2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S vs. 2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT Comparison
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It's like watching in-car footage from Le Mans. From the Jaguar's seat, the pavement darts left and right up the hill. Small, decisive turns on the suede cloth-trimmed steering wheel line up the apexes, and the glory of that supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 plays after each one. There's a faint V-12 howl, too. Through the rearview mirror, the massive wing has the Aston Martin perfectly framed. You see traces of the GT3 race car in the nose: the black lipstick around the grille, the brake-cooling ducts peeking out of the lower fascia. It's bearing down, quick.
The proximity is appropriate. Even aside from the motorsport-inspired design and hardware (both have carbon-ceramic brakes, adjustable dampers, and Pirelli P Zero Corsas), the similarities between these two run deep. The factories responsible are 37 miles from one another; it's easy to imagine the engineering groups meeting for warm beer -- or tea. Further, Ian Callum and Henrik Fisker are credited with designing the 2004 Aston Martin DB9, which wrote the design language the company has employed ever since. Callum later went on to design the XK; Fisker, the Vantage.
And, my, what cars they've become. The XKR-S GT looks like a GT3 race car lost from a track, with its massive wing and dive planes and spats and splitter -- good for 320 pounds of downforce at 186 mph. It makes no more power than the XKR-S on which it's based; the extra $42,000 it costs accounts for the aerodynamic flair, carbon-ceramic brakes, a new hood, and substantial chassis improvements -- an F-Type steering rack, wider front track, increased camber, revised bushings, height-adjustable dampers, and massively stiffened spring rates. It's exclusive, too, with just 25 examples bound for the U.S.Sans all the flicks, scoops, and ailerons, the V12 Vantage S remains anything but subtle. It might be the Yellow Tang paint (yes, it's actually called that) or, more likely, what that V12 badge means: There's one that displaces 5.9 liters and makes 565 hp under the hood. The S designation means it's more powerful and lighter than the V12 Vantage it replaces. In fact, Aston claims it's the company's fastest series-production car.
It would seem to have the advantage here, carrying 0.7 fewer pounds per horsepower. So it's puzzling when the two tie in a drag race. The Vantage's transmission is the culprit, refusing to engage aggressively enough off the line, but once in gear, the Aston quickly catches up. Stopping distances are close, too, but the figure eight is most revealing. Here, the XK gains a 0.2-second advantage despite accelerating and stopping similarly, and weighing more.
The strange thing is that from the Vantage's driver's seat, such thoughts disappear. Its driving experience has a drama that makes you forget those pesky test results. Your senses are consumed. The road and tire noise is louder than the XK's, and so are the impacts. It feels looser, too. Once you give the steering a few degrees on entry, the car yaws slightly toward your apex. Coming out, you have to meter the throttle in carefully, but in doing so you revel in the linearity of the torque buildup and the V-12 soundtrack. It's a driving experience that will leave you sweaty and exhilarated after 30 miles, and probably exhausted after another 30.
The Vantage has a greater sense of occasion, even if it comes from gimmicks -- such as the glass-ended key you push into the center of the dash to start -- and its automated manual transmission, which is the car's biggest disappointment. We were able to stall the Vantage once, and moderate to heavy acceleration in low gears occasionally filled the cabin with the smell of burnt clutch. It smooths out at speed, where the exaggerated mechanical action of the shifting process can be strangely satisfying. But because you pull shifts at the sweetest sounding point of the powerband, it can also feel like listening to a great song on a skipping CD.
The XK feels more refined, and not just for its smooth-shifting six-speed automatic. The ride remains stiff, but the impacts are better controlled. Your entry and exit speeds seem higher, and so do the lateral limits. You can keep challenging the front, charging into corners harder and harder, and it never relents. The interior does a better job reducing unwanted road noise while leaving the enjoyable sounds intact. And while the steering doesn't have the Vantage's level of intimacy, it requires fewer corrections. Similarly, while the engine doesn't sing like the Aston's, its 5.0-liter growl and flat, constant flow of torque have a raw aggressiveness that is utterly satisfying.
The XK feels best at speed. When you slow down, it gets harder to find the things that make it special. There are new interior materials, details, and logos, but unless you're staring at the wing in the rearview mirror, the car doesn't convey the sense of grandeur. It could be a firm-riding XKR-S -- the steering wheel looks the same. But once the speeds rise again, you remember why this Jag is special. Most impressive is its character exiting corners. Instead of defaulting to oversteer, the Jag escapes with little fuss or hesitation -- just speed.
At Streets of Willow Springs, racing driver Randy Pobst emerged from the Aston after a 1:24.85 lap loving the powertrain, but noted the car had difficulty using it. "I was constantly in a little bit of a power oversteer coming out of [Turn Eight], trying for more, more, more. And way out toward the very exit it would let go," Pobst says. "What it probably needed was a short shift to fourth, but the shift paddles are on the column, so in a corner it makes them a little hard to find." While the oversteer is progressive, controllable, and fun, it hurts the lap time. In-car video footage (youtube.com/motortrend) shows Pobst constantly correcting the steering through most of the track. We suspect it's the result of a loose differential mated to short gearing and an engine whose powerband swells as it revs (peak torque arrives at 5750 rpm). The extreme wear visible on the right rear tire after three laps supports the theory.
After recording a 1:22.53 lap in the XK, Pobst was all smiles -- and at least one expletive. "I'm so surprised! I didn't expect it to be so good," he said. "Absolutely the best-handling Jaguar ever." Why's that? "God, it puts the power down! It's unbelievable in the kink," Pobst explained. "You know I'm thinking that little bit of downforce is helping here. We actually bottomed the splitter a bit." There, the XK's traveling 100 mph -- 10 mph faster than the Vantage. It gains that speed because of its traction advantage during corner exit, and that's what impresses us the most about the XK. The non-GT versions (and most other Jaguars) transition into ludicrous slides the instant you start adding throttle. This XK is far better behaved, giving its driver options throughout the corner. It applies power effortlessly, and gives traction in spades.
The Vantage remains desirable in spite of its flaws, which speaks to how much enjoyment it delivers. Its driving experience is truly exhilarating, and it has many elements we love: the engine, the styling, the theatrics. But taken together, the flaws become too hard to overlook compared with the Jaguar, and you have to ignore the fact that it's slower, despite being lighter, smaller, and more expensive.
The XK's GT transformation is worthy of high praise. Jaguar has transformed the car into something calculated when you want it to be, but a flick of the wheel and a bit of throttle away from the antics we're used to. This flexibility rewards drivers of all types, ultimately making the car faster and more enjoyable. Jaguar has made the XK work, and we hope the GT is a harbinger of the marque's future.
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What explains the 2.32-second time gap between the Jag and Aston? Two things: shift speed and cornering stability. While the Aston touches a slightly higher peak speed before Turn 1, note the greater pace the Jag maintains through the subsequent high-speed right-hander. Both cars toss their anchors before Turn 2 at about the same point and decelerate almost identically. In Turn 2, the Vantage corners with a touch more grip, but the XKR-S GT quickly erases that by storming out of the corner. That’s repeated exiting turn 3, though here it’s predominantly the Aston’s slow shifts that snub its progress. The Jag’s better transitional stability builds its edge through the esses (4 through 7), but it might be too much of a good thing exiting Turn 6 where Randy cools it a bit before Turn 7. Accelerating from Turn 8, the Aston’s pace is blunted three times: First, Randy has to back off briefly, and then it suffers from two very slow upshifts. It’s through the critical high-speed stability segment -- beginning before Turn 9 and ending as Randy brakes into Turn 11 -- where the game is comprehensively over. The Jag skates through here in a big confident drift; the Aston negotiates it in tepid parts. Indeed, it even has to reaccelerate again slightly out of Turn 10.
|2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S||2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT|
|POWERTRAIN AND CHASSIS|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD||Front engine, RWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||60-deg V-12, aluminum block/heads||Supercharged 90-deg V-8, aluminum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||362.2 cu in/5935 cc||305.1 cu in/5000 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||565 hp @ 6750 rpm||542 hp @ 6000 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||457 lb-ft @ 5750 rpm||502 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm|
|REDLINE||Not indicated||6800 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||6.5 lb/hp||7.2 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed auto-cl manual||6-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar||Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F;R||15.7-in vented, drilled ceramic disc; 14.2-in vented, drilled ceramic disc, ABS||15.7-in vented, drilled ceramic disc; 15.0-in vented, drilled ceramic disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||9.0 x 19-in; 11.0 x 19-in, forged aluminum||9.0 x 20-in; 10.5 x 20-in, forged aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R|| 255/35R19 96Y; 295/30R19 100Y|
Pirelli P Zero Corsa
| 255/35R20 97Y; 305/60R20 99Y|
Pirelli P Zero Corsa
|WHEELBASE||102.4 in||108.3 in|
|TRACK, F/R||61.8/62.0 in||63.4/62.8 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||172.6 x 73.5 x 49.2 in||188.7 x 74.5 x 51.6 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||38.7 ft||35.8 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3685 lb||3977 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||53/47%||54/46%|
|HEADROOM||37.0 in||37.4/30.2 in|
|LEGROOM||42.8 in||43.0/27.6 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM||59.3 in||56.6/42.4 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||10.6 cu ft||11.7 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.9 sec||1.8 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||1.5||1.6|
|QUARTER MILE||12.3 sec @ 121.3 mph||12.3 sec @ 119.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||102 ft||103 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.01 g (avg)||1.00 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||23.9 sec @ 0.86 g (avg)||23.7 sec @ 0.87 g (avg)|
|1.55-MI ROAD COURSE LAP||01:24.8||01:22.5|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||2000 rpm||1800 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$212,515||$174,895|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side||Dual front, front side|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/50,000 mi|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/50,000 mi|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/50,000 mi|
|FUEL CAPACITY||21.1 gal||16.1 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY ECON||13/19 mpg (est)||15/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||259/177 kW-hrs/100 mi (est)||225/153 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.28 lb/mi (est)||1.11 lb/mi|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium|