Since Aston Martin transplanted its headline six-litre V12 engine into the entry-level Vantage almost nobody paid even passing attention to V8 models any more.That's all about to change.The last remaining independent British performance car manufacturer has announced a new V8 Vantage S, engineered to ensure buyers at the bottom end of the Aston Martin range don't feel cheated."The Vantage S epitomises every attribute of the V8 Vantage and pushes the driver experience beyond what we have offered before,” says Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin’s German boss. “It combines dynamic exhilaration with all the charming finesse, beauty and practicality already associated with the Vantage range.”The V8 Vantage S, heavily influenced in terms of styling and aerodynamics by the 2011 GT4 Vantage race car, gains a lower scooping carbon-fibre front bumper (with more generous air intakes to cool engine and brakes), revised splitter (to aid stability at speed) and redesigned 19" alloy rims. Around the rump obsessive Vantage fans will notice the slightly revised bumper, while along the flanks the car S gains sills that reprofiled to create a more muscular presence. SOMETHING 'SPECIAL'Adding an ‘S’ to the Vantage badge is all about performance and to this end the newest addition to Aston Martin’s product portfolio gains nine kW of peak power (to 321kW), quicker steering and an automated manual transmission.Gaydon’s engineers have massaged the 4.7-litre V8’s gas-exchange regime to extract the extra power and gain 20Nm more torque than the standard Vantage. With the engine producing 321kW at 7300rpm and 490Nm performance should be stirring – especially considering these outputs are transferred to the rear wheels via Aston’s new seven-speed short ratio transmission.Aston’s engineers, pointedly refusing to pander to the rampant popularity of dual-clutch transmissions, argue for the simplicity, reduced mass and durability of a single-clutch set-up; while retaining the driving convenience (in traffic) of not having a clutch pedal to deal with. Their solution is the new in-house developed seven-speed Sportshift II automated manual transmission, which is 20% quicker up and down the gears than Aston’s first-generation six-speed Sportshift. SUBTLE? PERHAPS… Only Aston Martin can get away with blue seats and pull it off so elegantly… Beyond the upgraded drivetrain, the V8 Vantage S has its dynamic driving experience harmonised by a recalibrated steering ratio. At 15:1 the steering action is appreciably more tuned to fine inputs through the helm than the standard Vantage’s 17:1 ratio steering. New springs and revised shock-absorbers at each corner hide behind wider wheels shod with specially commissioned Bridgestone rubber, ensure a driving experience that is true to its ‘S’ billing.If you're one of those traditionalists who believe that V12 engines (regarded as a crass alternative by some) have no place in Aston Martin's Vantage range, the 'S' is just the car you have been waiting for.