Drop-top Roadster version of Aston Martin’s reborn V12 Vantage S Coupe is little less delightful to drive and a huge advance over its predecessor: an (expensive) enthusiast’s treat.
Richard Aucock | September 2014
Aston Martin has never made an open-top car as fast or as powerful as the V12 Vantage S Roadster. Or as promising; after all, it’s based on the V12 Vantage S Coupe, a car totally transformed by the addition of that ‘S’ (and an extensive series of perfectly judged technical enhancements).
How powerful? 565bhp (573PS), which in Britain sees a key barrier broken: 0-60mph takes 3.9 seconds, although switch to our favoured Euro-speak 0-62mph and it dips back to 4.1 seconds. No taking away the fact it’s a 201mph car, though – 323km/h in Europe.
The addition of Sportshift III paddleshift seven-speed was key to the V12 S Coupe’s appeal and is even more of a boon here (manuals are anathema to many roadster drivers). Aston Martin also throws three-stage adaptive damping, One-77-derived lightweight exhaust and full carbon ceramic brakes at it, to bolster the £147,000 list price. (Our car had a few options, such as Diavolo paint, taking the price to over £176,000…)
Visually, the V12 has always stood out courtesy of its bonnet louvres. They remain; added is a CC100 Speedster grille and the option of a carbon grille and black tailgate panel which, with the optional 10-spoke forged alloys, is pretty much how our test car was presented. Without the coupe’s vivid launch colours, it looked pretty but not a daunting icon in waiting – not like those launch Coupes, that’s for sure. Only one way to find out though…
What’s the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster like to drive?
Back to back, the V12 S Roadster will not seem as dynamic as the five-star V12 S Coupe. But in isolation, you’d never think it lacking: it’s a very engaging car indeed, with satisfyingly neutral and confidence-inspiring handling that that is much more intuitive than the old non-S Roadster.
The lack of intimidation is impressive. It has a great 6.0-litre V12 and is a surprisingly compact car (under 4.4 metres long, similar to a Ford Focus) but isn’t tentative and edgy like the old V12 could be. A well sorted ride helps here, which is firm and focused but also flows tenaciously yet with serenity and little harshness on challenging B roads. This suppleness makes it seem very well bred (but, unlike the old car it’s never too soft).
It’s easy to place on the road, a willing car when you use plenty of power and never overbearing. choose the level of dynamic focus from the adaptive suspension – none of the three modes are too extreme – but both have the same meaty steering that lacks slack or fog. That you can throw a big-engined, 1700kg-plus Aston with 565bhp around with quite the enthusiasm this V12 Vantage S Roadster allows is pretty impressive.
The smooth, charismatic engine benefits from its S makeover with a charismatic bark and flowing delivery. It comes in a wave rather than a Germanic bang; it’s extremely fast when revved and now has the easygoing lower-down torque not to feel lacking – it’s this that sets it apart from the V8 cars too. Some may find the seven-speed gearbox’s slight punctuation of power delivery a bit old fashioned, but others will (correctly) sense the motorsport feel.
Is the V12 Vantage S Roadster worth nearly £150,000?
The V12 Vantage S Coupe is a £139,000 car and, although very expensive, worth every penny to rich enthusiasts. The Roadster is more expensive, and a little less the pure driving machine, but adds roof down motoring pleasure so again, to the right (small) group, won’t feel colossally overpriced. Because it now drives so well, it’s easier to justify the expense.
It’s an interesting comparison alongside the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet. Even in base form, that car costs £130,000; the Turbo S most buy is over £151,000. The Aston, with its beautifully crafted (albeit now dated) cabin, tailored suit-like folding roof (it tucks neatly, if slowly, beneath a hard tonneau) and the motorsport-infused feel to all its controls, is a compelling alternative.
You’ll probably prefer to keep the roof down as it’s a bit dark and gloomy inside with it up; besides, the noise of the V12 is worth savouring. Again, it’s not dissimilar to a race car and, in sport mode, the exhausts’ blare is absolutely epic. People could buy this car for the noise alone. They wouldn’t feel shortchanged.
Oh, and scuttle shake? You’ll sense it, but it doesn’t feel compromised by it. The Aston’s high-precision all-aluminium chassis integrity remains in tact.
MR verdict: 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster
Aston Martin has ably transferred the V12 Vantage S Coupe’s considerable talents into Roadster guise. It’s a little less of the ultimate thoroughbred but still very crisp and dynamic; the approachability and tightly honed precision is a combination that will have no trouble winning over a small but enthusiastic group of customers.
It’s certainly a match for some talented competition and, with the additional usability brought by the paddleshift gearbox and torqier, more powerful engine, shows Aston’s talent of continuing to to breath extra life into established products.
Rivals: 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster
- Porsche 911 Turbo
- Ferrari California T
- Bentley Continental GT Convertible Speed
- Maserati GranCabrio
- Audi R8 V10
The Porsche can be the default choice here, particularly now the Audi is starting to age so obviously, but Ferrari’s torquey and transformed California T is also worth a serious look. The Maserati is a wild card but a decidedly quirky one; for many Aston buyers, the only alternative will be the only 12-cylinder rival – Bentley’s superb 2014-spec Speed.
Specification: 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster
Engine: 6.0-litre V12 petrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed paddleshift semi-auto
Price from: £147,000
Power: 565bhp (573PS) @ 6750rpm
Torque: 457lb ft @ 5500rpm
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Top speed: 201mph