Aston Martin's latest iteration of the Vantage hits the spot
S is for sizzling The Vantage S is lighter and quicker than the older V8 model -- PHOTO: NICK DIMBLEY

It seems you don't have to do much to keep sports car buyers interested. A tweak here, a new label there and voila, you have a new product and a new queue of customers.

Porsche has honed the art of making derivatives. Lamborghini and Ferrari have, too. Now, it is Aston Martin's turn.

The Vantage S is the latest example. It is related to the V12 Vantage, Vantage V8 and Vantage GT4 race car.

If the V12 was a wild thing and the standard V8 had grace and balance, the Vantage S blends the best from the two cars. It is a V8 and therefore lighter than the monstrous Vantage V12. At the same time, it is more powerful than the Vantage V8.

With 430bhp onboard, it has 10 horses more than the standard V8. It also packs 20Nm more torque, available from a lower engine speed.

The engine is regulated by a newly developed seven-speed Sportshift II automated manual gearbox that is lighter and quicker.

The entire car is 20kg lighter than the standard V8, and thus accelerates more urgently. It does the century sprint in 4.5 seconds (from 4.8) and maxes out at 305kmh (290kmh). In the process, it emits an exhaust bark that borders on illegal.

Another 17kg can be shaved if you pick the carbonfibre sport seats, which is an option. The chassis is firmer and sits lower, with a more finely damped single-rate suspension system.

Bridgestone developed a special Potenza RE 050A for the Vantage S. It was less concerned with ride than with grip. The ride is decidedly firm, which is perfectly acceptable for a sports car.

Finally, to sharpen things even more, a quick 2.6-turn steering rack replaces the standard one, which required 3.0 turns.

Spray on a special electric blue paint job and here you have it, the finest driving instrument Aston has come up with in a long while.

It not only acquits itself well on the winding roads around Ascari race track but on the track itself as well. We belted the Vantage S around the 5.5km circuit non-stop for about 15 laps with the air-conditioner in full blast and not once did the car wilt.

The standard steel brakes absorbed vast amounts of heat without much fade, the standard street tyres kept steering and gripping without melting or ripping apart, the engine never overheated and the track handling was exemplary.

Throughout, there was not much under or oversteer, thanks to the car's sport dynamic stability control. The car remained alert and obedient to the driver's commands at all times.

It is amazing that this road car is so usable on the track. Evidently, the Vantage S is more than a nip and a tuck.

SPECS

ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE S

Price: To be announced

Engine: 4,735cc 32-valves V8

Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual

Power: 430bhp at 7,300rpm

Torque: 490Nm at 5,000rpm

0-100kmh: 4.5 seconds

Top speed: 305kmh

Fuel consumption: 19.2 litres/100km (city)

Agent: Aston Martin Lagonda