Aston Martin celebrates its 100th anniversary with a radical one-off concept car
Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster review (2007 onwards)
Model: Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster
Bodystyle: two-door convertible
Engine: 4.7-litre V8
Transmission: six–speed manual
What is it?
This is the baby of the Aston range, for those with budgets starts at £91K, the Sports Pack (more of that in a moment) £2,495, and that's before you get picky about the paint and leather. So it's no bargain but then you never expected that, did you?The V8 Vantage, launched in 2005, has undergone a 2009 model year refresh. Some change was necessary (we've never been enamoured with the lack of involvement from the steering) some market led. With the BMW M3, Audi R8 and Ferrari F430 all boasting well over 400bhp, 380bhp simply wasn't enough in this power-conscious environment.
So the new V8 has been sweated out to 4.7 litres from the original 4.2. That involves some heavy revisions - new pistons, crankshaft, valves, and changes to many other parts. The power is now up 420bhp, which sounds a lot but in reality is only par for the course. Visually the Vantage is barely any different. The test car had the optional Sport Pack, which includes some desirable forged five-spoke alloy wheels, revised Bilstein dampers and uprated springs. These mods are less extreme on the roadster - 25% stiffer springs compared with 45% up on the coupe.
Where does it fit?
Aston Martin doesn't publish a price list. Well, it does but not one that you can readily may your hands on. So here's the lowdown. There are three Astons to choose from. The V8 Vantage coupe starts at £83,000, with the roadster an extra £8,000. You can option up the coupe with a couple of the tiniest rear seats but not the roadster.Next comes DB9 coupe is £114k, the DB9 roadster £123k and the DBS. The £160,000 DBS is, no matter what Aston Martin would like you to think, a heavily reworked DB9. Back to the V8 Vantage and the optional Sportshift transmission has been reworked and reportedly works much better.
Is it for you?
If the sales of the Vantage to date are anything to go by, the V8 has been a massive success, drawing in many customers new to the marque. The Aston Martin heritage is unarguable and you just have to look at how the price of classic Astons is shooting skyward to realise that the company is on a roll.Aston Martin has been voted the Coolest Brand 2007-2008. Not just for cars, but for any product, topping iPod, YouTube, Bang & Olufsen and Google in the overall table. It's hard to argue with the style and beauty of the Vantage either. Buy an Aston and you are clear step above a Porsche owner while showing far more taste than if you'd bought a Ferrari.
What does it do well?
It's simply a blast to drive. The new engine is more flexible which gives it increased low-down punch. Floor the throttle and performance is shatteringly quick as work your way through successive red-lines until, very rapidly, you run out of road or of respect for your licence.It's not just the straight-line performance, though, it's the noise. This V8 gains a new voice at 4,500rpm, scarily, triumphantly screaming its excitement that it is being given full reign. You and, particularly your passenger, will be excited too, for this is simply one of the most spine-tingling experiences you'll get on four wheels.
The Sports Pack option on the roadster seems like a no-brainer too. Despite the large wheels, the Vantage never feels too stiff or even vaguely uncomfortable. The plus point is a real-surefooted stance in the dry, scything into corners with utter assurance, then powering out as you ease off the steering lock ready for the next straight.Two further factors really help the entertainment value. First the steering is improved, weightier and transmitting more feed back through the wheel. Then there's the V8's size. The Vantage sits low, a squat, compact sports car that suits spirited driving on British roads far better than any supercar costing the wrong side of £100k.
What doesn’t it do well?
This isn't the easiest car in the world to drive. If you're after a gentle drive around town or in urban conditions, the weight of the clutch and the gearchange might be an issue. They are not problematical, but a Porsche 911 is easier. The Vantage comes more into its own when you stretch its legs, the more you commit, the more you'll get out of the whole experience.But care is need when the roads are anything but perfectly dry. Sure there's traction control but the response times are tardy enough for the tail to step out of line on a damp bend. This is a rear-wheel-drive car that doesn't have multi-layered Mercedes-type electronic back-up systems for the handling. We think it is all the better for it.
What’s it like to live with?
This is a low, compact supercar, so you have all the usual issues. Sleeping policemen need special care, rearward visibility with the roof up is minimal, and stowage space within reach of the driver is pathetic. The Vantage hasn't been bulletproof for owners in the past, and even this latest version had a couple of rattles and gave us some grief when we stopped the electric roof operation half-way through the sequence.But the feelgood factor is right off the scale. The interior lives up to the design magnificence, with beautifully crafter leather, a fresh design to centre console and a proper Aston key, not one borrowed from a Volvo. The satnav is still Volvo though; Audi does it much better. Luggage space is reasonable for a two-seater as long as there are no hard cases - the boot is OK and there's extra space behind the seats.
How green is it?
The good news is that the 2009 V8 Vantage is cleaner and more economical than ever! Fantastic! Emissions and fuel consumption are improved by 8%! In reality, that means C02 of 328g/lm and an average fuel economy result of 20.4. The trip computer showed that we average just 15mpg over all types of driving, which meant refuelling was needed after 200 miles. Not helpful.
Would we buy one?
Oh yes. It's so easily to get seduced by this Aston. The design is a work of art that you'll leave on your driveway rather than in the garage. But the V8 Vantage is far more than that. It's a sublime, thrilling, politically incorrect driving experience. We love it.
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