Articles


Time to buy Aston Martin V8 Vantage (2005 to date)

2015-08-06 Read: 1 044x

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 thorny issue in the first instance. Take the Aston Martin V8 Vantage for instance. After launch, it was as clear as the nose on your face that Aston needed to be competing in this sector of the market with a car such as this, but for so long talk of a 'baby' Aston only brought howls that such a move would erode the brand's reputation. The DB7 was a good first step but still felt slightly homespun. The V8 Vantage is the real deal and used examples are currently hot property.

Models

Models Covered: (2 dr coupe, 2 dr roadster 4.3 petrol)

History

One of the motoring world's worst kept secrets was finally released to a slack jawed press at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. That Aston Martin were working on a smaller, more affordable car to slot into their range below the DB9 was well known, but initial pictures did not do this car justice. Even finished in a rather unflattering shade of bright yellow, the car looked knee-weakeningly stunning. The yellow was a deliberate choice, emphasising the V8 Vantage's younger and more extrovert appeal compared to the more restrained and elegant DB9 and Vanquish models. In size, it's not too far off a Porsche 911 and shares the German car's pugnacious stance. Porsche and Aston Martin have a bit of history and the development of the V8 Vantage overlapped considerably with that of the 997 series 911. One of the reasons that Aston Martin first showed a prototype version of the V8 so early, at the 2002 Detroit Show in fact, was because sales of the DB9 were dwindling and they needed to grab advance orders that could otherwise have gone to Weissach. The move to a purpose-built factory at Gaydon enabled the company to abandon many of the less productive practices of the old Bloxham plant without sacrificing quality. Factor in strong sales of DB9 and Vanquish models and the company was suddenly looking at a yearly production capacity of close to 5,000 cars which is astounding when compared to the 42 cars that rolled through the factory gates in 1991. The new level made Aston Martin a bigger producer than Ferrari. Impressive stuff. Pre-production testing included many thousands of miles on Germany's challenging Nurburgring and the global test program for the V8 Vantage racked up over 1,500,000 miles, not only at the 'Ring but also in extreme hot temperatures in Dubai, cold weather in Sweden and continuous high-speed running at the Nardo bowl in Italy. The coupe model appeared first but the platform was designed from the outset to cater for a drop top body style and the Vantage Roadster debuted in 2007 to similarly rave reviews. A track certified special, the lightweight Vantage N24 (homologated for use in the Nurburgring 24 hour race) was also offered in 2007 as an alternative to track cars like the Porsche 911 Cup. For 2007, Aston Martin made some small detail changes such as fitting electric adjustment for the seats, Bluetooth functionality to synch mobile phones and LED illumination in the door handles. In mid-2008, Aston Marin announced a revised version of this car featuring an uprated 4.7-liutre V8 good for 420bhp, with much improved torque but better emissions and economy. The suspension was stiffer too and both manual and Sportshift gearboxes slicker.

What You Get

The V8 Vantage is offered with the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or the Sportshift set-up - a paddle-shifting sequential system. The manual 'box has been the choice of enthusiast drivers, with a close ratio setup and a light, positive action. Interiors have never been an Aston Martin problem and the V8 Vantage's cabin is one of their best efforts to date. Much of the architecture and components are common with the DB9. Taking the decision to ditch vestigial rear seats and optimise space for driver and passenger meant that there's enough head and leg room for six-footers, while the width of the cabin and the broad transmission tunnel will make banging elbows a distant memory. With high quality leather seats, a stubby gear lever and drilled pedals, the V8 Vantage's cockpit is certainly purposeful, a word that crops up again and again in any description of the car. Although the basic body silhouette is instantly recognisable as an Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage is over a foot shorter than a DB9 and 60mm lower slung. Put the two cars side by side and the DB9 is revealed as the GT car it is, while the Vantage sits foursquare, the big rear wheel arch bulges lending it a pugnacious muscularity. Rather than attempt to fit a folding metal hard top and risk ruining the car's lines, Aston Martin wisely chose to fit a plush three-layer fabric hood to the Vantage Roadster model. With the hood up, the Vantage still looks elegantly proportioned, the hood forming a neat turret without the overly long rear deck that some convertible suffer from. With the hood stowed, there are a pair of what Aston refers to as 'leather speed humps' that sit behind the seat head restraints and pyrotechnic roll over bars. Aston Martin claim a minimal weight increase over the Vantage coupe, the suggestion being that the inherent stiffness of the aluminium chassis means there's no need for the sort of extensive cross-bracing that many convertible cars require to maintain rigidity. Such added ironmongery adds weight, blunts performance and reduces fuel economy. The exterior panels are a combination of aluminium, steel and advanced composites designed to keep weight down, and even the 1,710kg kerb weight is a mere 60kg more than a Porsche Carrera 4S Targa but a lot lighter than the 2005kg BMW M6 Convertible.

What You Pay

Aston Martin found itself in the privileged position of ramping up V8 Vantage production significantly whilst simultaneously seeing queues for orders getting longer. Demand for the car has exceeded even the company's most optimistic forecasts and the reasons are easy to appreciate. It looks great, sounds even better, is acceptably rapid and has an interior that is better than many cars twice its price. Factor in a decent reliability record and that's all that's needed. Used prices reflect this and although the book value of a 55-plated coupe currently stands at £73,000, it may take some scratching around to find one in a dealer for that sort of money.

What to Look For

As much as anything, getting the right specification for your V8 Vantage is key. This includes the xenon headlights, the premium sound system and the desirable 19-inch alloy wheels. The satellite navigation will also sound good to prospective buyers despite hardly being the most functional system of its ilk. 2006 model year cars were reputed to have some minor electrical issues (earth grounding, door module and tail lights remaining illuminated) but these have since been ironed out. Some rattles from behind the dash are frequently reported and the plastic engine covers can come loose and melt onto the exhaust manifold but other than these niggles, no serious faults have been reported. Muted colours such as black, grey and British Racing Green suit the V8 Vantage better than gaudy primaries.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2005 V8 Vantage coupe) Most services will cost around £700 with the big expense of any enthusiastically driven V8 Vantage being rear tyres. The rears are usually sourced at around £400 a pair although prices can vary. Brakes also take a hammering with pads being around £250 a pair.

On the Road

The key to the V8 Vantage is the modular VH platform it rides on. It's a mixture of extruded, stamped and die-cast aluminium, bonded together into an extremely light yet rigid superstructure. The exterior panels are a combination of aluminium, steel and advanced composites designed to keep weight down to 1,570kg which is about the same as a BMW M3. With a 380bhp engine under the bonnet, performance is certainly class competitive, hitting 60mph in 4.8 seconds and accelerating to a top speed of 175mph. Those figures put it in the same sort of ballpark as a Porsche Carrera S, if not a Turbo. With a relatively large 4.3-litre eight cylinder engine up front, weight distribution was a priority for Aston Martin's engineers. A transmission at the rear of the car helps generate a 49:51 weight distribution front and rear, the engine being what is fashionably termed 'front-mid mounted' or, in layman's terms, with its centre of gravity set behind the line of the front axle. All of this helps the Vantage V8 corner nimbly, and predictably. A dry sump also allows the engine to sit very low in the chassis, lowering the car's centre of gravity to help stability. During periods of extreme cornering, acceleration and braking, this system also helps to maintain an uninterrupted flow of oil to crucial engine components. The quad cam 32-valve engine itself is hand assembled in Cologne.

Overall

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is the least risky Aston purchase ever. If that means that the marque has become a little more mainstream, sales figures indicate it's a strategy that many owners accept and welcome. As a used buy, go for as late a model as you can reasonably afford and, counter to many exotic car purchases, don't be overly worried about a few miles on the clock.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

If you can't afford that top end exotic supercar, Aston Martin's improved V8 Vantage could be the next best thing. Andy Enright presses his nose to the glass.

Ten Second Review

The 'baby Aston' aims to distil the brand's desirability and heritage into a more affordable package and makes a very nice stab at it. The Vantage looks great inside and out with an improved and very charismatic 4.7-litre engine providing the soundtrack and a driving experience that's a well-judged compromise between comfort and enjoyment.

Background

One of the motoring world's worst kept secrets was finally released to a slack jawed press at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. That Aston Martin were working on a smaller, more affordable car to slot into their range below the DB9 was well known, but pictures did not do this car justice. Even finished in a rather unflattering shade of bright yellow, the car looked knee-weakeningly stunning. It did then and it does now. The yellow was a deliberate choice, emphasising the V8 Vantage's younger and more extrovert appeal compared to the more restrained and elegant DB9 and Vanquish models. In size, it's not too far off a Porsche 911 and shares the German car's pugnacious stance. Porsche and Aston Martin have a bit of history and the development of the V8 Vantage overlapped considerably with that of the 997 series 911. One of the reasons that Aston Martin showed a prototype version of the V8 so early, at the 2002 Detroit Show in fact, was because sales of the DB9 were dwindling and they needed to grab advance orders that could otherwise have gone to Weissach.

Driving Experience

The original version's 4.3-litre V8 has been replaced by a 4.7 litre V8 engine with a power output of 420bhp (up from 380bhp) and delivers peak torque of 470Nm (an 15% increase), providing the V8 Vantage with new reserves of mid-range performance, an improved 0-60mph time of 4.7 seconds and top speed of 180mph. Those figures put it in the same sort of ballpark as a Porsche Carrera S, if not a Turbo. The V8 Vantage transmissions have lately undergone changes to improve performance and to handle the increased levels of power and torque. Both the standard manual stick-shift gearbox and the optional Sportshift transmission are more response and easier to use. With the Sportshift set-up, 'Dual Throttle Map' software is also featured. When 'Comfort' mode is selected the engine reacts in a smoother more progressive manner to driver throttle inputs and in the default 'Sports' mode the throttle mapping is more aggressive, delivering a more dynamic and sporting feel. A series of improvements have also been recently introduced to the V8 Vantage chassis and suspension setup to deliver improved body control and low speed ride quality, enabling the driver to take full advantage of the increased performance potential.

Design and Build

Although the basic body silhouette is instantly recognisable as an Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage is over a foot shorter than a DB9 and 60mm lower slung. Put the two cars side by side and the DB9 is revealed as the GT car it is, while the Vantage sits foursquare, the big rear wheel arch bulges lending it a pugnacious muscularity. Interiors have never been an Aston Martin problem and the V8 Vantage's cabin is one of their best efforts to date. Much of the architecture and components are common with the DB9. Taking the decision to ditch vestigial rear seats and optimise space for driver and passenger means that there's enough head and leg room for six-footers, while the width of the cabin and the broad transmission tunnel will make banging elbows a distant memory. With a relatively large 4.7-litre eight cylinder engine up front, weight distribution was a priority for Aston Martin's engineers. A transmission at the rear of the car helps generate a 49:51 weight distribution front and rear, the engine being what is fashionably termed 'front-mid mounted' or in layman's terms, with its centre of gravity set behind the line of the front axle. All of this helps the Vantage V8 corner nimbly, and predictably. A dry sump also allows the engine to sit very low in the chassis, lowering the car's centre of gravity to help stability. During periods of extreme cornering, acceleration and braking, this system also helps to maintain an uninterrupted flow of oil to crucial engine components. The quad cam 32-valve engine itself is hand assembled in Cologne alongside the powerplants for the DBS and DB9.

Market and Model

The Vantage range is split between the coupe version and the Roadster drop top. The car is offered with the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or the Sportshift set-up - a paddle-shifting sequential system. The manual 'box will probably remain the choice of enthusiast drivers, the close ratio setup and light, positive action promising the sort of tactility that has long been the preserve of Porsche and BMW drivers.

Cost of Ownership

The latest 4.7-litre engine may be larger but it still manages to be more economical Combined European fuel economy and CO2 emissions are improved by 13% over the original 4.3-litre model. Economy is now usefully improved at 20.4mpg on the combined cycle, 27.3mpg in Extra Urban open road conditions but just 14.2mpg in Urban conditions. Figures for the Sportshift model are slightly better again. CO2 emissions are usefully improved too, at 328g/km for the manual and just 312g/km for the Sportshift model. The Vantage is designed for everyday use, so repair and servicing costs aren't at the exorbitant level where the world's top level exotic supercars hold court.

Summary

The 'baby' Aston Martin has already attracted a whole slew of buyers and it's still one of the hottest tickets in town. The Aston Martin brand holds massive kudos and as the most accessible way to own one of the company's products, the Vantage was never likely to fail. It's much more than a bauble for the well-heeled, however, the elegance and style in the design, the engaging driving experience and the charismatic engine make the Vantage a real experience. The Vantage doesn't feel devastatingly quick but quick it certainly is. The poise and fluidity of the driving experience shine through and the interior is overflowing with the special feel you want in an £80,000 sports car.

Aston Martin Vantage Roadster

As its model range grows, Aston Martin is finding it hard to put a foot wrong, and its most affordable soft top, the Vantage Roadster, shows Andy Enright exactly why.

Ten Second Review

The open top version of Aston's 'baby' aims to distil the brand's desirability and heritage into a more affordable package and makes a very nice stab at it. The Vantage looks great inside and out with an improved and very charismatic 4.7-litre engine providing the soundtrack and a driving experience that's a well-judged compromise between comfort and enjoyment.

Background

One of the motoring world's worst kept secrets was finally released to a slack jawed press at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. That Aston Martin were working on a smaller, more affordable car to slot into their range below the DB9 was well known, but pictures did not do this car justice. Even finished in a rather unflattering shade of bright yellow, the car looked knee-weakeningly stunning. It did then and it does now. The yellow was a deliberate choice, emphasising the V8 Vantage's younger and more extrovert appeal compared to the more restrained and elegant DB9 and Vanquish models. In size, it's not too far off a Porsche 911 and shares the German car's pugnacious stance. Porsche and Aston Martin have a bit of history and the development of the V8 Vantage overlapped considerably with that of the 997 series 911. One of the reasons that Aston Martin showed a prototype version of the V8 so early, at the 2002 Detroit Show in fact, was because sales of the DB9 were dwindling and they needed to grab advance orders that could otherwise have gone to Weissach.

Driving Experience

The 4.7 litre V8 engine nestling under the elegant snout of the Vantage Roadster has a power output of 420bhp (430bhp in 'S' form) and delivers peak torque of 470Nm, providing the V8 Vantage with new reserves of mid-range performance, a 0-60mph time of 4.7 seconds and top speed of 180mph. Those figures put it in the same sort of ballpark as a Porsche Carrera S, if not a Turbo. The V8 Vantage transmissions have lately undergone changes to improve performance and to handle the increased levels of power and torque. Both the standard manual stick-shift gearbox and the optional Sportshift transmission (standard on the 'S' with no manual option) are more response and easier to use. With the Sportshift set-up, 'Dual Throttle Map' software is also featured. When 'Comfort' mode is selected the engine reacts in a smoother more progressive manner to driver throttle inputs and in the default 'Sports' mode the throttle mapping is more aggressive, delivering a more dynamic and sporting feel. A series of improvements have also been recently introduced to the V8 Vantage chassis and suspension setup to deliver improved body control and low speed ride quality, enabling the driver to take full advantage of the performance potential.

Design and Build

Although the basic body silhouette is instantly recognisable as an Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage is over a foot shorter than a DB9 and 60mm lower slung. Put the two cars side by side and the DB9 is revealed as the GT car it is, while the Vantage sits foursquare, the big rear wheel arch bulges lending it a pugnacious muscularity. Interiors have never been an Aston Martin problem and the V8 Vantage's cabin is one of their best efforts to date. Much of the architecture and components are common with the DB9. Taking the decision to ditch vestigial rear seats and optimise space for driver and passenger means that there's enough head and leg room for six-footers, while the width of the cabin and the broad transmission tunnel will make banging elbows a distant memory. The Roadster's styling is intended to evoke the look of 'an athlete wearing a skin-tight suit', an analogy that doesn't work quite as well as the Thinsulate fabric roof which can be raised or lowered in just 18s at speeds of up to 30mph and stores compactly when down beneath an aluminium tonneau cover. With a relatively large 4.7-litre eight cylinder engine up front, weight distribution was a priority for Aston Martin's engineers. A transmission at the rear of the car helps generate a 49:51 weight distribution front and rear, the engine being what is fashionably termed 'front-mid mounted' or in layman's terms, with its centre of gravity set behind the line of the front axle. All of this helps the Vantage V8 corner nimbly, and predictably. A dry sump also allows the engine to sit very low in the chassis, lowering the car's centre of gravity to help stability. During periods of extreme cornering, acceleration and braking, this system also helps to maintain an uninterrupted flow of oil to crucial engine components. The quad cam 32-valve engine itself is hand assembled in Cologne alongside the powerplants for the DBS and DB9.

Market and Model

The Vantage range is split between the coupe version and the Roadster drop top we're looking at here. The car is offered with the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or the Sportshift set-up - a paddle-shifting seven-speed sequential system that's your only choice if you want the extra power and chassis mods offered by the 'S'. That said, the manual 'box will probably remain the choice of enthusiast drivers, the close ratio setup and light, positive action promising the sort of tactility that has long been the preserve of Porsche and BMW drivers.

Cost of Ownership

The latest 4.7-litre engine may be larger than the 4.3-litre unit is supersedes, but it still manages to be more economical. Combined European fuel economy and CO2 emissions are improved by 13% over the original 4.3-litre model. Economy is now usefully improved at 20.4mpg on the combined cycle, 27.3mpg in Extra Urban open road conditions but just 14.2mpg in Urban conditions. Figures for the Sportshift model are slightly better again. CO2 emissions are usefully improved too, at 328g/km for the manual and just 299g/km for the Sportshift model. The Vantage is designed for everyday use, so repair and servicing costs aren't at the exorbitant level where the world's top level exotic supercars hold court.

Summary

The 'baby' Aston Martin has already attracted a whole slew of buyers and it's still one of the hottest tickets in town. The Aston Martin brand holds massive kudos and as the most accessible way to own one of the company's products, the Vantage was never likely to fail. The Roadster is, if anything, even better looking than the hardtop and, as well as blowing the wind through your hair, gives unimpeded access to that glorious V8 soundtrack. It's much more than a bauble for the well-heeled, however, the elegance and style in the design, the engaging driving experience and the charismatic engine make the Vantage a real thrill. The Vantage doesn't feel devastatingly quick but quick it certainly is. The poise and fluidity of the driving experience shine through and the interior is overflowing with the special feel you want in an £100,000 sports car.

Aston Martin Vantage S

The Aston Martin Vantage V12 might be hogging the headlines but the S version demonstrates that the Vantage V8 might still be the sweeter option. Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

There's a lot to be said for balance. In its Vantage V8, Aston hits a sweet spot in terms of power and weight distribution that is hard to better. The latest S version adds a handful of horsepower, a revised transmission and a whole host of dynamic tweaks. It doesn't come cheap though.

Background

Woe betide the supercar that doesn't update its act in the current clamour for glamour and media recognition. If you're not constantly evolving, you're old news rather rapidly. Aston Martin's beautiful Vantage V8 has been with us for some time now, being first introduced to a beguiled British public in 2005. In their 2006 readership survey, readers of Car Design News voted the Aston Martin V8 Vantage as the best current production car design. The survey results were based on over 1000 responses, most from working automotive designers and students of industrial and automotive design. So much for beauty. The beast was given a shot in the arm when its engine was enlarged from 4.3 to 4.7-litres back in 2008, upping power from 380 to 420bhp in the process. With barely a year to enjoy its moment in the spotlight, the improved V8 Vantage was thoroughly eclipsed in 2009 with the launch of the V12 Vantage, 510bhp worth of spitting, snarling aggression, shoehorned into the lithe body. Since then the Vantage V8 has felt a little overlooked, painted with the faded wash of penultimate status. The good news is that Aston Martin has seen fit to pep things up a bit with the introduction of the Vantage S, a V8 with added attitude.

Driving Experience

Drive an Aston Martin V8 back to back with the V12 and you may well come to the same conclusion as driving an Audi R8 V8 against the V10 or a Porsche 911 Carrera 2 versus a Turbo. In every instance, the smaller-engined car offers the purer, more enjoyable driving experience. No, you don't get the same concussive hit of power that you get in the V12, but then you could argue that £30,000 is rather a lot to pay for a cheap high that you'll grow accustomed to rather easily. Packing a 430bhp wallop, the Vantage S is anything but tardy off the mark, and Aston Martin has sharpened its feel with a quickened steering rack, installed larger diameter front brake disc with six-piston front brake calipers, developed a revised suite of springs and dampers, and fitted wider rear wheels. The three-stage dynamic stability control (DSC) system has been tweaked and the braking software now includes features such as Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA) which provides assistance in emergency braking situations, and Hill Start Assist (HSA). What Aston calls 'Sportshift II', its seven-speed automated manual transmission, is standard and delivers exceedingly rapid gear changes, some twenty per cent quicker than the original 'Sportshift'. The extra gear permits shorter well-spaced ratios taking advantage of the optimum torque which, combined with a shorter final drive ratio, delivers harder-hitting acceleration and an more aggressive feel. This is still a single clutch system, and now gets a 'Sport' button which quickens the shift times and gives the driver a more aggressive throttle response while also opening an exhaust bypass valve, delivering a truly spine-tingling soundtrack.

Design and Build

It's hard to improve on what many feel to be the most perfectly styled sports car available and with the Vantage S, Aston Martin has been judicious in its exterior modifications. From the front, a new lower front bumper finished in open weave carbon fibre houses a larger air intake feeding the engine and front brakes. The splitter combined with the extended deck lid 'flip' work in harmony to provide increased down force at speed. Revised 19 inch 'V' spoke wheel styles are available as standard, while a 10-spoke lightweight forged wheel option reduces unsprung mass further. A new rear bumper and side sills optically broaden the car to give it a more hunkered-down appearance. For the truly keen, the optional carbon fibre and Kevlar composite seats sound more extreme than they are, providing top support during spirited driving but remaining comfortable on long journeys. Saving 17 kg per car, the seats are quite exquisitely finished in the finest old-school Aston tradition. Build quality is one of the key differentiators for the Gaydon-based company and the V8 Vantage has only become better in this regard with every passing year. Each Vantage S takes in excess of 185 man-hours to build including 50 man-hours to paint and 70 man-hours to hand trim the interior.

Market and Model

Both coupe and Roadster models are offered in Vantage S guise with prices starting at £102,500. Despite its extra pace and noise, the Vantage S is anything but a stripped out racer and the complement of standard kit is plush enough to satisfy the discerning well heeled. It includes a full grain leather interior, an Organic Electroluminescent (OEL) display, trip computer, cruise control, rear parking sensors, a tracking device, tyre pressure monitors, a 160W stereo with a six disc CD autochanger and a USB connector with Waveform Audio Format (WAF), Windows Media Player (WMA) and MPEG (MP3) audio file compatibility. The optional satellite navigation remains a Volvo-sourced system that is absurdly fiddly. Don't bother with it. The Roadster's three-layer fabric hood gives the car a taut, aggressive appearance when in place and doesn't interrupt the lines of the elegant profile when folded. It's stowed beneath the rear tonneau cover and goes from stowed to secured in just 18 seconds at the press of a button located on the centre console, and at speeds of up to 30mph (50km/h) with no fiddling with catches or clips.

Cost of Ownership

Aston Martin Vantages are no longer the virtually depreciation-proof asset they once were and even this desirable S model will only be worth in the region of 44 per cent of its new value after three years. If you've done the sums and feel this is a reasonable outlay for this sort of ownership experience then its doubtful that the combined fuel economy figure of 21.9mpg or the emissions of 299g/km are going to signally deflect your decision. By contrast an Audi R8 V8 will retain around 55 per cent of its value and a 911 GT3 around 48 per cent. Head, heart, head, heart...

Summary

It's not over-egging the pudding to say that the Vantage has proved to be modern Aston Martin's saviour. Now that the company has been spun off from Ford's Premier Automotive Group, it needs a vehicle that will continue to rack up the sales and with over 10,000 finding owners to date, the Vantage is the car that keeps the tills ringing. The S version of the V8 is a brilliantly-judged update, striking a sensible balance in keeping the shape of the car identical, but thoroughly updating not only the detailing but the crispness of the chassis dynamics. When a car looks this good, the last thing it needs is a thoroughgoing cosmetic makeover. What the Vantage V8 actually needs are the column inches that remind wavering buyers that it's still a quite exquisite and relevant thing. The Vantage S might be a decidedly emotional choice, but facts and figures are for Top Gear and Top Trumps. Here's what might be called a rational an appeal to the senses.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage

Aston Martin is getting serious with its V12 Vantage. Steve Walker reports.

Preview

Aston Martin has traditionally trodden a slightly more reserved path than the other elite sports car manufacturers. Its products have tended to be more casino and country house than trendy wine bar and pit garage, retaining their old money class where rivals have chased the demand for ever greater speed, focus and flamboyance. This was always a conscious decision: Aston Martin would remain elegantly aloof from the vulgar high-performance one-upmanship indulged in by rivals but now it appears that the marque's powerbrokers have made another conscious decision - to show the upstarts how it's really done. Introducing the Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

Ten Second Review

The V12 Vantage is the most aggressive Aston Martin yet and it has the world's high performance sports car elite in its sights. With 510bhp from its 6.0-litre V12 engine, carbon ceramic brakes and masses of grip, the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, Audi and Lamborghini had better watch out.

Background

Since the sad demise of the Vanquish supercar, Aston Martin was without a real headbanger to worry the performance car elite. The Vantage V12 is designed to change all that. By no means a replacement for the pricey Vanquish, the V12 will provide a challenge to the top echelon of performance sports cars. The Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi's R8 V10, Ferrari's F430, Lamborghini's Gallardo: these are the targets and Aston will need to be bang on its game if it's to score the required bullseye.

Driving Experience

The V12 moniker leaves nobody in any doubt as to what's packed under the bonnet of this Vantage. The 6.0-litre twelve-cylinder engine sends 510bhp to the rear wheels at 6,500rpm and at 5,750rpm it's making 570Nm of torque. This hints at mind warping acceleration and brutal in-gear grunt. With a 0-60mph time of 4.1s and a 190mph top speed, the Vantage has the raw pace to trouble pretty much anything else on the road. Aston Martin's engineers have taken steps to ensure it can deliver the goods on track too. The engine features a number of modifications over the V12 unit found in the DB9. There's a revised induction system, re-profiled air inlet ports and a bypass air intake port that opens at 5,500rpm. It all works to improve the air-flow around the engine and maximise performance. The Sport button is a feature exclusive to the V12 Vantage and when the road opens up, it should attract a driver's fingers like the fire alarm does a naughty schoolboy's. In normal mode, the throttle response is relaxed and more manageable for everyday driving. Select 'Sport' however, and everything becomes more aggressive. Even the exhaust takes on a more purposeful note.

Design and Build

Many of the fine details of the V12 Vantage have been refined as a result of knowledge gained from running the N24 race car in the gruelling Nurburgring 24hr race. The N24 is a V12-engined version of the V8 Vantage and its emergence immediately set the rumour mills in motion, churning out gossip regarding the possibility of a production version. Now it's here. The classic V8 Vantage shape is instantly recognisable with the long bonnet and the energy stored in those powerful rear haunches but the V12 Vantage rides 15mm lower and proudly bears a cluster of additional air vents on its bonnet to help its mighty engine breathe. Stiffer anti-roll bars help the V12 corner harder, as do the enormous wheels which are 28cm wide at the rear compared to 24cm on the V8 model. They earn their money too; the V12 Vantage can pull up to 1.3g through corners. The process of fitting a V12 engine wasn't without its headaches. It's 100kg heavier than the V8 in the standard Vantage but weight saving measures elsewhere on the car mean that it's only 50kg heavier overall at 1,680kg. Opening the bonnet is like taking the lid off an overstuffed tub of marshmallows. The engine cover seems to bulge out at you with its wholly believable '6.0 V12' logo. Every inch of space seems packed with the machinery of horsepower creation and to get the engine to fit at all, a number of complex modifications needed to be made to the chassis and front suspension of the Vantage. Cooling too was a major concern in development but the bonnet vents, the grille and the absence of an under tray provide enough fresh air to do the job.

Market and Model

As you'd imagine, your £140,000 gets you a fairly lavish specification. The standard braking system uses CCM carbon ceramic brake discs, the front versions of which are 398mm in diameter and acted upon by six-piston callipers. There's an advanced DSC stability control system that can be set into Track Mode to allow a certain degree of sideways action or disengaged completely should you feel like letting it all hang out. In the cabin the finishes are a mix of chrome, Alcantara and carbon fibre with the lightweight sports seats being constructed form a carbon fibre and Kevlar mix. The instruments are as beautifully designed as we've come to expect from Aston Martin and customers certainly aren't expected to rough it when it comes to technology. A hard disk satellite navigation system, Bluetooth compatibility, electric seat adjustment and automatic climate control are just some of the mod cons thrown in.

Cost of Ownership

The downside to all this capability tends to rear its ugly head when we get on to the subject of running costs but most Vantage V12 buyers won't give two hoots about the 17mpg combined fuel consumption and 388g/km emissions they can expect from this car. It's just the price you pay in this specialist sector of the market.

Summary

Much more than just a Vantage with a bigger engine, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage has been thoroughly re-engineered to create a car with a very different focus. Aston's traditional cool reserve still lingers in the classy lines of the bodywork and the slick interior but the V12 also has a hard streak of aggression running through it. Aston Martin hasn't really troubled the elite sports car sector in the past but the V12 changes all that and in some style.

Aston Martin Vantage V12 Roadster

The Aston Martin Vantage V12 has been a huge hit in coupe form. Can a roadster version keep all that horsepower in check? Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

For some people, too much power merely represents a good start and for those who want a lot of noise, drama and presence, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster could be their vehicle of choice. With a 510bhp 6.0-litre engine and a £150,000 price tag, it's not for those burdened with fragile egos.

Background

The Aston Martin Vantage is available with two engines, a V8 and a V12, and with the smaller unit, you get a choice of either a coupe or a roadster body. But, initially at least, the V12 was coupe-only. Until mid-2012 when, being a champion of consumer choice, Aston Martin finally relented and launched the Vantage V12 Roadster, a car for those who like their soundtracks loud and unfiltered. Before we discuss whether this is actually a great idea, a little background. The V12 was first shoehorned into the Vanquish back in 2009 and since then, the company has been involved in an ongoing quest to make the thing driveable. Put any such massively powerful engine in a car with a short wheelbase and a wide track and you're liable to end up with a bit of a handful. To then lop the roof off only adds to the chassis engineer's workload. Still, the brand has gone ahead anyway and while the V12 Vantage Roadster isn't the most expensive Aston, there are plenty who will see it as the most desirable.

Driving Experience

The 6.0-litre twelve-cylinder engine really is the star of this particular show and sends 510bhp to the rear wheels at 6,500rpm. At 5,750rpm, it's making 570Nm of torque. This hints at mind-warping acceleration and brutal in-gear grunt. With a 0-60mph time of just over four seconds and a 190mph top speed, the Vantage Roadster has the chops to keep pace with some fairly serious tackle, although keener drivers will probably remain drawn to the coupe version. Stiffer anti-roll bars help the V12 corner harder, as do the enormous wheels which are 28cm wide at the rear compared to 24cm on the V8 model. The powerplant features a number of modifications over the V12 unit found in the DB9. There's a revised induction system, re-profiled air inlet ports and a bypass air intake port that opens at 5,500rpm. It all works to improve the air-flow around the engine and maximise performance. The Sport button will appeal to those Roadster customers who want to attract attention from every angle, the exhaust becoming that much noisier when it's depressed. This is one of the all-time great engine notes and you'll want to be keying in the location of every tunnel in a 50 mile radius into your sat nav.

Design and Build

The V12 Vantage Roadster certainly majors on presence, riding 15mm lower than the V8 and bears a cluster of additional air vents on its bonnet to help its mighty engine breathe. The process of fitting a V12 engine wasn't without its headaches. It's 100kg heavier than the V8 in the standard Vantage. Opening the bonnet is like taking the lid off an overstuffed tub of marshmallows. The engine cover seems to bulge out at you and every inch of space seems packed with the machinery of horsepower creation. To get the engine to fit at all, a number of complex modifications needed to be made to the chassis and front suspension of the Vantage. Cooling too was a major concern in development but the bonnet vents, the grille and the absence of an under tray provide enough fresh air to do the job. The Roadster's styling is intended to evoke the look of 'an athlete wearing a skin-tight suit', an analogy that doesn't work quite as well as the Thinsulate three-layer fabric roof which can be raised or lowered in just 18s at speeds of up to 30mph and stores compactly when down beneath an aluminium tonneau cover with no fiddling with catches or clips.

Market and Model

Carrying a list price of £150,000, the Vantage V12 Roaster is over £50,000 dearer than its V8 counterpart. Given that many feel the V8 coupe to be a sweeter steer than the V12, how can this represent decent value for money? It can when we no longer stick to the rules 'normal' people use when choosing and buying a car and instead look at the selection criteria when money really isn't that much of an issue. You want the loudest, most hairy-chested car Aston Martin makes? This is it. That's all it needs to do well.

Cost of Ownership

Aston Martin Vantage Roadsters are no longer the virtually depreciation-proof asset they once represented and even this flagship V12 model will probably only be worth somewhere less than 50 per cent of its new value in three years time. Sloughing off £25,000 a year in depreciation makes this a car for people with genuinely deep pockets. Elsewhere it will generate big bills too. Servicing and spares are pricey, tyres are around £400 a corner and you'll only get single figure fuel economy should you get a bit enthusiastic with the throttle pedal. The bottom line is that if you think you can just about afford this car, then you probably can't.

Summary

The Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster is a fiercely expensive plaything. It's beautifully engineered, is undoubtedly a fantastic ownership proposition if big bills can be shrugged off without worry and has one of the most charismatic soundtracks you'll find of any model in this segment. Of course, we could debate until we're blue in the face as to whether it's even a good car, let alone a great one, but in truth, this is largely irrelevant. If it presses all the right buttons with its target clientele, and there's little to suggest it won't, it'll be just the latest success to come out of Gaydon. There have been purer Aston Martins and there have been Astons that have represented better value, but it's hard to think of any car from the marque that possesses such ferocity and presence. This might never be a 'performance car of the year' contender, but it's got desirability running from every pore and these sort of flawed, extreme models often end up being the most valuable collectors items. It makes no sense, but that is its biggest selling point. Who said high end buying decisions were ever logical?

Aston Martin Vantage S V12 Roadster

It might be yet another spin on the Vantage theme, but the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster shows there's life in the formula yet. Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

So here it is, the Helen Mirren of performance cars. The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster fronts up with 565bhp from its 6.0-litre engine, a Sportshift III seven-speed automated transmission and the ability to hit 62mph in around four seconds and top out at over 200mph. It might be old, but you still fancy it.

Background

Let's look at this rationally, or at least as rationally as we can with a car this good-looking. This Aston Martin Vantage platform is, in motoring terms, a bit of a museum piece. The Vantage first appeared in production-ready hard top form way back in 2005 for a 2006 model year launch. Back then its rivals were cars like the Ferrari 360 and the Maserati 4200 GT, models which have subsequently been replaced and then replaced again. It's not exactly an industry secret that Aston Martin isn't awash in development budget, so it needs to make the most of what it has. That original 4.3-litre V8 Vantage coupe spawned a Roadster variant, the engine grew to 4.7-litres, the suspension was refettled, and then V12 engines were shoehorned beneath the bonnet in 2011. Now we get an even more powerful S version of the V12 Roadster and while the basic underpinnings of this car might be distinctly senior, the amount of fun that you can have with twelve cylinders and 565bhp never really gets old.

Driving Experience

If there's a better sounding production engine than this 6.0-litre V12, we've yet to hear it. With 620 Nm available at 5,750 rpm the V12 Vantage S Roadster will rocket to 201 mph and sprint from rest to 62 mph in only 4.1 seconds. The V12 Vantage S benefits from some racing car tech too, with CNC machined combustion chambers and hollow camshafts. The Sportshift III seven-speed transmission delivers hydraulically actuated paddle-shift gearchanges and is some 20 kilos lighter than the six-speed manual in the previous V12 Vantage Roadster. Carbon ceramic discs are standard fit as is ZF Servotronic power assisted steering. Three-stage adaptive damping is allied to three-stage stability control and two-stage anti-lock braking, allows the driver to more precisely tailor the car's dynamic character. 'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Track' modes offer the driver plenty of options the system even governs the level of power steering assistance offered. Sport mode, controlled via a button on the centre console, alters throttle response, gearshift speed and timing, and exhaust note to, once again, tune the character of the car to the driver's requirements. The Sport button really gives the car its full voice and you'll want to be keying in the location of every tunnel in a 50 mile radius into your sat nav.

Design and Build

We've already had an S version of the V12 Vantage coupe, so we largely knew what to expect with this soft top derivative. Like the coupe, the aluminium vanes in the Aston Martin grille have been replaced by a carbon fibre arrangement that also includes black or titanium silver mesh. There's also the option of lightweight forged alloy ten-spoke wheels. The signature V12 pronounced bonnet louvres are retained and if buyers want an even more extrovert appearance, they can specify optional graphics such as a painted carbon front grille, front grille lipstick and tailgate panel. The cabin has come in for a bit of budget too, with revised seat trim and door panels as well as Sport and carbon fibre lightweight seat options. The Thinsulate three-layer fabric roof can be raised or lowered in just 18s at speeds of up to 30mph and stores compactly when down beneath an aluminium tonneau cover with no fiddling with catches or clips. At 1,745kg, the S tips the scales 20kg lighter than the previous V12 Roadster.

Market and Model

It used to be the case that the V8 version of the Aston Martin Vantage was always the car to choose. Less weight in the nose gave it a better handling balance. That was before Aston's engineers worked themselves into the ground to finesse and resolve the handling of the twelve-cylinder car. True, they can't do much about the additional weight, but the Vantage V12 now handles as it should and is more than worth the premium that Aston Martin charges. If you're looking at paying in the region of £160,000 for an open-topped performance car, what really comes close to this Aston? Yes, Porsche's 911 Turbo S Cabriolet features launch control, all-wheel drive and the ability to show the British car a clean pair of heels, but it also possesses about 10 per cent of the Aston Martin's charisma and likeability. Aston Martin has also given owners the chance to express themselves still further with a Q by Aston Martin Collection which comprises bespoke features including a palette of bold exterior and interior colours; body coloured carbon bonnet louvres; a red tint or satin finish to the carbon fibre elements on the exterior and interior of the car; a full carbon fibre centre console, black anodised and machined rotary controls and a steering wheel with a leather on-centre stripe in the chosen interior accent colour.

Cost of Ownership

Aston Martin Vantage Roadsters are no longer the virtually depreciation-proof asset they once represented and even this flagship V12 model will probably only be worth somewhere less than 50 per cent of its new value in three years time. Sloughing off £25,000 a year in depreciation makes this a car for people with genuinely deep pockets. Elsewhere it will generate big bills too. Servicing and spares are pricey, tyres are around £400 a corner and you'll only get single figure fuel economy should you get a bit enthusiastic with the throttle pedal. The bottom line is that if you think you can just about afford this car, you probably can't.

Summary

Just the title of Aston Martin's most potent open-topped car to date is enough to earn the V12 Vantage S Roadster a place on some people's shortlists. Yes, the design has been with us a long time, but elsewhere the process of inflation in supercar pricing has accelerated quickly and a car that once seemed an expensive indulgence has gradually become something that represents that rarest of things; a supercar bargain. While the Jaguar F-Type might seem a bigger bargain again, the Aston Martin has something that seems lacking in its cheaper compatriot. Authenticity. There's nothing synthetic, contrived or noticeably digital about a V12 Aston Martin. It's something different; something altogether more visceral. It's a car that emerges with few credible rivals. After so many years, that in itself must be some measure of success.

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Photo gallery - Aston Martin Vantage

Aston Martin Vantage

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