Less weight plus more power equals one V8 Vantage S… a new Aston Martin that we really want to drive!
January 24, 2011 By Andrew Bornhop roadandtrack.com
In late May or perhaps early June, a new driver-focused Aston Martin goes on sale in the U.S. Aston says this new V8 Vantage S, in both Coupe and Roadster versions, bridges the performance gap between the standard V8 Vantage and the GT4 race car, which won its class at the Nürburgring 24 and at the Spa 24 Hours.
So, what makes the new Vantage S special? Well, apart from having revised bodywork that makes it look a lot like its V12 Vantage brother, the new V8 Vantage S weighs 66 lb less than a standard Vantage, plus its 4.7-liter V-8 now pumps out 430 bhp and 361 lb.-ft. of torque (gains of 10 and 15 respectively). What’s more, in addition to having revised suspension tuning, a quicker steering rack (15:1 versus 17:1), larger front brakes and wider rear tires, the new S also has an all-new gearbox, a paddle-shift single-clutch 7-speed that has a lower final-drive ratio for livelier acceleration.
More Power, Better Acceleration
As before, the 4-cam 32-valve V-8 is mounted well aft of the front wheels, far back in the Vantage’s bonded aluminum chassis. In the S, though, it breathes through a new black intake plenum fitted with a valve that opens above 3500 rpm to increase the volume of air and consequently thicken midrange torque. This, together with more aggressive ignition timing, equates to the new enhanced output.
Far more significant to the overall sporting character of the Vantage S is its new Sportshift II paddle-shift gearbox. This Graziano-built single-clutch 7-speed transmission—which attaches to the engine via a torque tube and a carbon-fiber driveshaft—gives the car a near-perfect 49/51 weight balance. Not only that, but improved electronics translate to shifts that are 20 percent faster than with the standard 6-speed SportShift transmission. With the extra ratio, tighter gear spacing and lower 4.18:1 final-drive gearing, the new S will accelerate more quickly, more in tune with the glorious sounds of the Aston V-8. Pushing a Sport button quickens gear changes and improves throttle response while also altering the exhaust bypass valves, which are tuned to open a bit earlier (beyond 3500 rpm) and produce a bit more of that distinctive crackle during deceleration.
Of note, Aston says SportShift II, with its column-mounted magnesium paddles and fully automatic mode, will be the only gearbox available in the S, citing its reduced complexity and significant weight reduction versus a dual-clutch box. For the record, SportShift II is said to be a whopping 53 lb. lighter than the original SportShift transmission, thanks largely to it being air-cooled instead of oil-cooled. While the reduced weight and improved shift speed are impressive, we still wish Aston would have decided to equip the S with a conventional 6-speed manual.
Nevertheless, the car looks great. Viewed from the front, the Vantage S is distinguished by a new lower front bumper, which is finished in carbon fiber and houses a larger air intake that feeds the engine and new 6-piston front brakes. The nose, together with a lip on the rear deck lid, serve to increase downforce—a good friend in any car with a top speed of 189 mph. When the S is viewed from the back, a new rear bumper and side sills optically widen the car, which is fitted with 19-in. "V-spoke" wheels or optional 10-spoke forged rims for reduced unsprung mass. The tires are Bridgestone Potenza RE050As, size 245/40R-19 in front, 285/35R-19 in back, 10 mm wider front and rear than on a standard Vantage, and the front brakes of the S are a floating-disc design, featuring 6-piston calipers and 15-in. cast-iron rotors on aluminum carriers. Despite being nearly an inch greater in diameter than the standard brakes, the new rotors save nearly 1 lb. of unsprung weight at each front wheel.
Also in regard to brakes, the new Vantage S has a new brake booster designed to reduce pedal travel and allow for more discreet interventions of the stability control and traction control systems. The stability control has been tuned specifically for the S. It’s a 3-stage system that allows the driver to tailor the level of intervention. Track mode sounds like lots of fun, allowing for some generous slip angles, but we’re pleased to report that there is a full off mode, which allows the driver to be fully in command.
The new Aston Martin Vantage S will be unveiled to the world at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, alongside an all-new Aston that remains unknown to us at this time. We do, however, know what the new Vantage S will cost when it arrives at U.S. dealers in late May or early June—$138,000 for the V8 Vantage S Coupe, and $151,500 for the V8 Vantage S Roadster.
We’re eager to drive the new Vantage S models, and report back to you on how the added power, reduced weight and new gearbox will affect these "entry-level" Aston Martins. We suspect we already know the answer...