| First Drive | Gaydon, England | Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420 |
Inspiration has been drawn from Aston Martin's on-track activities to turn the V8 Vantage into the N420 special edition. Sharper, lighter and noisier than the standard model, the N420 is our kind of car.
In the Metal
The V8 Vantage is arguably the best looking model in Aston's line-up and the N420's changes only help underline that. Gloss black and diamond turned 19-inch alloy wheels; carbon fibre side strakes, splitter and diffuser; and graphite tailpipe finishers add to the V8's menace. That's particularly true when painted in the optional (£4,750) 'Race Collection' livery, the Asia Cup white and black working particularly well with the N420 carbon add-ons - and adding an extra 22 hours to time spent in the paint shop.
What you get for your Money
Along with the exterior tweaks, the N420 adds some lightweight seats. These are largely responsible for the N420's 27kg drop in kerb weight. On the coupé - a Roadster version is offered, too - those seats come with Alcantara inserts, the steering wheel also covered in the tactile material. There's a 'racetrack' stitching pattern on the aforementioned seats and wheel, while cruise control, Bluetooth telephony and an alarm upgrade also join the standard kit list. What you don't get is any more power, but the sports exhaust system makes the N420 sound more purposeful and the engine itself wears a special edition numbered plaque.
Fire up the 4.7-litre, 420bhp V8 engine and the new exhaust immediately makes its presence felt. It barks with more ferocity, the sharper metallic shriek at higher revs sounding more exotic, more motorsport-derived than the standard car's. Sixty two miles per hour arrives in 4.8 seconds and find somewhere where it's legal and the N420 will reach 180mph. It sounds faster even than those numbers suggest it is, the intensity of the driving experience heightened not just by the more rorty exhaust, but by the suspension revisions.
The steering feels faster and more alert too, the N420's nose turning in with real precision. It's nicely weighted as well, and there's some information through the Alcantara rim. You'll be trying a little too hard if you induce understeer, as the N420's nose grips tenaciously. The rear wheels can be persuaded to relinquish their grip, but at road-legal speeds the N420 feels beautifully neutral.
The sports suspension undoubtedly contributes to its ability in the corners, the trade off some being more pronounced vertical movement on rougher roads, but it's rarely uncomfortable. Shifting via Aston's optional paddle-operated Sportshift the N420 illustrates how far two-pedal gearboxes have come in recent years. It's a bit ponderous at times, and demands a lift of the accelerator when changing; more so at slow speeds. The Sportshift works best when you're pushing the engine hard, but the single-clutch system feels old-school in its operation in a world slowly being taken over by seamless dual-clutch transmissions. However, it's not displeasingly old-school; it just demands some interaction to operate at its best, which in a car that's designed to be more driver focused, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
That Sportshift gearbox is another option, adding a few thousand pounds to the N420's £96,995 list price. Add that Asia Cup livery - or one of the other country-specific colour schemes - and the N420 breaks well into £100,000 territory.
Aston's N420 can't quite match the track-honed feel of Porsche's 911 GT3
, while Jaguar's XKR 75
looks like a bargain in comparison, but the N420 still has appeal. It looks great and the sound it makes is enough to choose it alone. Add the more focused suspension, greater steering precision and limited edition status and the N420 feels greater than the sum of its parts. However, it's a shame the defining visual characteristic of the N420 - the Race Collection paint - isn't included in its higher list price.