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Beauty, not a beast. Image by Syd Wall.

Beauty, not a beast
There's no doubting the allure of the V8 Vantage's body, but has Aston Martin created a true rival for the mighty Porsche 911?

   



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| A Week at the Wheel | Herts, England | Aston Martin V8 Vantage |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

In a beauty contest the Aston Martin V8 Vantage would walk away with all the spoils, it easily one of the best looking cars on sale today. Muscular without being brutal, the V8 Vantage is unmistakably an Aston Martin of the modern era, but features plenty of styling cues that link it to its beautiful ancestors. The punctured wing, with its chrome cut-through starts a line on its flanks that gives tension to the doors, the wide wheel arches highlighting its squat, purposeful stance and short wheelbase. The V8 Vantage really is a car you could spend all day just looking at.

Inside, Aston Martin continues the visual treat theme. The instruments might not be the easiest to read when the sun is out, but they do look sensational. The rest of the interior is all about drama, from the unnecessary starter button, to the beautifully finished leather on the seats and dashboard. It's just a shame that in some of the detailing Aston has hiccupped, the key feels cheap - and is, it being an old Ford-sourced item - and many of the control surfaces, such as the electric seat adjusters, the back of the rear-view mirror and column stalks feel like the parts bin borrowed equipment they are. Similarly, the Volvo-sourced satnav, at a £1,750 option, isn't the best Aston could have chosen.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Unlike its DB9 and DBS relatives, the Vantage makes do with eight rather than twelve cylinders. That's no complaint, as the 4.3-litre V8 delivers a healthy 380bhp. More than the power though is the noise it makes, the Vantage not just beautiful in looks, but of voice too. With all that power, and a quoted 0-62mph time of just five seconds you might think the V8 is all about explosive performance, but you'd be mistaken. The V8 delivers its peak power at 7,000rpm, while its relatively low maximum 302lb.ft of torque is also delivered high up the rev range at 5,000rpm. That means you've got to be in the upper reaches for the engine to really deliver and getting there demands a healthy prod of the rather long-travel accelerator pedal. Once it's there the performance is impressive, but you really need to work at it above 4,500rpm for the Aston to deliver its best.

Doing so demands you stir the Vantage's six-speed manual lever a good deal, its shift having a nice mechanical quality to it and a short throw. The lever seems rather far back on the transmission tunnel itself though, which, depending on your seating position, makes it a whole arm shifting operation rather than a flick of the wrist. Fuel consumption isn't usually too much of a concern in sports cars, but 18.8mpg on the official combined cycle really is a bit disastrous, especially when Porsche's 911 Carrera S manages 24.6mpg, is quoted at 0.2 seconds quicker to 62mph and is faster outright than the Aston.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

The Vantage rides very impressively indeed. It's obviously firm, but it's rarely unsettled, the suspension blending comfort and body control tremendously. What is slightly less impressive is the waywardness of the rear. We like our cars here a bit edgy, but the Vantage is keen to step out under power, the rear feeling a touch unpredictable on admittedly greasy winter-coated roads. Under power in such conditions there's a lack of traction, the rear wandering about as it searches for grip. It's not necessarily an unpleasant sensation, but it does somewhat reign in your enthusiasm on roads where you'd be pushing harder in something like a Porsche 911.

The steering is pleasingly quick though, and weighty in its response. There's feel at the rim too, a rare commodity in modern cars, even those claiming to be driver focused. Sadly the brakes lack the steering's feel, at least in the first centimetre of travel. Push harder and they respond and retard convincingly, but a bit more initial feel through the pedal would be welcomed. A mixed dynamic package then - comfortable yet edgy - the Vantage is sometimes frustrating, but find the right road and conditions and it's a hugely entertaining drive, just not as polished as its Porsche 911 Carrera S competitor.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

The standard equipment list covers pretty much everything you could reasonably expect, Aston giving its customers plenty of choice to personalise with options. It'd be good to see satnav and premium audio as standard - after all, the V8's list price is a not insignificant £83,000. Similarly, Bluetooth telephone preparation should be standard fit. Value for money? That depends on your viewpoint; the Aston certainly holds a greater badge cachet than even its Porsche rival, but the 911 is the better drive. Porsche 911s are everywhere though, and there are few cars that look as good as Aston Martin's 'entry-level' model. We've touched on economy, the V8's fuel consumption pretty horrendous, the 358g/km of CO2 it emits not brilliant, either.

Overall: star star star star star

It's difficult not to fall in love with the way the V8 Vantage looks inside and out, yet, we weren't blown away by the overall experience. It's an enjoyable car to drive (the soundtrack alone is worth pouring fuel into the petrol tank for), but the sometimes unpredictable rear and need to push it hard for the V8 to deliver its best was a source of frustration. A 911 is a more rewarding, faithful sports car, and a Jaguar XKR a more convincing rapid GT. Even so, that doesn't make the Aston any less special, and with an upgrade on the horizon Aston Martin has the opportunity to improve it to make it a more complete all-round driving and ownership experience.

Kyle Fortune - 27 Feb 2008



  www.astonmartin.co.uk    - Aston Martin road tests
- Aston Martin news
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2008 Aston Martin Vantage specifications:
Price: £83,000 on-the-road.
0-60mph: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 175mph
Combined economy: 16.4mpg
Emissions: 406g/km
Kerb weight: 1630kg

2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Aston Martin.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Aston Martin.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.

2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.



2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Image by Syd Wall.
 






 

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