End of an era for V12 en­gines as reg­u­la­tions bite

Irish Examiner - - Motoring -

Si­mon Davis gets be­hind the wheel of the As­ton Martin Van­quish S Volante to test one of the best-look­ing con­vert­ibles on the mar­ket

WHAT IS IT?

It’s a sad thought, re­ally, that the Van­quish S could just be the last car As­ton Martin pro­duces that fea­tures a nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated V12 en­gine un­der the bon­net.

Ever-tight­en­ing emis­sions reg­u­la­tions are con­sign­ing cars such as this to the his­tory books at an alarm­ing rate, re­plac­ing them with smaller, less-pol­lut­ing tur­bocharged power plants in­stead.

While these blown en­gines may ben­e­fit from more power and a smaller ap­petite for fuel, they can’t quite match their nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated an­ces­tors when it comes to drama. And in this, the con­vert­ible Van­quish S Volante, you’re about as close to that drama as you can get.

WHAT’S NEW?

The Van­quish S Volante is ac­tu­ally a bit of a di­nosaur these days. Although it was only brought to mar­ket last year, it still shares a lot of its makeup with the orig­i­nal sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Van­quish Volante, launched back in 2013.

Key changes for the Van­quish S are more power from its mighty 6.0-litre V12 — up 27bhp to 592bhp, to be pre­cise — as well as a new car­bon-fi­bre front split­ter and dif­fuser. There’s a restyled quad-ex­haust sys­tem, too. Be­neath the skin, As­ton’s en­gi­neers have fet­tled the sus­pen­sion, to im­prove the su­per-GT’s poise through the cor­ners.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET?

This is the As­ton’s party piece, and ar­guably the pri­mary rea­son why you’d want to go out and spend close to €250,000 to get your hands on a Van­quish S Volante. The 6.0-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V12 de­vel­ops a con­sid­er­able 592bhp, with peak torque stand­ing at 630Nm. The bench­mark dash from 060mph is dis­patched in 3.5 sec­onds, and the As­ton will carry on to a 197mph top speed.

Now, fuel econ­omy from a car with a whop­ping great V12 un­der the bon­net is never go­ing to be amaz­ing, but com­pared with ri­vals such as the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT con­vert­ible and Fer­rari Cal­i­for­nia T, the As­ton’s claimed 21.6mpg is roughly par for the course.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

There’s no ques­tion that there’s a cer­tain sense of oc­ca­sion that comes from get­ting be­hind the wheel of the Van­quish S Volante. Slide down into the cos­set­ing leather seat, pop the over­ly­de­signed glass key into the ig­ni­tion, and the V12 en­gine barks into life.

While the fold­ing fab­ric roof does al­low you to take in more of that en­gine’s in­tox­i­cat­ing sound­track, the ab­sence of a proper metal roof does mean that the Van­quish S Volante will never be quite as com­pet­i­tive as its coupe sta­ble mate down a wind­ing coun­try road.

How­ever, that’s not the end of the world. Even though the Volante may be more than 100kg heav­ier than its range­mate, it’s still of­fers keener driv­ers an ex­hil­a­rat­ing drive thanks to its won­der­fully bal­anced chas­sis, com­pli­ant dampers and well-weighted steer­ing.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more at­trac­tive con­vert­ible than the Van­quish S Volante — no small feat con­sid­er­ing the cur­rent crop of drop-top su­per­cars.

The long, el­e­gant bon­net flows down to an ag­gres­sive front end, which is ac­cen­tu­ated by a racy new car­bon­fi­bre split­ter.

At the back, a sim­i­larly sporty look­ing car­bon-fi­bre dif­fuser has been added, while a new quad ex­haust de­sign hints at the Van­quish S’s in­creased per­for­mance. It’s a stun­ning-look­ing thing, and cer­tainly one that at­tracts at­ten­tion out on the road.

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE?

The cabin is the drop-top As­ton’s big­gest let down. Yes, there’s plenty of leather and ev­ery­thing has been stitched to­gether by hand, but you can’t help but think it looks rather dated — and even a bit hap­haz­ard in places.

This theme is con­tin­ued by the cen­tre con­sole, which adopts a rather but­ton-heavy ap­proach to its de­sign, as op­posed to the more min­i­mal lay­outs that are in­creas­ingly favoured by both premium and bud­get man­u­fac­tur­ers. Then there’s the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, which looks prac­ti­cally pre­his­toric next to those found in the likes of the Mercedes-AMG GT C Cabri­o­let and Audi R8 Spy­der.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?

Con­sid­er­ing what you are pay­ing for the priv­i­lege of own­ing an As­ton Martin Van­quish S Volante, you’d hope stan­dard equip­ment would be gen­er­ous.

For that rather con­sid­er­able sum of money, As­ton Martin will throw in leather up­hol­stery, 20-inch al­loy wheels, plenty of car­bon fi­bre and a premium Bang & Olufsen 13-speaker sound sys­tem. So at least you’re not feel­ing short-changed in the equip­ment depart­ment.

With that big 6.0-litre V12 un­der the bon­net, though, run­ning costs are go­ing to be pretty steep.

As­ton Martin quotes a com­bined fuel con­sump­tion fig­ure of 21.6mpg, while CO2 emis­sions stand at a steep 298g/km.

VERDICT

As­ton Martin’s Van­quish S Volante isn’t without its

flaws. Sure, the power and sound­track from the en­gine is ad­dic­tive and it’s great fun on a windy road, but it’s let down by a cabin that doesn’t feel near as high-qual­ity as the price tag would sug­gest.

Still, it has those dropdead gor­geous looks, is com­fort­able at low speed, highly en­ter­tain­ing on a chal­leng­ing road and is likely to be one of the last As­ton Martins to be pow­ered by a nat­u­rallyaspi­rated V12 en­gine. That’s al­most a good enough rea­son to buy one on its own.

The As­ton Martin Van­quish S Volante could be the last of its type with a nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated V12 en­gine.

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