Speed and Endurance
Aston Martin’s small and sporty V12 Vantage S Roadster has the potential to live a long and fast life.
The Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, Calif., sits atop a bluff in the Santa Rosa Mountains, surrounded by a bighorn sheep reserve and overlooking Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. The setting is breathtaking and exclusive. It is also convenient to the Palms to Pines Highway, a two-lane route that wriggles upward through a gap in the mountains and admits travelers to Southern California’s lesser-known, semiarid interior valleys.
Earlier this fall, the Ritz-Carlton hosted Aston Martin’s preview of the V12 Vantage S Roadster, a breathtaking and exclusive new two-seater that joins the 2+2 Vanquish Volante and the DB9 Volante to give the marque a trio of V-12-powered convertibles. Drivers invited to the preview tested the Roadster on the Palms to Pine en route from the Ritz-Carlton to Borrego Springs, a remote desert village where there are no stoplights and no streetlights. Nighttime lighting of any kind is restricted because it would interfere with the view of the stars, which, along with golf courses and mild winter temperatures, draws travelers to the community.
The visitors’ bureau describes the pace in Borrego Springs as slow and uncomplicated. The Roadster is neither. It is a sophisticated machine that is Aston Martin’s fastest-ever convertible. It is on sale now for just under $200,000; a small batch will arrive at U.S. dealerships in time for Christmas, with the bulk to follow in January 2015.
Although the Roadster has a wheelbase of only 102.4 inches, it nevertheless accommodates the huge all-alloy engine; a driver and passenger whose feet rest inches from the engine; the mechanism for the power-operated, suede-lined fabric top; and the rear-mounted transmission that contributes to a 51/49 front-to-rear weight ratio, which helps balance the car’s 3,847-pound mass. A bonded-aluminum chassis supports the whole works. From pert nose to bobbed tail, the Roadster is 172.6 inches long—just 15 inches longer than the Mazda Miata.
The Roadster is equipped with a 7-speed automated manual transmission that debuted with the V12 Vantage S coupe in 2013. The transmission upgrade was among several refinements that Aston Martin made to the earlier Vantage models, which featured a 6-speed fully manual gearbox. The stout automanual unit, made by the Italian supplier Oerlikon Graziano, uses hydraulic actuation to mesh the gears. There are two shift paddles on the steering wheel, and there is no clutch pedal on the floor. When the car is loafing along in the normal driving mode or zipping ahead in sport mode, the computer operates the clutch, giving the driver the choice to use the paddles or allow the computer to shift gears. When the car is in sport mode, the driver can choose any gear and hold it through the mighty 6-liter V-12’s peak torque output of 457 ft lbs at 5,750 rpm and 565 hp at a screaming 6,750 rpm.
On the drive through the desert, the transmission worked unobtrusively, supporting Aston Martin’s claim of “precise and swift gear changes.” It executed even block shifts flawlessly, changing rapidly from fifth to second when the car was braking for a tight bend. The transmission and the naturally aspirated engine enable the Roadster to accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. Top speed is rated at 201 mph. Because the engine’s power band is so broad—more than 80 percent of the torque is available off idle—drivers on public roads will seldom need to execute block downshifts or push to the upper limit of the 8,000 rpm tachometer.
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