Writing about a car like the 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster isn't the same as it is for, say, a Toyota Camry. I mean, this is a $200,000 exotic sports car, with a 5.9-liter 565-horsepower V12 engine, a 7-speed automated manual transmission, driver-selectable suspension and performance modes, breathtakingly sexy styling, and the kind of wide-open-throttle howl for which breathless hyperbole was invented. What am I going to say, that the cupholders are too small?

No, a car like this is judged on a completely different set of criteria, one that extends even beyond the usual is-it-fast rubric, because of course it's fast. Aston Martin estimates that its V12 Vantage S can accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and it has a top-speed of more than 200 mph, which should be fast enough for just about anybody. Still, there are less expensive cars that are quicker or faster. A Nissan GT-R, for example, could outrun this Aston Martin for less money. A Chevrolet Corvette stays even for about a third the price.

Filling a niche

But if you strip away practical comparisons -- even impractical ones as above -- what's left is the impractical, and here, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster finds its niche. Ask yourself: How many times have you seen an Aston Martin of any sort on the road? Once? Twice? Maybe never? That's why the ultra-rich buy cars like this. Not because it's faster than this, that, or the other. But because it's presence oozes exclusivity. Buy one and you're in a special club, one populated by similarly wealthy people who have similar tastes in the exotic and rare. 

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So these buyers are willing to overlook things that, as a guy who drives a bunch of different cars all the time, I have a hard time ignoring. There's the dated navigation system, for example, that looks like it's from 2006. The switchgear is shared with Volvos from that era as well, a product of when both were owned by Ford. Most egregious though is the 7-speed transmission. It's an automated manual, meaning that it's the same gearset that you'd get in a manual, but instead there's a computer-controlled automatic clutch switches gears. Unfortunately it's clunky and inelegant, with lots of head tossing between gear changes. By far, it's the biggest drawback to driving this car.

Yet, it almost doesn't matter. Nobody is sitting down at their coffee table, pouring over brochures, reviews, and cost of ownership data between an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster and, say, a Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, or Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet. Nobody will rule out buying it because its shifts aren't quite as smooth as that Toyota Camry I mentioned earlier. They'll buy it because they want the thrill of hearing it start every morning, to hear the wail of the V12 against the canyon walls, and to live the dream that a car like this conjures. Judged by that criteria, there's nothing else like it.

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