Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
PBIR is a short track, tough on driver-side tires. Launch something British out of the pit lane, into a quick ess, and merge into raceway traffic, and technically it becomes "international" too, I suppose.
Tracks are impossible places to gauge the effectiveness of adaptive dampers, but the V12 Vantage S shows off its other variables on demand. Tapping into the Vantage's shift paddles and its Sport button cracks open some behavioral chasm in its politeness. It barks up the rev counter, and the One-77-derived exhaust shatters the relative silence of this fringe of the Everglades.
You can forget about perfect execution, at least from the drivetrain. Literally, forget about it--no need to worry, because the V-12's waterfall of torque shrouds the car in a pashmina of power around every corner. PBIR's short cuts and single long straightaway dissolve into each other with only a few clicks of the paddles.
It's the left tires and the carbon-ceramic brakes that get a workout. Submitting willfully and smoothly, the Vantage turns corner exits into a straightforward negotiation between the tires and your desire to look not like a jackass.
A dual-clutch transmission would extract more out of the Vantage, no doubt. The automated manual has the same flaws it has in Aventadors and past M3s and AMGs. It requires deliberate and smooth inputs, and it still takes melodramatic pauses between gear changes. Accelerate flat-out down a long straight, and the shifts melt into the background; lower-speed cutwork exaggerates the front-to-back pitching these transmissions induce. A gearbox with the fluid, obsessive control of the Vantage's beautifully worked-out carbon-ceramic brakes? Yes, please.
Parked for a cool-down, the V12 Vantage S looks mostly familiar, and that's mostly fantastic. The V12 Vantage S wears black carbon fiber or titanium silver mesh accents, a new grille insert inspired by the gorgeous CC100 Speedster Concept, alloy ten-spoke wheels, and a subtle graphics package including a black painted roof and partially painted trunk panel. Inside, there are reshaped seats with a choice of Luxmill or semi-aniline leathers, optional Alcantara upholstery, and an optional Carbon Fibre Interior Pack--an electric look with flat-grey paint and red tint applied to the trim.
Look, if you're recently impoverished to the point where you have to cut $60,000 from your car budget, we can commiserate. There's still the V8 Vantage--or if your taste levels have also been affected, the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51, which is roughly $130,000 cheaper, but still will hit 60 mph a tenth of a second quicker than the V12 Vantage S.
At $184,995, the sound of the V12 Vantage S is worth it alone. And why stop there? Aston's bespoke programs will let you design in another few dozen thousand dollars, even import your own exotic finishes into the sticker price.
We have an idea: alligator leather trim.
We even know where to get one.