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The Vantage advantage

Experience this V12 Aston Martin's breathtaking road performance - and untamed engine roar - by just strapping yourself in the driver's seat and blasting off

Aston Martin is one of the few marques that still offer hand-built sports cars with British motor-racing heritage.

Take the V12 Vantage S for instance. It is the fastest Aston Martin you can get your hands on in the market today: the car accelerates from 0-100km/h in a mere 3.9 seconds before hitting a top speed of 328km/h.

Some may argue that the One-77 is the fastest Aston, but it's a limited-edition model with production limited at 77 cars. The vehicle's retail pricing of £1.15 million (Bt60.5 million) also make it more of a collector's item rather than a production car. Meanwhile, the V12 Vantage S, priced at a much less Bt18.9 million, is a more realistic Aston that more people can afford - I mean a few more people.

While Aston Martins appear to be of identical design especially to those who aren't experts, the Vantage S has some distinct styling cues, including the additional carbon-fibre body parts and grilles on the bonnet. It's like a gentleman in shorts and sneakers. There's a carbon-fibre package and customers can choose between black carbon fibre and titanium silver mesh. The car comes in many exciting colours as well, ranging from yellow tang to volcano red and flugplatz blue, this particularly being my favourite as it does really stand out in the crowd.

Once inside, there's a good combination between old-school British craftsmanship and the digital age. Brushed aluminium and high-quality leather with highlighted stitching befriend the carbon fibre in a nice way if you opt for the carbon-fibre interior pack. However, there are some areas that should have been treated with a little more style, such as the air vents or steering-wheel design. The dashboard features awkward small displays inlayed in the speedometer and rev counter, the latter moving counter-clockwise, which I must say is kind of hard to get used to. Well, this must be a British thing.

Aston Martin hopes to sell many cars in the United States, so there is also cruise control for use on boring American interstate highways. Yes, cruise control for a V12 sports car. Lots of power is generated by the behemoth V12 6.0-litre engine Aston codenames AM28. It is a reworked version of the engine offered in the DB9 in 2004 and features the latest Bosch engine management system. Maximum power has been raised by about 10 per cent to 573PS compared to its predecessor, and the torque is also up, from 570Nm to 620Nm, giving it even more oomph.

Aston Martin says that although maximum torque is available at 5,750rpm, 510Nm of it is available from 1,000rpm. This helps improve driveability, they say. But drive it in automatic mode in the city and many will dislike the jerky shifts from the single-clutch automated manual transmission. What you need to do to ensure a smooth gear change is to get into manual mode, and lift off the pedal just like in a car with manual transmission before upshifting. Nevertheless, the 6-speed Sportshift III transmission is lighter by 25kg and smaller than the old 6-speed manual box it replaces, while shifts are 20 per cent quicker than the V8 version's auto box.

I drove the V12 Vantage S at a test-drive event in Palm Springs in October (along with the Vanquish Volante), and learned that the right way to drive this car is to just blast off. By just starting the engine you are reminded of its beastly character by the sound it produces - a dominant throaty roar that gets a great deal wilder and louder when you select the sport mode. In fact, the sound of the V12 is one of the highlights of the Vantage S, just like in any other sports car, for example a Ferrari or Lamborghini.

People are going to turn around to see what's coming their way. There's nothing better than to show off this wonderful, untamed barrage of sound to pedestrians and other motorists. It also changes the throttle response, gearshift speed and timing, giving the Vantage S a more edgy character. You do this by simply pressing the "Sport" button on the centre console, which unlike the Vanquish doesn't come with touch controls and haptic feedback, but don't get me wrong: by no means am I complaining.

Acceleration is eye-popping, and playing around with the gearbox through its steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles is super fun. The older generation of buyers might miss the manual gearbox and the clutch pedal that allows you to play even more with the Vantage S. But as Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez says, times have changed and the automated gearboxes of today are much faster-shifting. We did eventually get into a long and heated discussion about manual versus automated gearboxes...

On the mountains the gearbox performed wonderfully. It never refused my downshifts before entering a corner, and the upshifts were lightning quick. The double wishbone suspension offers loads of grip and cornering stability. Actually, there are three settings to choose from - normal, sport and track - and I chose to keep it in sport even in the city, since the normal setting wasn't offering much road comfort anyway. The steering is responsive and communicative of the road conditions, adding distinct flavour to the drive.

The Vantage S has great balance too - you'll never feel scared or question how it will respond. Everything comes quick but assured. The large carbon ceramic discs both front and rear (398mm with 6-piston calipers and 360mm with four-piston calipers), and wide Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres (255/35 front and 295/30 rear) on 19-inch alloy wheels also contribute to the breathtaking road performance.

Aston Martin is now officially imported by Heritage Motor Sales and Services that recently introduced itself to the Thai elite and media, so servicing will not pose a problem, adding to the improved ownership experience.



Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Engine: 48-valve quad-cam V12

Displacement: 5,935cc

Bore and stroke: 79.5x89mm

Compression ratio: 10.7:1

Max power: 573PS/6,750rpm

Max torque: 620Nm/5,750rpm Transmission: 6-speed automated manual

0-100km/h: 3.9 secs Top speed: 328km/h

Suspension (f/r): double wishbones, coil springs, stabilizer/double wishbones, dual-rate coil springs

Steering: power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Steering ratio: 15:1

Brakes (f/r): vented discs/vented discs

Dimensions

Length: 4,385mm

Width: 2,022mm (with mirrors)

Height: 1,250

Wheelbase: 2,600mm

Track (f/r): 1,570mm/1,575mm

Weight: 1,615kg

Wheels (f/r): 9Jx19/11Jx19

Tyres (f/r): 255/35 ZR19/295/30 ZR19

Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres

Price: Bt18.9 million

Importer: Aston Martin Thailand by Heritage Motor Sales and Services (Thailand)


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