cylinders under its vented hood. The V12 Vantage S is one of the most enjoyable vehicles in Aston Martin’s range and for good reason.
This car is the fastest roadster in the company’s history, blitzing from zero to 60 miles an hour in a claimed 3.9 seconds, terminal velocity measures 201 miles an hour. I can’t imagine what it’s like driving at double-Benjamin speed with the rag-top down; you’d probably lose every single hair on your head, the airstream would be like pointing a pressure-washer nozzle at your scalp.
Making these eye-opening stats a reality is a world-class powertrain. As with other Aston Martins this one features an exotic V12. Referred to as the AM28 this 6.0-liter unit puts out 565 bhp and 457 lb-ft of peak torque, 376 of which are on tap at just 1,000 RPM. This engine is impressively flexible with abundant low-end twist and stellar high-speed pull.
Harnessing all of that performance is a seven-speed Sportshift III automated manual transaxle. This hydraulically actuated gearbox replaces a six-speed stick and in the process delivers blazingly fast shifts and a weight savings of nearly 45 pounds. Sure, I miss having a third pedal but it’s hard to argue with this unit’s performance. Massive carbon-ceramic brakes ensure the driver has more than enough bite to rein things in should they get out of hand or they spot a cop heading the other direction.
In a lot of ways this machine is a British take on American muscle cars from the 1960s. Aston Martin crammed their biggest engine into their smallest model. The mutant that resulted from this mixing and matching delivers acceleration that’s out of this world.
Dressed for Success
Of course raw performance is one thing but design is quite another. And as luck would have it the V12 Vantage S Roadster looks every bit as powerful as it is, with aggressive yet tasteful bodywork and a number of intriguing design cues.
The car’s hood for instance is punctuated with several functional air vents, fender breathers are trimmed with carbon fiber and the mesh grille inserts up front give this car a menacing scowl. Additionally the test vehicle I sampled was painted an arresting light-blue color called Flugplatz, which is German for airfield. The hue is named after a section of the Nürburgring Nordschleife where cars often take flight.
Like other Aston Martins I’ve reviewed this one’s interior is equal parts pleasure and pain. The cabin is constructed of rich materials and is elegantly designed but the overall look is let down by a few glaring oversights. These of course center on the substandard display screens that can be found in the instrument cluster and center stack. They’re appallingly low rent in an otherwise top-notch cabin.
It’s the same story with the control stalks that operate the turn signals and windshield wipers. These items feel like they could shatter if you happened to sneeze while using one of them. Front-seat legroom is another shortcoming, no pun intended. Taller drivers and passengers would appreciate a couple extra inches to stretch out, though the closely mounted floorboards allow for no such sprawling.
Offsetting these downsides is beautiful leather and contrast stitching, which covers the dashboard and center console, spilling over to the door panels and seats.
Those abovementioned disadvantages are pretty inexcusable given that this car starts at $202,320, including the gas-guzzler tax and $2,825 in destination fees. And on the subject of fuel economy this machine stickers at 12 miles per gallon city and 18 highway. Its combined-consumption score is just 14 MPG. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.
But the most important thing about Aston Martin’s V12 Vantage S Roadster is the way it drives. Should you ever get an opportunity to sample one of these extraordinary machines you will relish the experience.
Unquestionably the most striking attribute of driving this machine, the No. 1 thing you take away after putting it in park and getting out is the way it sounds. The car’s V12 engine is so incredibly ferocious, so undeniably bat-s**t crazy it’s hard to believe. If you live in a mountainous region with canyon roads and tunnels you’ll truly be able to appreciate its magnificent vocals, which are even more astonishing with the top down.
And of course that exhaust note, which isn’t so much a rumble like you’d get with a V8 (it’s more of a shrieking warble if that makes sense), announces this machine’s performance capability. The folks at Aston Martin claim a sub-four-second dash to 60 but honestly that number feels more conservative than Senator Ted Cruz, and every bit as insane. Technically the Vanquish may sit at atop Aston Martin’s range – it’s an exceedingly fleet and desirable automobile – but the V12 Vantage S Roadster takes things to the next level, pushing the needle squarely into supercar territory.
For all of its fire-breathing capability the company’s V12 is unexpectedly refined. It’s smooth and instantly responsive with plenty or low-end torque to get you moving from a standstill. But don’t mistake this thing for a stump-pulling truck powerplant; it still rips through the gears like an F1 racecar.
Dear Aston Martin, please don’t abandon this naturally aspirated gem! Forced induction – even if it’s sourced from Mercedes AMG – cannot replace the sound, smoothness and linearity of this particular V12. Ditching it for anything less would be tragic.
Three-stage adaptive dampers give fiddly drivers something to play around with, though there doesn’t seem to be much difference between each of this system’s different settings, which are normal, sport and track.
The V12 Vantage S Roadster’s steering is a little bit on the light side but with a quick ratio the car is easy to place and a hell of a lot of fun to toss around. Surprisingly for a drop-top there’s essentially ZERO body flex. This car basically feels as rigid as its coupe counterpart and that’s damn impressive.
Of all the Aston Martins I’ve driven recently the V12 Vantage S Roadster is the undisputed star. It feels the fastest, handles the best and with its fabric roof stowed like carry-on luggage at take off it sounds better than any of its siblings. It’s fleet, looks fabulous and makes you shout “WOW!” every time you punch the accelerator. It’s the champion of Aston Martin’s current lineup and proper exotic car.