Aston Martin will indeed sell a version of the V12 Vantage S with a seven-speed manual gearbox for the 2017 model year, much as an extremely-recent rumor suggested. Coming hot on the heels of the news that the BMW M5 will be losing its stick shift at the end of this year, we at The Drive can't help but see this as some sort of karmic balance returning to the automotive universe.
But the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S's new stick isn't an ordinary manual 'box. No, the quirky, old-school British sports car will offer a gearbox with a quirky, old-school trait—a dog-leg first gear.
In case you're unfamiliar with the term, a dog-leg gearbox sticks first gear down in the bottom left corner of the gate, where second gear would traditionally reside. It was a popular choice for performance cars in days of yore; hauling ass around a track tends to require far more 2–3 shifts than it does 1–2 ones, so drivers found it advantageous to optimize the gearbox for the former.
The new gearbox isn't entirely looking back to the past, though. The seven-speed shifter also features the debut of Aston Martin's new rev-matching technology. Dubbed "AMSHIFT," it works much like the similar feature found in Corvettes, 370Zs, and Porsches, automatically blipping the throttle just the right amount while downshifting to deliver a smooth transition. The technology also allows the driver to keep the throttle pegged during full-bore upshifts, should you inexplicably grow tired of that kickass feeling of slamming the gas pedal back to the floorboard after a shift.
Of course, if you have a burning hatred for the good old days or are just too damn lazy to pump your left foot up and down while driving, Aston Martin will continue to offer their seven-speed automated manual Sportshift III transmission for the same price as the stick-shift Vantage V12. Both transmissions will be regular production options—contrary to earlier reports, the manual model won't be a limited-edition special.
On top of the big gearbox news, Aston Martin announced a handful of other minor updates coming to the V12 Vantage S for model year 2017. There's a new Sport-Plus Pack, which, in spite of its name, includes exactly zero performance-improving changes. (It's actually a cosmetic appearance package that includes, no joke, the option of "front grille lipstick.") And all Vantage models finally ditch the P.O.S. infotainment system that's dogged Aston Martins for years for a faster, better-looking infotainment system that incorporates Apple CarPlay.
While extremely welcome, the gearbox news isn't exactly a shocker, considering the company it's coming from. Aston Martin head honcho Andy Palmer has declared that he wants his company to be the last one on Earth to offer a sports car with a manual gearbox. And Aston Martin has said it plans on offering a manual gearbox on the Vantage's replacement, which will be powered by AMG's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8.
That said, while we're sure that car will be one hell of a fun date, it won't be the last sports car with a manual gearbox and a naturally-aspirated V12. The V12 Vantage S, on the other hand, just might be.