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First drive: Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.

First drive: Aston Martin Vantage GT8
Limited edition Vantage GT8 is a racing inspired win for driver engagement.

 



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Aston Martin Vantage GT8

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

It might be getting close to retirement age, but the Aston Martin Vantage in new limited run GT8 special form shows that the old dog is still capable of learning a few new tricks.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Aston Martin Vantage GT8
Price: from 165,000
Engine: 4.7-litre supercharged V8 petrol, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door, two-seat coupe
Tax: Band M, 1,100 per year
Top speed: 190mph
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: 446hp at 7,300rpm
Torque: 490Nm at 5,000rpm

What's this?

Another Aston Martin special edition, again based on the Vantage, only unlike the last one we drove (the V12 Vantage S) it's got the 4.7-litre V8 engine under its shapely bonnet. It's also more aggressively styled, the GT8 taking its inspiration from Aston Martin's racing cars, which is evident from the wider front and rear tracks, huge aero addenda, (optional) centre-lock magnesium wheels and a kerb weight, in ultimate option box ticked specification, that's 100kg down on a standard V8 Vantage. It looks every inch the racer, as if it's pulled out of the pit garages at Le Mans. It sounds similar too thanks to the outrageous exhaust. The V8 Vantage should be old enough to know better, but it's aging disgracefully.

How does it drive?

Power is up, but it's modest, the V8 gaining 10hp for a 446hp total. These days that's only just enough firepower to bring to the party, but then it's such a brilliantly responsive, soulful engine that you can forgive it a few hp. Aston's busied itself making the V8's job easier, too, dropping at least 80kg in mass to make it the lightest Vantage yet. You can lose a further 20kg if you're generous with your option box ticking and take things like the carbon fibre roof and those magnesium wheels. There's no mention of what all those wings and protuberances actually do in Aston's press material, but safe to say if there's any credibility in the company's claims of celebration of its track successes it'll have some effect on its stability and in reducing lift, as well as pegging back its top speed a bit. That rear wing is optional as part of an aero pack that includes those front splitter corner elements, but if you're buying into the GT8 idea then you'd be mad not to. Likewise, you'd be insane to take the racer's choice of a paddle-shifted transmission, as previous experience with Aston's two-pedal finger-flipping transmissions suggests you shouldn't, especially as the standard gearbox is a six-speed manual, with the sort of clarity and speed of shift that the V12 Vantage S can only dream of - and we fell in love with that car regardless.

That manual gearbox suits the analogue nature of the GT8; this is an unashamedly driver-focused car, with very little in the way of configurability. There's DSC stability control, which offers On, Track Mode and Off, plus a Sport button, the latter altering the throttle mapping and making the already gloriously vocal exhaust even more so - it crackling and fizzing like the sky on Chinese New Year. The suspension is as it comes, Aston describing it as having track geometry, the front stiffer, the rear unchanged, the tracks front and rear wider. Grip levels are high, traction too, yet the GT8 rides with a supple composure that's genuinely surprising given the clear focus. Only the very sharpest tarmac imperfections will upset its composure, but the GT8 delivers so much in the way of information it's not an intimidating, or difficult drive; instead, it's intimate and involving, which is kind of the point. The engine is ridiculously eager to rev, though it's not brutal, the linear surge lacking the outright shove of its forced induction rivals, but its delivery is entirely predictable - and immediate. That's true of the steering too, the hydraulic rack and pinion set-up so rich in detail it shows up all its electrically assisted contemporaries as largely mute in comparison.

Finally, the chassis balance is spot on, which, matched to that eager to please engine and the engagement that comes with the manual shift makes the GT8 a car to get lost in at any opportunity. There's huge joy to be had just driving it, and it's refreshing to enjoy it everywhere without constantly having to fiddle with settings, making the GT8 brilliantly old-school in its driving appeal, without feeling in any way outclassed.

Verdict

Aston Martin delivers another sucker punch to the digital sports cars out there, the GT8 a delightfully engaging throwback that's huge in character, has masses of ability and focuses on its driver rather than Top Trumps style numbers. It's all the better for it, too, as the Vantage GT8 is our new favourite Aston Martin, by a quite significant margin. It's just a shame just 150 will be built, and that they're all pre-sold.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 15 Jun 2016









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2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.

2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Image by Max Earey.








 

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