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SO it is five years old already but there is no denying that the styling of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Coupe is still elegantly crisp.
The nose, with its gaping grille, is instantly synonymous with the marque, with the soft yet muscular lines of its curvaceous form conveying the sheer timelessness of its beauty.
But while the styling is iconic, it can sometimes be the brand's undoing as well. A contemporary Aston Martin can be confusing to some because the various models look very similar. The positioning is also not always obvious.
Basically though, the Vantage S denotes the entry point of the two-door Aston Martin range which includes the DB9 above it, and the top-of-the-line Vanquish. The only four-door variant is the Rapide.
The V8 Vantage S has a naturally aspirated, 4.7-litre V8 engine driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed SportShift II automated manual transmission (the Vantage S is also available with a 6.0-litre V12 engine but is virtually identical to the V8 version from the outside).
Because the S denotes major improvements in the major areas of steering, transmission and suspension, the Vantage S is faster and sharper than the non-S Vantage it replaces.
A big difference is the retuned automated manual transmission. To satisfy the purist, the acceleration creep is gone and the shifts are faster. But they are also smoother, with less of the jerkiness that clutchless manuals are notorious for. So in automatic, the Vantage shifts more softly even if you don't lift off the throttle during changes.
The throttle response is already faster for an unimpeded flow of massive torque - but press the Sport button and the engine literally wakes up without dropping a gear. In this mode, a pair of exhaust valves also opens to deliver that characteristic spine-tingling Aston Martin exhaust note.
The heavy steering is also quicker and remains a hydraulic set-up for optimum feedback.
The front mid-mounted engine and rear-mounted transmission give the V8 Vantage S a near-perfect 51:49 front/rear weight distribution.
All-round double wishbones with fixed dampers fluidly match the power and chassis.
Together with a limited slip differential, it is clear why the Vantage S is considered the most nimble Aston Martin available. It is also why its aluminium structure is shorter.
As the sportiest model in the range, the Vantage's 2,600 mm wheelbase is 143 mm less than the DB9's. And tipping the scales at 1,610 kg, it is a relative lightweight.
Inside, the two-seater has the typical trappings of an Aston Martin. The door panels have the trademark V8 triple-stitching and the centre console is pared down to reduce clutter, with a few key knobs and buttons on a wide expanse of piano black.
The centre display has been updated for not just navigation and reverse camera image, but also vehicle status and a cool set of digital power and torque meters.
Increased insulation has filtered out more unwanted noise from the cabin although the delicious engine and exhaust noises are still audible.
Few super sports cars combine effortless performance with quiet luxury. It is why the hand-built and handcrafted Aston Martin Vantage S is the perfect definition of performance luxury.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Coupe
Engine: 4,735cc V8
Gearbox: 7-speed automated manual transmission
Max power: 436 hp@7,300 rpm
Max torque: 490 Nm@5,000 rpm
0-100 kmh: 4.8 secs
Top speed: 305 kmh
CO2 emissions: 296 g/km
Average OMV: S$132,000
Price: S$590,000 (without COE)
Distributor: Wearnes Automotive