Aston Martin V8 Vantage

The V8 Vantage's bigger engine has more power. But don't feel guilty, this revised model is also more fuel efficient
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Indy Lifestyle Online

We like the idea of "sustainability" at The IoS. So it's good to hear of the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage's sustainable credentials. Dr Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin's CEO, contended at the revised model's introduction that, given luck, a modern Aston Martin should last forever. 'There's no reason why they shouldn't all be here in 50 years, at least,' he said. 'They won't rust and there's nothing to decay.'

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Price: from £85,000
Engine: 4,735cc, V8 cylinders, 32 valves, 420bhp at 7,000rpm, 346lb ft at 5,750rpm
Transmission: six-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 180mph, 0-62 in 4.8sec, 20.4mpg official average, CO2 328g/km

There'll be no wasteful recycling here, then, because the Aston does not need to be recycled. The most eco-friendly car is the one that gives the best return on the materials and energy invested in its creation. It's one reason I feel no guilt in driving my various classic cars. Their debt to the environment is long since repaid.

Whether we'll have the fuel to run these future-classic Aston Martins, however, is another matter. And any car with a powerful V8 engine is going to need quite a lot of it, I'm afraid. That said, one feature of this revised Vantage is that its engine, despite a capacity rise from 4.3 to 4.7 litres and a power rise from 380 to 420bhp, uses 15 per cent less fuel on the official test that measures fuel consumption and carbon dioxide output.

This suggests either that the engineers didn't do a very good job originally, or that this time the engine's calibrations have been carefully massaged to fit around the test regime. I'd be surprised if every owner of 4.3-litre model who trades it for a new one sees a corresponding 15 per cent improvement in everyday driving, because the way an Aston Martin begs to be driven is not the way cars are driven on the tests (which is unrealistically gentle).

But I could well be wrong. A significant economy improvement may also arise from the fact you don't need to work the new engine so hard to achieve the same result. The other main measure of an engine's output, torque, is a better indicator of its easily-accessible pace; a high figure at low engine speeds is what we're looking for. Before, the V8 made 302lb ft; now it manages 346lb ft. True, that value is reached at a higher speed than before, but there's a useful amount of extra torque all the way up the speed range, especially at low revs.

You can't really call this latest V8's changes a facelift. The V8 Vantage was one of the best-looking GT cars ever created on its 2005 launch, a showcase of all of Aston Martin's design niceties wrapped up in a compact, agile package, and there has been no reason to change the way it looks. There are some new wheel designs and the cabin switchgear looks neater, but visually it's much the same deal as ever.

You can feel the differences though. The gear change is smoother, the driveline is less prone to snatches, and you need less of a prod on the accelerator thanks to the extra torque. Then you notice that it copes better with bumps, yet despite this new suppleness the steering is more accurate and consistent. So what has been going on underneath?

The front springs are 11 per cent stiffer than before, the rear springs five per cent, and the main rubber bushes in the front suspension's lower arms are also stiffer. So how can it be more supple? New Bilstein dampers are why, which are more compliant over small bumps. Thus, are the complexities and conflicts of suspension systems revealed, further complicated by revised steering geometry.

It works, that's the point. I've always liked the V8 Vantage but it now feels more connected to the road, the better to exploit the larger-lunged, freer-breathing engine. The V8, for all its power, used to feel overwhelmed by the Aston's mass, even though that mass isn't huge, given the car's construction out of bonded aluminium sheets and extrusions partly clad with lightweight composite panels. You had to rev the engine harder and higher than you would expect.

Now you're typically in one gear higher than before, letting the new-found mid-speed energy bowl you along in relaxed ease. That's where you'll save fuel, although you can still let rip with the accelerator if you really want. Doing so, brings out that metal-edged V8 beat at its inspirational best, best enjoyed in the Roadster version with the roof down.

Many V8 Vantage buyers have chosen the Sportshift sequential transmission, which uses the regular rear-mounted gearbox but loses the clutch pedal and gives you a pair of steering-column shift stalks. Improvements are claimed but it's prone to surges and clunks, especially when driving gently. And its automatic mode has infuriating pauses and sudden bursts of activity. It's one of the less good transmissions of its type and best avoided.

The other main option is the Sport Pack, which uses yet stiffer suspension and lighter, five-spoke wheels as shown in our pictures. It results in slightly sharper steering and a sharper focus overall, but the jolty low-speed ride over bumps is too high a price to pay unless you're planning on regular racetrack forays.

The best V8 Vantage is the cheapest one, a manual coupé with standard suspension.

It's British, too, which is somehow pleasing.



Italy by Ferrari, Travel pages 1-3

THE RIVALS

Audi R8: £78,300
Surprising car for Audi to make, but this all-aluminium, mid-engined V8 machine with 4.2 litres, 420 bhp and four-wheel drive is both civilised and scintillating. Best enjoyed as a manual.

Maserati GranTurismo S: £78,500
The original GranTurismo has the previous V8 Vantage problem of an overwhelmed engine, but the lustier, sharper S is a joy. Sonorous V8 has 4.7 litres, 440bhp.

Porsche 911 Carrera S: £70,360
Latest 911 incarnation theme keeps rear-mounted flat-six but adds direct injection for amazing efficiency: 3.8 litres, 385bhp, 242g/km. New seven-speed DSG gearbox option is impressive.

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