Aston V8 Vantage S – the baby Aston comes of age

Aston Martin have revealed the V8 Vantage S - more power (well, a bit more) and an all-new seven-speed automated manual transmission.

By Tim Kendall | 1st February 2011

Just looking at the headline power figures for the new V8 Vantage S might leave you to believe Aston Martin is making a bit of a song and dance about the latest Vantage. The S is only 10bhp up on the V8 Vantage’s 420bhp, but there is a lot more to it than a fettled engine. In Aston PR speak, the V8 Vantage range has now ‘come of age’, approaching six years from launch. In this new guise it has been treated to a range of dynamic upgrades to “push the driver experience beyond what has been offered before”, according to CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage S

Aston engineers have improved the engine’s breathing with a valved air intake system that opens up above 3500 rpm, allowing better airflow at the right part of the torque curve. Peak torque, which is up by 15lb.ft to 361lb.ft, also arrives slightly earlier at 5750 rpm, which should provide the 4.7 litre V8 with more punch in the mid-range. Engine tweaks though, are really just the back story, as the bigger news here is Aston’s new Sportshift II, an automated manual, single clutch transmission. The gearbox, a seven speed, Graziano sourced unit is new from the ground-up and was designed for the Vantage S. Interestingly, they haven’t gone for a dual-clutch set up, citing weight saving, low complexity of moving parts,  and ‘real, tangible gear changes’. Perhaps they’ve cottoned on to the fact that some drivers like to know they are changing gear, even if they don’t have a third pedal and a stick to remind them.

The gearbox, mounted on the rear transaxle, helps give the V8 S near perfect weight distribution of 49:51, and it’s low weight (around 50kg lighter than a dual-clutch) contributes to an overall weight saving of 30kg for the car. Aston also says the first six ratios are closely stacked within the torque band, leaving the seventh ratio as a longer cruising gear for enhanced refinement and fuel economy. They must be fairly confident it’s a good system as Sportshift II is standard on the Vantage S, with no manual option available. Similar to the Porsche ‘Sports Chrono’ option, they’ve also introduced a sport button for the V8 S, sharpening throttle response, reducing gearchange times by 60 milliseconds and providing a harder exhaust note.

In standard tune it was a vocal machine, but the S has had further tweaks to the exhaust, with an aurally tuned muffler and bypass valves that open at 3500rpm, or earlier in sport mode to give more crackle and pop. Handling has also been sharpened with a quicker steering rack, whilst the front brakes are beefed up with six pot calipers and larger (388mm) front discs. The brakes are of a ‘floating’ disc design which helps reduce unsprung weight and makes them 0.4 kg lighter than the smaller 355mm items on the standard car.

As befits a thorough dynamic makeover, the suspension has also been attended to. Retuned spring and damper rates, in addition to revised bump stop rates and lengths, should make for a more planted feel through fast corners. They have also developed some bespoke rubber, Bridgestone having worked with Aston engineers to produce unique RE050s which are 10mm wider all round. Partnering the new-found cornering capability is a modified Dynamic Stability Control System (DSC), with 3 settings – default, track mode and off.

Externally, if there’s one accusation that might be levelled at the V8 Vantage, it’s the lack of visual tension. Design chief Marek Reichman claims to have sent the baby Aston to the gym in a bid to give it more muscularity and definition. It pushes further towards the angrier looking V12 Vantage, with details such as a hand-laid carbon splitters, beefier side skirts and a more pronounced ‘kick’ to the ducktail rear. New 19″ diamond turned wheels are standard, whilst buyers can choose forged aluminium rims which save a further 0.5kg in unsprung mass per wheel.

Inside, carbon kevlar bucket seats are optional, saving 17kg per car, whilst an Alcantara trimmed steering wheel and piano black trim are also on the options list. The V8 Vantage S will be available in Roadster and Coupé form, with the latter starting at £102,500. Performance figures are being kept under wraps for now, perhaps because Aston’s focus has been on enhancing the driving experience as opposed to encroaching on V12 Vantage levels of performance. Deliveries begin in March.

By Tim Kendall
1st February 2011

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