Hubert Burda Media

Test-Drive: Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

This ride is not for the shy and subtle.

James Bond is one lucky man. Well, sort of. Amidst the thrills that come with dodging bullets and explosions, he also gets to drive beautiful road machines, particularly those by British car maker Aston Martin.

Appearing in the 007 movies from the 1960s, the automaker is practically synonymous with the British spy. But surely there’s more to Astons than that — they’re top-of-the-line performance cars that have made history books for their triumphs on the circuit. The cars don’t simply look good, its racing heritage ensures oomph under the hood. And today, I get to imagine that I am on Her Majesty’s Service as I take out the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. (Actually, the only Vantage model in the franchise was the V8 Vantage Volante — so I’m technically getting first dibs.)

The coupe sports the sensuous curves Astons are known for, but don’t underestimate its power. Switch on the ignition and the car’s delightfully ferocious roar turns heads. And it’s not all bark with no bite. The car is, after all, equipped with a V12 engine that delivers 565bhp of power and 620Nm of torque. This enables the Vantage S to propel all 1,600kg to 100km/h in under four seconds and reach a blinding speed of 330km/h. Comparatively, the older V12 Vantage delivers less power at 510bhp, while its V8 version hits a maximum of 430bhp.

Similar in size to Porsche’s iconic 911, the Vantage S is not quite as wide as other larger supercars. In terms of power, the base 911 model, Carrera, produces approximately 420bhp, almost that produced by Aston’s V8. But its most robust sibling, the Turbo S, delivers almost 580bhp, even though it’s fitted with a much smaller six-cylinder, four-litre heart. And the V12 Vantage S doesn’t lag far behind.

These days, few supercars are fitted with true manual boxes, but to appeal to petrol heads who enjoy being in control of their vehicle, the newest Vantage S comes with a seven-speed automated manual transmission with paddle shifts. Meant to be driven in manual mode, the car gives drivers the ability to control gear changes just like in an older transmission, but better and faster. Lift your foot off the throttle — just like you would with a manual box — and upshifts will be smoother. All it takes is just a little getting used to.

Other than what’s under the hood, the two-seater also comes with a number of features. This includes Dynamic Stability Control with Track mode, Adaptive Damping System and Traction Control, which ensure optimum driving performance. For safety, the Vantage S is equipped with Aston’s Carbon Ceramic Matrix braking system and Emergency Brake Assist, along with the standard rear-parking sensors and side airbags, while front parking sensors and reversing cameras are optional.

With this coupe, the rear-wheel drive comes with two important buttons — one adjusts the car’s steering response for Normal, Sport or Track mode; while the other adjusts throttle responses and shifts. On regular roads, Track mode is not advisable, so, like me, add some excitement to your drive by taking it to Sport mode for sharper throttle response and louder exhaust sounds.

Astons aren’t known for having comprehensive infotainment systems, nor do they come with a crowded, complicated instrument panel. So on the inside, the driver’s cockpit is more traditional in look, which is a positive for drivers like me who sometimes find touch-sensitive screens and additional buttons and knobs a tad superfluous.

As good as it looks on the outside, the interiors are styled for luxury too. Top-quality wood and metal adorn the car all around, with sufficient space for two adults and luggage, making this suitable for everyday use. Of course, it also sports leather seats with contrast stitching to appeal to the dapper gent. For drivers with racing blood flowing through your veins, you can also opt for carbon fibre lightweight seats. And if you prefer a more lifestyle drive, go for the V12 Vantage S roadster instead, so you can pop the top and cruise in style whenever you wish.

My imagination is calling. Do allow me to go back to being 007, before I have to return the car.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
Engine: Six-litre, 48-valve V12, front mid-mounted
Transmission: Seven-speed SportShift III Automated Manual
Max power: 565bhp @ 6,750rpm
Max torque: 620Nm @ 5,750rpm
Max speed: 330km/h
Acceleration: 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds
Combined fuel consumption: 14.7L per 100km
CO2 emission: 343g/km
Kerb weight: 1,665kg