From the big Healeys of the 1960s to the TVRs of the 1990s, we Brits have always known how to put together a properly exciting front-engined, rear-drive two-seater. Well, maybe not how to put it together, but you know what I’m getting at. Italy has supercars; Britain has the Jaguar F-type R Coupe and Aston V12 Vantage S, and we’ve climbed high into the Pyrenees to find out which is best.
CAR’s editor at large, Ben Barry has already had a chance to try the F-type Coupe on track, but this is our first opportunity to pit it against some real roads – and to try to make a set of tyres last more than half a mile. Like its roadster sister, the F-type Coupe comes in three flavours: V6, V6 S and a flame-spitting V8. Countering criticism that Jag overpriced the open-top cars, the two V6 Coupes are £7500 cheaper than the mechanically identical open varieties. But if you want a V8 Coupe, you’ll pay £4000 more than the £80,000 needed to get into a V8 S roadster. The pay-off is a 55bhp jump to 543bhp, and a new name: F-type R.
On a purely financial basis, the R’s most natural Aston-built rival would seem to be the entry level V8 Vantage, yours for £86,000, or with the comically overpriced automated manual, for an extra five. But 125bhp down on the Jag, the battle would have been over before it started, and based on previous experience, even the slightly meatier V8 S would have struggled.
There was only one course of action: bring out the big guns. Aston Martin’s mighty V12 engine is as big a gun as the little Vantage holster can take. Yes, at £138,000, it’s a bonkers £53k more than the F-type (not to mention £38k more than a 911 GT3). But in power and performance, it’s bang on the money. There’s no doubt that Jag will turn out an even more hardcore F-type R-S in time but, for now, this pair are at the top of their respective trees. Both are among the world’s most hardcore GTs, but only one demands you drive it until you’re literally hanging in the seatbelt or you’ve drained the tank dry.
From the moment I clapped eyes on our Salsa Red F-type, hunkered down outside the front of Barcelona’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I knew it was going to be the Jag. The Convertible had to come first to keep the crucial American market happy, but this tin-top, for us, is the definitive F, just as the fastback E-type so comprehensively outcools its open-air sibling. Just cast an eye over the F-type configurator on the Jag website, see the horrible OAP-spec alloy wheel designs fitted to the lower-spec V6 cars and you know that Jag still knows how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
But in R-spec the thing looks sublime, quad exhausts poking from beneath those E-type-inspired rear lights, and subtle sill extensions like the webbing on a skydiver’s wing suit telling the world that this is no V6 boulevardier.
The cabin is no disappointment, either. I love the modern typography on the twin-gauge instrument cluster, the precise click of the three rotary dials that combine air-con and seat-heating functions, and that Jag has finally seen fit to deliver proper metal gearshift paddles. Compared with our long-term V6 S convertible (paint the colour of Ron Burgundy’s suit, horribly mismatched to black wheels; leather whose first home was an elephant’s backside), it feels genuinely expensive in here.
Only the usual Jag hard-to-hold steering wheel and clunky old infotainment system lets the side down. The new Intel-based replacement due this autumn can’t come soon enough. Bags stowed in the Coupe’s vastly more useful luggage bay, we punch the starter button to wake up the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 and begin to pick our way through Barcelona’s morning rush-hour traffic.
Fast forward three hours, and by the time we stop for coffee in Sort, 692m above sea level in the Pyrenees, while we await the arrival of associate editor Damion Smy in the Aston, I’m feeling lottery-win good about the F-type.
Jag says the Coupe’s shell is 80% stiffer than the already resilient roadster’s, and you’re left in no doubt of that by the feel and accuracy of the steering. And I’m as genuinely surprised by how much tighter it all feels through the bends, as I am by the incredibly low noise levels when cruising on the dual carriageways to get us here. The F-type might be the most extreme Jag for years, but it still melts motorway miles away as effortlessly as an XJ limo.
From our pavement cafe’s wicker seats we can see the admiring glances the parked F-type is drinking in as it basks in the low-slung winter sun 20m down the road. And we can see those same heads swivel like owls hooked up to the National Grid when Damo rolls into town in the Vantage.
I suspect that has as much to do with its striking blue paint job, which looks the colour of one of those Invacar disability chariots viewed through a pair of polarising sunglasses, but whatever the reason, the Aston is about as jaw-slackening as front-engined sports cars come.
From a front-three-quarter angle, it looks too short, like a three-quarter scale DB9 commissioned by a tycoon for his 10-year-old kids. And the detailing, the clear rear light lenses, those Sapphire Cosworth bonnet vents, is a million miles away from the regal gentility of a basic V8 Vantage. But while the latest Vanquish’s One-77-inspired refresh has highlighted the 11 Christmases since we first clapped eyes on the DB9/Vantage silhouette, this remains undoubtedly a beautiful shape.
If only the cabin was quite so slippery when it came to evading Old Father Time. You’d not call it ugly, by any means, but it feels so old it’s almost a surprise not to find a National Trust volunteer lurking in the passenger seat ready to furnish some fascinating facts about the lineage of the HVAC controls. The sat-nav system, recently improved by a switch to Garmin techy bits, is still nowhere near as usable as rivals’, and the ancient monochrome radio display looks like a pager doctors wore in the early ’90s. It’s a stark reminder that despite the constant tinkering, the Vantage is an old car. Can it really expect to cut it against a brand new rival? Time to find out.
I stick with the Jag for the next leg, keen to find out how it copes with the elevation changes, switchbacks, and sprints between them I’ve spotted on the map. The transmission’s insistence on you pulling the trigger fitted to the mandatory auto ’box’s shift lever when you want to move it has already annoyed us (remember when you could just bang an auto easily between Park and Reverse?), but once we’re rolling the grievance is left behind along with a thick pall of tyre smoke I can’t help depositing for Damo’s delectation.
I’ve flicked the console toggle to Dynamic mode to open the exhaust valves and give him a full barrage of V8 sound effects too, though the simultaneous firming of the adaptive dampers and sharper throttle response is equally welcome. Not that the F-type needs any help articulating its responsiveness. With 500lb ft of torque at your command, every toe twitch elicits a great lunge forward, regardless of which gear you’ve selected. There are eight to choose from, courtesy of a traditional ZF eight-speed auto, and while it never feels as incisive as something like a Porsche PDK, it bangs home the next ratio in a snap, and drops ratios pretty quickly too, which is the real test of gearshift speed.
Ceramic brakes are optional; this one has the standard steels and they work just fine. The feel is good, and even after hammering repeatedly up to one of the many snowbank-lined hairpins, they’re refusing to fade. Turn into one of those corners and the front wheels bite hard. There’s a little understeer if you’re clumsy, but the car settles quickly, and turns smartly thanks to a McLaren-style brake-steer function and a variable-ratio rack that speeds up the further you stray from centre. It all feels so much tidier, so much less spiky than the F roadster, which can get snatchy at the limit. Later, a Jag high-up confides that the rag-top’s lairiness was a calculated move to pre-empt any criticisms of it being a girl’s car. In the coupe, you feel so much more confident. Feed in the power smoothly and the E-diff shuffles torque to deliver maximum traction, though it’s hard to resist clogging the right pedal to the carpet and feeling the tail slew round, knowing that the same interplay of hardware and electronics will keep you out of the scenery.
By the time I slip into the Aston, halfway along the C-28, I’m doing it with a sense of duty and for a giggle, not because there’s anything left to decide. What can it possibly offer that the F-type hasn’t already nailed? Well, immediately you’re struck by the brilliant fit of the fixed-back bucket seats, which feel perfect for an assault on the Alps’s other best roads. The best news is that Damo, who’s lower back is prone to giving him grief when forced into chairs designed for autocross not autoroutes, says they were perfect company on yesterday’s 10-hour stint from Calais to the Spanish border.
I push the clear bit of Kryptonite that passes for a key into the slot in the top of the centre stack, and when the Aston’s V12 fires, it does so with a much mellower tone than I’d expected; richly cultured, but not scary, and in no way indicative of the firepower under the bonnet. While the original V12 Vantage made do with 503bhp and 420lb ft, the S cranks out an extra 54bhp and 37lb ft. That peak torque makes it 45lb ft less grunty than the F-type, but the big difference is where in the rev range it’s delivered. The Jag is in full tree-uprooting mode by 3500rpm, but the Aston, while never feeling remotely undernourished, needs another 2250rpm to reach its best. That means it feels less immediately accelerative than the Jag (despite getting to 62mph in 3.9se, 0.3sec quicker) especially if you’ve been a bit slapdash with your gear selection.
But it also means there’s far more reward for sending the rev counter needle up towards its 7000rpm buffer. Simply put, more revs in the Vantage equals more speed, which seems like common sense but isn’t always the case in this era of forced induction. Neither is the deliciously crisp exhaust note, and as for the steering, well I can’t think of another power-assisted rack on the planet I’ve enjoyed more than this. Every little nuance of the tyres’ interplay with the road is relayed in unfiltered form back to your fingertips through a deliciously tactile Alcantara-wrapped wheel. No one does steering this good, not even Lotus; it’s one of the key reasons why the Aston is so much more fun.
Undoubtedly, the tyres are a help. While the Jag is shod with Pirelli P Zeros, the Aston employs their more hardcore P Zero Corsa cousins. That’s bound to account for some of the precision, some of the extra feel. But not all of it. Both weigh almost 1700kg – too much for an aluminium two-seater – but the Aston feels lighter, and is narrower. Having hauled you up with its excellent standard-fit carbon brakes, it keys you into the tarmac better on the first phase of the corner, and feels more progressive if you want to slide it on the way out. The Jag still feels like a car worried about offending its grey-pound client base by being too focused. The Aston just assumes you’re here for a good time, and it never fails to deliver. It’s as if you’ve taken an F-type, cut away every ounce of fat, and replaced every rubber bush with competition-style rose joints. I thought it would feel a handful. I thought it would be outclassed. I never guessed it would provide me with one of the best drives of the last 12 months.
But is it enough to offset a mighty £53,000 gulf between the two? It might be if Aston hadn’t blighted the Vantage with one of the worst two-pedal transmissions on the entire planet. Although blessed with seven gears, it’s on old-style automated manual, not a modern dual-clutch job, and it’s so far off the pace, if this were an IOC sanctioned event, the Aston would be kicked out for failing to meet the minimum standard. Having had more than seven candles on my last birthday cake, the lack of a launch-control system doesn’t bother me. What does is a pause so long between gear changes you’ve had time to get through to the AA and explain that your Aston has lost all drive before the power suddenly picks up again.
The irony is that Aston has a wonderful Graziano manual gearbox in its parts bin. It’s the same ’box fitted to the DB9, and the same one that was fitted to the original non-S V12 Vantage. Aston says that buyers wanted an automated Vantage and I can understand that. Or at least I could if it shifted like a Porsche PDK. But I can’t imagine anyone hating changing gear so much that they’d rather have one of these. We all know why there’s no PDK. Aston is skint. It sells half the number of cars it did in 2007 and is the only high-end sports car manufacturer building cars in significant volumes that is not owned by a sugar daddy. Developing a gearbox to fit the V12’s floorpan would be as prohibitively expensive as adapting the floorpan to take another ’box. It’s why the recent deal with Mercedes, and rumoured takeover, is so important. Drive the Vantage and you’re left in no doubt that Aston has the know-how to make some truly world-class sportscars. What it needs is the resources to back up that know-how.
Until those resources arrive, cars like the V12 Vantage S will continue to wow only sporadically, and consequently appear grossly overpriced. Maybe the F-type in R form can’t quite deliver that last 5% of involvement, but expecting it to feel as focused as a full-blown street racer costing half as much again more was unfair. The key point is that the 95% it does deliver is backed up by a quality transmission, a great cabin, more noise, more performance, and, to my eyes, a set of clothes that is every bit as captivating. We’ll take the Jag, but throw a six-speed manual back in the Aston for a rematch and it could be a very different story.
The 8 denotes the number of cylinders under the bonnet. The GT12 had, you guessed it, 12 cylinders – but it also had one other large number on the spec sheet: the price. That car cost a cool £250,000, while the GT8 costs a more reasonable (but only comparatively) £165,000.
Not quite. The V8’s been massaged to produced an extra 10bhp, for a 440bhp total, and there’s 361lb ft to help haul you up ...
The day has arrived: I've sold my Aston Martin V8 Vantage. My famous bumper-to-bumper warranty companion is gone, lost to the world, and now officially owned by someone else. This means two things. First, it's time for me to total up exactly what I spent to own it. And second, the people in the Aston Martin PR department can finally break out that bottle of champagne they've been saving up.
One-off Aston Martin Vantage GT12 Roadster revealed
Aston Martin’s bespoke tailoring service has created a one-off Vantage GT12 Roadster, revealing the car this morning at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
A one-off customer commission completed by Q by Aston Martin, the GT12 Roadster is said to take the original Vantage GT12 Coupe’s hardcore ethos, adding in “the visceral thrill of open-top...
It's not a new car. And that makes it a better car.
The 565 hp V12 isn't new. The body looks the same. There aren't changes in the suspension, steering, brakes, wheels, or tires. Even the gearbox is the same, except it's also very different.
Aston Martin has only ever offered the V12 Vantage S with a seven-speed single clutch automated manual from Graziano. The 2017 V12 Vantage S has that same g...
2017 Aston Martin Vantage GTS Is US-Only Model
After announcing that the V12 Vantage S will get a 7-speed manual transmission, the British sportscar maker has now confirmed plans to truncate their V8-powered Vantage US line-up into a single model for 2017.
Aston Martin has revealed the upcoming GT8 variant, a race-inspired limited edition much like the earlier GT12. Only 150 will be built – 50 more than the 12-cylinder sibling. And like the GT12, none of those will be coming to North America, either.The car has already been offered to select customers, with a sketch depicting the car but without finalized photos, as the manufacturer wanted to keep t...
A dogleg seven-speed manual gearbox connected a V12 in Aston's best looking body. That's a win.
Underlining its commitment to building exceptional sports cars that appeal to the most discerning enthusiasts, Aston Martin has ushered in its 17MY range by offering the sensational Aston Martin V12 Vantage S with a manual transmission.
True icons of pure performance blessed with exceptional agility, ...
Aston Martin has been one of the leading names in the British auto industry for quite some time now and has established quite a reputation based on the excellence of design, high quality and the fact that each and every automobile is exclusively hand built. However, some cars have been criticized in the recent past as having been produced below the standard that fans of Aston Martin have been used...
It's not hard to see why the V8 Vantage has been such a massive success for Aston Martin. Just look at it. It remains one of the most perfectly proportioned cars available and it's also a good bet as a used proposition, with better quality control at the high tech Gaydon plant. Sometimes the solution to a problem is so apparent with the benefit of hindsight that one wonders why it proved such a th...
Hardcore Brit gets name change after Porsche claims ownership of GT3 badge.
This means war. A month ago, Aston Martin unveiled its race-inspired, road-going V12 Vantage, christened GT3. This week, it has emerged that the Gaydon firm has been forced to take a chisel to that GT3 badge, replacing it with one reading 'GT12'.
Why? Because Porsche.
The German manufacturer claims it has exclusive ...
Aston Martin revealed the first details of its most potent and uncompromising Vantage to date: the track-inspired Vantage GT3 special edition.
With production strictly limited to just 100 examples, the new model combines all of Aston Martin's learning from its years of sports car competition around the globe to produce its most performance focused road-going Vantage.
Equipped with a new iteratio...
The crazy and the cool were never so damn good
It's the choice that dreams are made of. Before us are two cars that inspire shaky hands and moist palms. They each represent the pinnacle of performance from two world class brands, both offering a masterclass in horsepower and excess. They're priced most definitely in the 'serious' category, both hovering around the £150K mark with options. ...
The Aston Marin V12 Vantage S is arguably one of the greatest Astons ever made – certainly it’s the best Aston currently on sale (sorry Vanquish). So naturally the firm wasn’t about to rest on its laurels, and is now building a V12 Vantage S Roadster as well.
Thanks to the success of the previous V12 Vantage Roadster, which was limited to just 100 examples and quickly sold out, ...
Aston Martin is opening up a new world of exhilarating driving excitement with the announcement of the hotly anticipated V12 Vantage S Roadster.When it arrives in markets around the world later this year the new sports car will become the luxury British marque's most potent, fastest and fastest-accelerating series production roadster to date and follows in the broad tyre tracks of the V12 Vantage ...
Further evidence that links the exposed female body and shiny cars underlines the sensuality and attractive ladies luxury on four wheels. Blonde Andrea Brezovicova & Aston Martin Vantage it behooves greatly.
Andrea comes from Czech Republic, city Hranice na Morave. It holds the title Miss summer 2013 , which makes it ranked among "Sexy iGirls" and came before the lens of photographer Robert N...
Aston's least costly car is also its best.
Aston Martin’s V-8 Vantage is the company's least expensive car, but it looks a lot like its V-12–engined big brothers, the DB9 and the DBS. Although only car nerds can distinguish which current Aston is which, the Vantage's short overhangs, taut lines, and absence of gratuitous scoops and fins make it the best-looking of the bunch. Even in DBR9 racing g...
A first drive of Aston's smallest. And finest.
Everyone agrees: Aston Martins are gorgeous. They are also expensive and fast. And usually lacking in cabin space and complete reliability. With the V-8 Vantage, which goes on sale here in January, Ford's boutique brand moves a little closer to the shopping mall. Not that far, mind, as production is limited to 3000 cars a year and the price will be a...
Among the gray bridge pylons blaze of orange gem in the form of ultra exclusive Aston Vantage N400 him. The special edition celebrating the victory on the N24 Ring in 240 numbered copies, and only 40 of them in the paint Karussell Orange.
When you combine the brands of Aston Martin and Zagato you're setting the scene for some fairly major expectations.
You might think back to that original collaboration from the early 1960s, the DB4 GT Zagato, a superb concoction of style and menace wrapping thoroughbred British engineering; Jim Clark sublimely drifting '2 VEV' at Goodwood. Then there's the V8 Zagato of 1985: I've not driven one, ...
Normally, when it comes to cars, it’s hard to get excited about anything as mundane as a button. But in the Prodrive Aston Martin V8 Vantage, one button in particular becomes something of an obsession. The soul stirring name, head turning styling, mouth watering construction and a spec’ sheet that’ll impress your 911-driving mates all play second fiddle to one little alloy disc on the steering col...
The terms "Aston Martin" and "inexpensive" have very rarely occupied space in the same sentence in years past. However, the British automaker appears to be making something of an attempt to change that. At a starting price of $99,900, the just-announced Vantage GT, which is scheduled to make its proper debut later this week at the New York Auto Show, is the first Aston Martin sports car in recent ...
Pure, unadulterated fun is what lies at the heart of the new V8 Vantage N430. Honed on the track to excel on the road, N430 - available in Coupe or Roadster form - boasts a power hike to 436 PS at 7,300 rpm that brings its output up to that of the spirited V8 Vantage S.
Ian Minards, Director of Product Development at Aston Martin, said of the new car: "N430 is all about bringing track-honed excit...
Aston Martin is taking sports car performance to extremes with the announcement of the new V12 Vantage S.
The new car replaces the outgoing V12 Vantage in markets around the world and, with the exception of the One-77 hypercar, arrives as the fastest road-going Aston Martin yet offered.
Providing the most visceral yet engaging sports car experience in the British luxury car maker's current range...