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Aston Martin DB9 LoEach year, approximately 36 hours are spent stuck in traffic congestion in the US, as reported by the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2009 Urban Mobility report. However, larger cities, including Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, may experience an even higher amount of wasted time in traffic at over 46 hours. In 2007, Americans wasted a total of 4.2 billion hours sitting in traffic, or the equivalent of 500,000 years.





V12 Vantage S Roadster 09About an hour into my drive, I catch myself humming 'White Lines' – you know, the early '80s hip-hop-funk classic. Not because I'm subconsciously suggesting that whoever thought it was a good idea to stick a 420kW 6.0-litre V12 engine into a short-wheelbase convertible was off their head on you know what, but rather because the test car I'm driving is running on Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres that are so grippy the car's tracking along the road's centre line like, well, a wall street hedge fund manager with a note up his nose.

Bristling with carbonfibre addenda and – at this stage in its life – rather long-legged power, the Vantage V12 S Roadster is a supermodel posing for the cover of a particularly violent computer game. At over two-metres across it's also not insubstantially wide, so hacking along a curvy mountain road the white/centre line interaction is a rather important part of the whole driving experience.

The Aston doesn't take an especially aggressive response, but there's a nagging sense of impending doom, nonetheless – approached with a healthy amount of respect, I'm not finding it quite the terror I expected. Certainly, there's a veil of civility. The old school hydraulically assisted steering, tuned in conjunction with the three-stage Normal/Sport/Track adaptive damping, is weighty and precise. There's actually plenty of grip in spite of the volcanic V12 attacking those rear tyres and if you disengage the Sport button the engine's sonorous vocals are unobtrusive. Just don't let any of this con you into one of those fabled false senses of security.

4 V12 Vantage S Roadster

For while it might not have the mega forced-induction torque of some rivals – 620Nm at 5500rpm seems positively pathetic next to 750Nm at 2200rpm from the 911 Turbo S – the V12 S is still churning out 500 of them at a grand. Get clumsy and the Roadster will spin up the rear rubber in third fast enough to make you thank the electronic gods responsible for managing stability and traction.Besides which, the lack of turbos is surely as much of a selling point in the Vantage’s favour as the irrepressible beauty. Without any mechanical snails interfering with the airflow, the big-capacity throttle response is simply awesome – as is the noise.Oh yes, the noise. At a fundamental level, it’s probably true to say that the end of civilisation is never more than a button-press away, and so it goes with the V12 S Roadster. Hit that Sport switch so innocently ensconced amongst the identical roundels that control the transmission, and you’ll be greeted by what sounds like an explosion just over the horizon behind you. That would be the One-77-supercar-derived exhaust system going to eleven. Time to stow the soft-top roof.

Who cares if there's a little extra shake through the Vantage's decapitated structure when you've got a backing track that ranges from snap, crackle, pop to screaming supersonic boom. It's almost enough to make you forgive Aston for the transmission.

3 V12 Vantage S Roadster

Where the previous V12 Vantage Roadster made do with a six-speed manual, the firm has switched to a seven-speed robotised manual for the S. That this technology is 'motorsport proven' and saves 20kg is scant comfort when it can't automate a low-speed upshift without lurching like a drunk uncle at a wedding – there's a good reason most rivals use dual-clutch units these days.

You can drive round the issue with the paddles, and the multi-downshift function is pretty handy when you're hard on the carbon-ceramic brakes on the way into a corner – hold the paddle and bap-bap-bap down it goes to the lowest possible ratio. But that isn't the point.

Still, this Aston isn't about being perfect. It's about a visceral open-air experience, leather-lined luxury and surprisingly agreeable long-distance comfort – all carried off with exceptional flourish. After three hours of top-down driving, its final surprise comes from the glass and metal totem that serves as an Aston Martin key, which is burning hot when I eject it from the dash. How appropriate.