Florida's the home of the bucket lists, for obvious reasons, our national Last Chance Saloon. So this week, I took "driving, Florida-style" off mine.

Here's how: First, I drilled an Aston Martin V-12 Vantage S up to 143 mph in a straight line andthenIhitFULLPANICBRAKE, yanking it and me into a floaty G-force denouement that the space jockeys up in Cape Canaveral might have enjoyed.

The convenient excuse/cover story: I'm driving the Vantage at Palm Beach International Raceway, where the egrets have no regrets and the alligators have adverse possession on their tiny, walnut-sized brains. Not using this side of the track's runoff? "I'll just lay.....right here."

That's also how the V12 Vantage lays in wait. You expect an Aston to be 10 times as lovely, but only 9/10ths or even 8/10ths as quick as its exotically priced brethren--911 Turbos, mostly. This one ups its numbers game by sending in a reinforcement in the form of the brawny, burbly, 565-horsepower V-12 from the Aston Martin Vanquish, a car with audio so compelling it should be on a gold disc floating in space, on endless repeat, so the alien races know we're at least half-sentient.

It's still not the Nurburgring master, but the V12 Vantage S now is in the hunt: 0-60 mph times of 3.7 seconds are in AMG territory, and the V12 Vantage S's top speed of 205 mph is a neat fit in near-supercar territory. It's quicker than any Aston other than the all but unattainable One-77.

For the record, I saw 143 mph on its digital dial before a huge wall of sawdust and netting went from postage-stamp-sized, a half-mile down the track, to completely filling the windscreen. That's British for windshield.

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New and vintage Vantage

The V12 Vantage S's hardware is a blend of new and on-loan. The heart's still a 6.0-liter V-12, but the wonders of hollow camshafts and machined combustion chambers and newly adopted Bosch engine management have lifted output from 510 horsepower to current levels, and cranked up torque to 457 pound-feet--376 pound-feet of it available from 1,000 rpm.

It's still rear-drive, of course, but that power's force-fed to the back wheels through the SportShift III automated-manual transmission--a seven-speed, dual-clutch-plate design that's stouter than the single-plate version in the V8 Vantage, but fitted with the same paddles for shifting. Aston says it's 55 pounds lighter than its six-speed manual.

New adaptive dampers show up for the first time on the Vantage, and they're programmed with three modes--the usual Normal, Sport, and Track. Each flick of the button alters throttle response, shift points and speeds, steering weight, even the exhaust note--and you can still change ride quality by switching the Vantage's adaptive dampers from a cushier mode to a tauter one.

Light up all the right buttons, press the crystal keyfob home in its slot, and the V12 Vantage S snarls at your impudent little wake-up call.

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.

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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.


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