Aston Martin V8 Vantage

At last, after a series of clever tweaks, the Aston Martin Vantage is the supercar it promised to be

On the face of it, this seems like the filling not so much of a niche in the market but a microscopic pore.

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is a fast, very handsome, two-seater GT car, more exclusive than a Jaguar XK, more traditional in its layout than a Porsche 911. In its life to date it has seen its engine grow from 4.3 to 4.7 litres, its coupé body style joined by an open Roadster version, its pace and appeal further boosted by the option of a V12 engine, its reputation enhanced by many racing successes.

And more: there have been Sport suspension options, N24 and GT4 ready-to-drive racing cars for your own motor sport ambitions, and N400 and N420 models with a race-car theme but road-car practicality. That, surely, is every eventuality covered.

Not so, apparently. Here now is the V8 Vantage S, a different sort of ultimate Vantage road car compared with the former holder of that distinction, the V12 Vantage. Cheaper than the V12, but still breaking the £100,000 barrier (it costs £102,500), it is virtually as rapid in the real world. It has the slightly widened stance of the V12 and the GT4, the engine produces an extra 10bhp (making 436) with extra pulling power to match, bigger brakes hide within new wheels wearing slightly wider tyres, and the suspension has been slightly recalibrated to make the Vantage sit more firmly on the road and point more keenly into corners.

Incremental changes, all of them. More obvious is a more quickly-responding steering system, originally designed for the Rapide saloon to put back the agility that the saloon's longer wheelbase took away. In the short Vantage the effect is dramatic. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there's a new gearbox. It's a seven-speed sequential unit made by Graziano in Italy, its gears selected by paddle-shifters on the steering column without the help of a clutch pedal. There is no manual-gearbox alternative for the Vantage S.

This puts me instantly on my guard, because it's a rare sequential-shift, two-pedal transmission that doesn't prove unfulfilling over time or, worse, annoying. Such systems based on existing manual gearboxes, and thus retaining a conventional single clutch which is operated automatically, can be prone to surges and jerks especially when used in automatic mode. The good ones, however, can be good fun because they still demand some driver judgement when easing the accelerator for a smooth gearchange in manual mode.

Lots of little enhancements, then. Will they add up to something big once I press the glass ignition key? Any residual cynicism I may have harboured vanishes in the first 500 yards of my first lap of the sinuously scenic Ascari raceway in southern Spain. Forget the glamorous connotations of such a place, any notions of PR-fuelled rose-tinting of my critical faculties, because they have no influence. They don't need to; in those 500 yards the Vantage S speaks very eloquently for itself.

From promising but detail-flawed beginnings, the V8 Vantage breed has burst through the clouds and clarity is achieved. A while ago I drove the N24 racing car and wished its precise, ultra-communicative, rapid but forgiving demeanour could translate to the Vantage road cars, and now it has. Here is the V8 Vantage as it should be, lighter on its feet than a V12 Vantage, blessed with a gearbox which is great fun to use in manual mode to the extent that you're never tempted to give up and default to automatic. Just as well; auto mode still pauses and surges. "Sport" mode is best, its quicker shifts easier to smooth with a deft lift of the accelerator.

On the track, though, you just keep the accelerator planted and feel the shove in the back with each burst of acceleration. The Vantage S's grip and balance in the bends inspires great confidence. The suspension is firm, true, but bearably so, and the whole car is beautifully detailed and finished. Lots of little improvements. One great big result.

The Rivals

Jaguar XKR: £77,900, 510bhp, 292g/km

Same GT mould as Aston but less crisp in its demeanour. Potent supercharged V8 is matched to alert auto gearbox. Good value.

Mercedes-Benz SLS: £168,345, 570bhp, 308g/km

Hints at 1950s SL with its gullwing doors. Very quick with dramatic V8, inconveniently wide, slow-witted auto gearbox.

Porsche 911 GT3: £89,785, 435bhp, 298g/km

This is the 911 as race-flavoured pleasure machine, very rapid and totally engaging. In some ways it's my favourite 911.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own