Aston Martin has topped the UK's official coolest brand chart three times in the last six years. Only Apple and its iPhone have proved more popular during that time. Take one long look at Aston's new V12 Vantage S Roadster, and it's not hard to see why.
The V12 Roadster follows closely in the tyre tracks of the V12 Coupe - launched last year - and gets the same 6.0-litre 565bhp naturally aspirated V12 engine, capable of propelling it from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a staggering top speed of 201mph.
Performance clearly isn't an issue, and neither is desirability, but how does the new Roadster stack up in other areas against competition from the likes of Porsche's 911 Turbo Cabrio and the ageing but equally desirable Audi R8 V10 Spyder?
What’s the 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S like to drive?
Visceral and stunning in most respects, a little disappointing in others.
Unsurprisingly, that engine totally dominates the driving experience. It's savagely powerful at its top end, and will pull happily from as low as 1000rpm. The ability to lower the roof means you can enjoy the fantastic soundtrack even more, too. Make no mistake; this is one of the greatest, spine-tingling noises produced by any car, both on and off the throttle.
Unfortunately, the engine's brilliance only further exposes the shortcomings of its gearbox. Don't expect a twin-clutch 'box like the ones Porsche and Audi offer; the V12 Vantage S makes do with a robotised-manual as standard, and there's now no manual option to choose.
Progress through town is often jerky in automatic mode, with big pauses in momentum as gears are swapped over. When driving hard, the changes create unwanted gaps in acceleration while also frequently jolting you forwards in your seat. Changing down isn't quite as intrusive, but overall the Aston's gearbox feels off the pace compared with its rivals', although manual mode is better.
What makes the gearbox's failings such a shame is that the V12 Vantage S handles very well for a drop-top supercar. There isn't quite the same front-end bite of the 911 or R8, but there's still more than enough to give the driver huge confidence when cornering, with a far more keen front end than you'd expect given that there's such a weighty engine beneath the bonnet.
In any case, unlike its four-wheel drive rivals, the Aston's rear-drive set-up gives you the option of using the throttle to help guide it through corners. The steering is really nicely weighted, too, with a hefty natural feeling weight and a good level of feedback. Pressing the standard Sport button enhances its throttle response and gearshifts while adding weight to the steering for an even sharper drive.
Ultimately, though, a V12 Vantage Coupe's greater structural rigidity will help it change direction better still, and both the 911 Turbo and Audi R8 will outhandle the Aston on a back-road blast.
Despite its agility, the roadster is still reasonably comfortable to drive. A 911 suffers less shudder through its body over particularly bumpy roads, especially at low speed, but at a cruise the Aston manages to soak up much of the UK's scruffy surfaces with relative ease.
Road and engine noise are noticeable in the cabin at speed with the roof in place, although the latter is likely to be a blessing rather than a curse. Roof down with the windows in place, those on board are well protected from buffeting, particularly with the Roadster's standard wind deflector in place, too.
What’s the 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S like inside?
This is where the Vantage is really starting to show its age. There are far too many small, confusing buttons on the dashboard and the infotainment system is incredibly - almost deliberately - complicated. In fact, it's one of the worst systems fitted to any modern sports car.
We’d defy anyone not to feel special behind the wheel, though. There’s an undeniable feel-good factor derived from sitting in the well-shaped, low-slung driver’s seat, peering down that long bonnet at the carbon fiber louvres and vents.
With that in mind, it’s a pity some of the cabin materials don't feel a bit more special. The plasticky air vents, for example, are disappointing, and some of the switchgear is unnervingly similar to what you’ll find in many Volvos.
The Vantage Roadster is strictly for two. However, there’s a decent amount of space behind the front seats for stowing small bags and jackets, although the boot won't take a lot more than a couple of small suitcases. At least the fabric roof - which goes down in 14 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph - doesn't reduce the space any further.
V12 Vantages are better equipped than their V8 counterparts, getting 19-inch alloy wheels, electrically operated leather seats, climate- and cruise control, Bluetooth, sat-nav, rear parking sensors and a tyre pressure monitor as standard.
Should I buy one?
Driving the V12 Vantage S Roadster is a constant battle between heart and head. Its howling exhaust note, relentless acceleration and carbon-clad looks are all seriously intoxicating, as is the fact that this is by far the sharpest open-top Aston to drive.
Your head takes over when you consider it costs £147,000, though. To put that into perspective, a 911 Turbo Cabriolet is some £17,000 cheaper, and Audi's R8 is a whole £22,000 less expensive.
Both these rivals also offer cabins of a far higher quality, are both faster in an outright sprint and both would show the Aston a clean pair of heels in a cross-country blast.
So what will it be - your heart or your head? We'd struggle to blame you for listening to either.
What Car? says…
Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster
6.0-litre V12 petrol