First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin
First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante & 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Michael Bettencourt, additional photos courtesy Aston Martin

Palm Spring, CA – Most manufacturers won’t dare put its most powerful engine into its smallest and lightest chassis. Fewer still will allow any version of its least expensive vehicle to offer the same exact engine as its priciest range-topper. Any company except Aston Martin, that is.

For 2014, the big news with the exotic British carmaker is that it now offers its hotter top-of-the-line V12 engine in various models, plus it introduces the convertible version of its already gorgeous Vanquish. Called the Vanquish Volante, it now becomes the brand’s most exclusive (or at least most expensive) vehicle, arriving now in North America with a 565-hp brute of a powerplant underhood, an engine introduced with the achingly lovely Vanquish coupe that previously held Aston’s priciest title.

That same exact 565-hp V12 engine will arrive within the first quarter of 2014 under the hood of its seriously upgraded 2015 V12 Vantage S. This all comes on the heels of Aston Martin formally announcing in December that its next generation power plants will come from Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance unit and will be V8s, calling into question how long this sonorous but aging V12 will remain in Aston Martin’s lineup.

So let’s start with the raciest of all current Aston V12 models – and all current Astons – the V12 Vantage S. A close look at this Aston’s spec sheet will tell you that the Vantage is the smallest of the common VH architecture used throughout Aston’s lineup, and lightest of the V12 models, at 1,665 kg. But with that big twelve-cylinder engine and the seven-speed sequential manual transmission, it’s also a few kilograms heavier than the lightest V8 Vantage SP10 model (1,610 kg) or the base V8 Vantage (1,630 kg).

That big V12 now outmuscles the base V8 by a substantial 145 hp margin, the V12’s 457 lb-ft of torque also dwarfing the base V8’s 357. Though it may be immaterial to many Aston buyers, the price bump is also considerable, with the ’14 V12 Vantage S starting at C$194,941, about 70 large more than a base Vantage. It also brings the V12 Vantage S right up to the starting price of the similarly gorgeous DB9, a car that seems woefully underpowered now, with a ‘mere’ 510 hp.

First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin
2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. Click image to enlarge

But no Aston Martin is about mind-blowing numbers anymore, because the reality is that its buyers could afford vehicles with even more than the upgraded V12 Vantage’s 565 ponies. Astons are all about eliciting emotions, and that starts with its fetching shapes. Though the squatter shape of the Vantage may not be quite as flowing or enchanting as the longer 2+2 models, it is smoother and more sophisticated than the outsize wings and crazy aggression rampant on rivals like the Mercedes-Benz SLS Black Series or Jaguar XKR-S.

First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin
First Drive: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S luxury cars first drives aston martin
2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. Click image to enlarge

Sure, Astons take family resemblance to a new high, and arguably too high, but criticizing the Vantage for looking too similar to other Astons is like dissing your hot girlfriend for looking too much like her gorgeous sister. If you’re lucky enough to frolic in that family, you don’t complain.

On the road, the V12 Vantage is a snarly, ready-to-run beast, its single-clutch transmission much happier when flooring it on an open road than trundling around town, where it seems to trip over itself occasionally. This is not a cruising car. This car is for those who can’t wait to put some revs on that counter-clockwise sweeping tach, and hearing the blat of an increasingly rare big-bore, naturally aspirated V12 as tuned through the lightweight bypass-valve-equipped exhaust derived from the one in Aston’s rare One-77 supercar. Which is the only production Aston Martin in the brand’s history that’s faster than this V12 Vantage S, with its top speed of 330 km/h.

Handling-wise, the V12 Vantage S offers a new three-level electronic damping system, allowing some measure of civility in Normal mode, while dialing up the stiffness in Sport and Track modes to colon-busting levels. Pitch it into a corner, and though it may not have the immediate razor-sharpness of some mid-engine rivals, there’s a rewardingly natural feel to the steering, braking and handling balance that somehow connects organically to the enthusiast lobe in your brain.




About Michael Bettencourt

Michael Bettencourt is on the World Car of the Year jury, has been a long-time AJAC member, and is on its Technology of the Year judging panel.