Aston Martin Vantage

It's hardly practical, but no other sports car can rival the Aston Martin Vantage for sheer sex appeal

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £91,000
Performance: 175mph, 0-60 in 4.9 secs
Combined fuel consumption: 18mpg
Further information: 01908 610620

People don't half talk a right bunch of apple sauce about cars sometimes. You know the kind of thing, Ferraris have a "soul"; a Lamborghini is a "wild thing"; or how an Alfa Romeo "lives and breathes". And that's just the stuff I've got away with. No. Cars are man-made machines that go and stop, or in the case of Land Rovers, stop. Any character they may have is entirely the result of their designer's ability to provoke an instinctive response in us – through a cheeky face or sexy hips or whatever – or a consequence of the engineer's desire for more speed or efficiency, or a combination of both.

But how, then, am I to explain why I would rather own an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster than a Porsche 911, if I am not to dip a guilty quill into the apple sauce boat myself? Viewed objectively, the Porsche does virtually everything better than the Aston. It is faster, more agile, more responsive, has better brakes, is more practical and user friendly, cheaper to buy, own and run, will probably be more reliable and it has a proper handbrake. So why was I left languishing with such a nihilistic emptiness in the very pit of my being – such an overwhelming tide of loss, misery, futility and frustration that not even pictures of Tony Blair's man-boobs from his holiday in the Caribbean could lift me – when the man from Aston Martin came to take the Vantage away? I have never felt that way about a Porsche, ever.

Could it be that the Aston has a "soul", a "personality", or is it just the sexy hips and the "wild thing" exhaust that turned my head so, on a two-day trip along Normandy's Alabaster Coast? You may laugh and, if we met at a party, back away nervously and try to find someone else to talk to, but I genuinely felt we bonded, the Vantage and I. And it wasn't just me: everyone I passed was engulfed by the Aston's aura. I haven't been the recipient of so many longing looks since I went to a fancy dress party as Lady Godiva.

At times the Vantage infuriated me: the clutch was heavy; so was the gear change, and it had none of the lunging urgency of a Ferrari or Porsche. Instead, it took a surprising amount of time to gather momentum. Plus, you can insert the GPS CD only with the roof half down – a procedure guaranteed to make you look an utter cock – and, once installed, the system sets about its business of sending you entirely the wrong way, all the time, with impressive dedication. I couldn't find the petrol flap release either, which rather gave the game away when it came time to fill up. And I have no doubt that, for all its feral sound track and ballsy posturing, virtually every rival would give the Aston a good whipping on a track too.

But testing a road car on a track is like testing a Teasmade in space – amusing to watch, but not terribly relevant. The purpose of an Aston is to make you feel great, not to win races, and, with its gorgeous interior, intoxicating exterior and ballsy, barking engine, this one does that – more than any Aston ever, perhaps even more than any car I have driven. Wild thing, I... I think I love you.

It's a classic: DB6 Volante

I do believe the Vantage Roadster is the first Aston convertible not to have the name Volante since the DB6 Short Chassis Volante of 1965 (which, while we are being nerdy about things, was actually based on a DB5). Powered by a 4.0 litre straight-six engine with 282bhp, the first Volante was a seductive and desirable soft top.

Only 37 were built – three of them the more powerful Vantage versions – before the model was superseded by the slightly longer DB6 Volante, as owned by Prince Charles. (Just to underline his environmental credentials, he also owns a 1990s Vantage which I would guess returns about 9mpg.) Only 140 of those were made, which makes any 1960s Volante highly collectable and worth more than £200,000.

The Volante name continues to this day on the DB9 but, perhaps fearful of confusion, the Vantage convertible is called Roadster. That said, the term Vantage has traditionally applied to the more powerful versions of Aston's cars, which is odd as the modern Vantage is the slowest in the range.

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