The Vantage V12 S is a more refined, civilised drive than the Lamborghini

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It may be that compared to the last week’s Lamborghini Huracan, the Vantage V12 S seems a much more civilised car.

The Huracan is, after all, a bruiser of a supercar that is brutal, very noisy and designed to announce your precense like a whirlwind passing through.

The Vantage is decidely more subtle. It can behave like a hooligan too but it feel more sophisticated than the Lambo – even at speed it’s a refined, relaxed drive.

The back-to-front gearbox may eventually become more intuitive to use – even some of the vibrations through the door trim might settle down.

But I can forgive a car this good these faults and more. Which much surely be the mark of a truly great car…

The Aston Martin Vantage V12 S is the upsidedown car! Things just aren’t where you would expect them to be

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You just know that when Aston Martin turn out an amazing car that not quite everything will be perfect. There has to be a flaw right?  A brilliant machine that has more heart and soul than a Porsche but just isn’t quite as Germanically over-engineered.

So it is with the astoundingly good Vantage V12 S. Beautiful from every angle, the toned down but throaty exhuast note the poise and balance when at full tilt around a sweeping corner.

Then we come to the manual gearbox. For some reason, it’s back to front. That means 1st is bottom left, with a dog leg up to 2nd. Sure, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to get used to but it’s a bloody nightmare.

And then there’s changing down from 4th to 3rd – how many times did I almost whack it into 1st with potentially disastrous consequences?

It doesn’t work Aston Martin – why the rubbery ginger did you do it in the first place?

And then there are the electric window buttons. They are the wrong way up too. Press down for up, and up for down. Is there something I’m missing here?

Anyway, two awesomely annoying faults on an otherwise great car. Here endeth the rant…

Unlike the Huracan, the Aston Vantage V12 S manual doesn’t sound like a couple in flagrante

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Long before it appeared in the distance, I could hear the S arriving. It’s not a squealer like the Huracan – it doesn’t sound like a couple in flagrante.

Instead, the Aston has a sophisticated growl – like Mariella Frostrup after one too many fags. Most shocking is the paint job. I’ve seen the S manual with grey paint and yellow lipstick around the grille, or white gloss and orange frill.

Get your head around that though and the rest should be easy.

Oh, apart from the dog-leg seven-speed gearbox. It’s the reason this Vantage is so special – but also remains the most annoying feature. First gear is in a funny position but it’s also way to easy to slip from second to fifth, instead of third.

Ho-hum. Another flawed Aston – or will I get used to it like every other motoring hack claims is possible?

For now, I’m just happy to look at the shape and hear the roar. More tomorrow…

When an Aston Martin Rapide meets a pheasant there is only one winner

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Why was everybody staring at my Aston Rapide over the weekend? Was it because I left the headlights on full beam (again) – the blue warning light so well hidden behind the steering wheel?

Or was it because I had exploded another unfortunate pheasant? There are so many ponderous and enormous birds around these parts it’s like Death Race 2000 out there at the present.

It could be the rasp from the V12 engine, which doesn’t need acoustic tweakery to make knees wobble when you blip the accelerator.

No, I think quite simply, this is the most beautiful four-door saloon that you will ever see. Granted, it’s a bit tight in the back but there just isn’t a finer four-seater on the planet.

Like Clarkson in a sweet shop, you have to blip the throttle of the Aston Martin Rapide

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Yes, well there is something very childish about noisy cars. But like Jeremy Clarkson in a sweet shop, you can’t miss an opportunity to blip the throttle on a V12 engine.

The Rapide isn’t the fastest Aston Martin but it is, without doubt, the cooooolest model to currently grace our roads.

This is partly because other motorists don;t have a clue what the four-door is. It’s so rare that the Vantage looks positively common by comparison. Imagine that.

So it was today that I drive up and down the Hanger Lane tunnel on the A40 into London, just to hear that glorious exhaust note time and time again.

It’s not as throaty as the Maserati Quattroporte GTS, not as grumbly as the Bentley Speed 8.

But mix in the gorgeous looks and simply mind-boggling interior and you have a car worth more than the sum of its parts.

There’s something orgasmic about the lesser-spotted Aston Martin Rapide

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The Rapide and I are on the way to London this morning. It’s never an ordinary day driving an Aston but there’s something extra orgasmic about the lesser-spotted Rapide.

What you see in the photograph above doesn’t do the car justice. No, not at all. You have to catch yourself driving it in a polished shop window to fully appreciate the presence of a Rapide.

And Porsche Panamera drivers just hate it. I’ve passed three on the M40 and you can see them doggedly trying not to stare. This is what they should have bought – admittedly secondhand but so much better.

The Panamera was always an ugly mother but next to the Aston it looks like a bucket of poo.

I can’t stop driving the Rapide. It’s as gorgeous as the Maserati Quattroporte, which is saying something indeed…

Bentley GT Speed W12 or Aston Vantage V12 – you choose

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So, here’s the thing. I have an Aston Martin Vantage S V12 parked outside Car Couture Towers – with the Bentley GT Speed next to it. Which one would you choose?

I love the passion, drama and craziness of the Aston. It’s obviously lighter, more agile and exhilarating than the Bentley, which is such a large amount of metal, it’s best experienced in a straight line. And wow, does it shift.

But the Aston is beautifully flawed, thanks to the latest Speedshift auto gearbox. Aston would tell you that it is more ‘driver focussed’ – ie designed to be at its best at speed. But quite frankly, it sucks.

There’s such a lag as it flicks up a gear that you are physically pushed forward through each cog of the seven-speed box. It’s uncomfortable and tiresome.

This doesn’t happen rivals supercars, which usually have a double clutch system and are super smooth. The Bentley change is seamless, as is the Porsche 911, Audi R8 etc

So, while I would always choose the Vantage over the big, bad Bentley (heart rules over head), it could be so, so better…

  • Car Couture is off to Switzerland for the annual hols – we’re back from the grand tour on August 21