Aston Martin steers the new V12 Vantage S Roadster into supercar territory
In a world that craves constant, genre-redefining innovation, spare a thought for those who get it right the first time and then refuse to kowtow to society's raving neophiliac tendencies. The Aston Martin Vantage is the product of such an attitude. The basic shape of this two-seater sports car was probably penned at some point in the early years of this century, developed alongside the larger but closely related DB9. Exact attribution is hard to come by, but it's safe to assume that both Ian Callum (now at Jaguar) and Henrik Fisker (now an independent) were heavily involved. The first Vantages found customers in 2005, and for a couple of years the Vantage was the V8-powered sibling to the V12-propelled DB9.
From the outset, the Vantage has been a sensational car, whether as a coupé, a racer or the neatly proportioned Roadster convertible. It didn't take long for the larger engine to find its way into the smaller car. A real feat of engineering, the swap transformed the Vantage into a junior supercar, its sweeter handling and more wieldy scale giving Aston Martin a genuine contender, far more characterful and evocative than many of its rivals. For a few years now, the word on Aston Martin has been that the company does many things well (design, performance, craft) and that these rightfully trump the areas where it falls short (ergonomics, technology, efficiency).
And it's true that the current range represents the ongoing triumph of emotion over logic. Every brand in the 'luxury performance' sphere is essentially selling a dream, and Aston's strengths will almost always overcome its weaknesses, thanks to one of the best-known brand names in corporate history and a visual presence that never fails to turns heads. Having got it right all those years ago has proved a mixed blessing, as time and technology march on; even the dreamers who drive these cars will eventually want a satnav that works or a logical way of changing the cabin temperature.
Change is afoot at Aston Martin, though it'll be months, if not years, until an all-new product emerges. Many wax elegiac about the current generation of cars – and this engine in particular – lamenting how their era is soon to pass. The V12 Vantage S Roadster is a beautiful thing to look at it, a pretty special place to sit, a slightly frustrating thing to play with but an utterly sublime car to drive. Perhaps the barking exhaust note offers up a snarl too far, but it still garners admiration, not opposition. The Vantage was a classic the day it debuted, and the Vantage S Roadster simply cements that reputation.