‘The V12 Van­tage is a car that re­quires skill, com­mit­ment and self-con­trol to truly mas­ter’

VANTAGE - - Cover Story Greatest Drivers’ Astons -

(now ac­knowl­edged to have been more pow­er­ful even than the of­fi­cial claimed fig­ures), it is a won­drous com­bi­na­tion of big-ca­pac­ity mus­cle and sear­ing top-end fire. The noise is oth­er­worldly; a brit­tle bel­low that shreds the air and fills the car, for the V12 sits so far back in the chassis that four cylin­ders are be­hind the base of the wind­screen.

You need to take great care when the tyres are cold, for they are no match for the mo­tor un­til the com­pounds have wo­ken up. Squeeze too greed­ily on the throt­tle and the tail slips and grips in jerky, Esp-as­sisted bites. Even when you do have the tyres un­der you, the revs flare over bumps. At time it’s more like an off­shore powerboat than a su­per­car, which is to say on the edgy side of ex­cit­ing.

Be­cause you sit so far back in the car you feel as though you’re aim­ing the nose through the cor­ners like a strand of cot­ton through the eye of a nee­dle. It’s a feel­ing that fades, but never quite leaves you. It’s not helped by steer­ing that doesn’t con­nect you in­ti­mately enough with those dis­tant front wheels. Becker nails it when he says that rather than the steer­ing ef­fort in­creas­ing with lat­eral load, it seems to de­crease, so you don’t have a sense of how much front grip there is to lean on.

Given that both are no­to­ri­ous per­fec­tion­ists, it’s per­haps pre­dictable that Becker and Newey see only the One-77’s fail­ings. Tate and Archer need some con­vinc­ing, too, al­though, for the record, they both seem to dis­ap­pear for lengthy spells and make A LOT of noise. I feel some­what out of step in still re­main­ing star-struck by the One-77, de­spite its flaws. On big­ger roads, with more space to stretch its legs and more time to get to know it, I sus­pect it would have shone brighter. One thing we can agree on is that the One-77 sits so far out­side the bound­aries of the brand that it sim­ply doesn’t feel or be­have like an Aston Martin. For Newey in par­tic­u­lar, this is food for thought.

Con­versely the Van­quish S is about as on-brand as any Aston of the mod­ern era. With more power, stronger brakes and a tauter chassis, the S ad­dressed some of the weak­nesses in the orig­i­nal Van­quish, truly tak­ing the fight to Fer­rari’s 550 and 575 in a man­ner Aston hasn’t man­aged since. And, thanks to Ian Cal­lum, its chis­elled lines and mus­cled physique still com­mand ad­mir­ing looks more than a decade af­ter it was launched.

In the evo­lu­tion from Van­quish to Van­quish S, at­ten­tion was also paid to the pad­dle-shift trans­mis­sion, though in truth it still didn’t re­ally cut the mus­tard. Maybe be­cause we all know the gear­box was never great, the less-thanpunchy shifts aren’t as big an is­sue as I’d feared. They cer­tainly don’t taint the feel­ing of well­be­ing to be had from driv­ing New­port Pag­nell’s last hur­rah. Of course, it could also be that hav­ing just emerged from the One-77 I’m all out of gear­box-in­duced angst, but there’s some­thing gen­uinely warm and ap­peal­ing about the Van­quish S.

It’s a mel­low ma­chine. Far more ma­ture and un­der­stated than the other cars here. In­deed, the fast car land­scape has changed so much in re­cent years it seems odd to think that this car was once Aston’s most full-on se­ries pro­duc­tion model. In many ways it was the last of a breed. A top-tier flag­ship with no pre­ten­sions at be­ing re­motely aimed at track use. That’s in­con­ceiv­able nowa­days.

As a di­rect re­sult, the Van­quish S has a pli­ancy that im­presses even Becker, but the trade-off is a soft-edged chassis that doesn’t dis­guise the car’s con­sid­er­able 1800kg bulk, though it does its best to con­tain it. Newey also ap­pre­ci­ates its abil­ity to find a flow, but doesn’t he­si­tate in be­moan­ing its in­abil­ity to step up its game and find more bite (par­tic­u­larly at the front end) when you want to press on and re­ally drive. You get the im­pres­sion this man would make un­der­steer il­le­gal.

He has a point, at least in the con­text of this test, where we’re putting the cre­den­tials of each car un­der the

Above and right V12 Van­tage cock­pit suit­ably pur­pose­ful; whole car ex­udes po­tency. En­gine was the 510bhp V12 from the con­tem­po­rary DBS; bon­net vents strictly func­tional

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