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.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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


ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Planning Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are currently looking to rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Media & Advertising Sales Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national business publishi...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Service Desk Manager

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a p...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor / Assistant Quantity Surveyor

    £23698 - £30978 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This not-for-profit company man...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones