Aston Martin V8 Vantage


Debut: 2005
Maker: Aston Martin
Predecessor: No



 Published on 5 Oct 2005
All rights reserved. 
In my mind the name "Aston V8 Vantage" always refer to an old fashion, big V8 British grand tourer. It sat on the top of Aston's lineup and was hand-produced at a rate of a few dozens a year, if lucky. Now Aston use the same name for a modern, high-tech and nimble sports car. On the contrary to its predecessor, it becomes the entry-level Aston and will be produced at 3,000 cars a year. It will be Aston Martin's 911.

All the good changes happened recently at Aston should be down to Ulrich Bez, the Aston boss who had been the father of Porsche 993 during his long service at the German sports car maker. Bez knows so well what made Porsche so successful - quality, image and character, apart from performance and driving fun. I guess he should also know his flyweight company cannot match Porsche in engineering expertise. No wonder he doesn't like to call the V8 Vantage a 911 fighter. Unfortunately, almost all motoring writers do this, and many compare both cars side by side to find out which one is better. And you can guess the result. Yes, Aston may be David, but Porsche is far smarter than Goliath.

Sorry for telling you the result so early, but I just want to say we had better to understand V8 Vantage. At £80,000, it is in a segment where subjective feeling like image and character dominate the buying habit. If you think a 911 Carrera S is better simply because it goes faster, handles better and £15,000 cheaper, then you would be wrong. Does the 911 possess a look so beautiful as the Aston? does its cabin feel as bespoke as the Aston? can it match the rarity of the Aston? when you spend so much money, do you want to be treated as a royal customer, or just one of the 100,000 customers every year purchasing a Porsche vehicle?

The V8 Vantage's beautiful shape is again penned by Henrik Fisker. Compare with the 2+2 DB9, the 2-seater V8 Vantage looks sportier. It is a true sports car shape - unlike 911 which is still a coupe shape - with flared fenders, very short tail and a sleek rising wedge shape. Aston signature grille dominates the nose, as is the side ventilation behind the front wheels.

The car shares the VH platform with DB9 to make cost feasible. Because it switches to a small-capacity V8 instead of the big V12, the engine can be mounted further back and, when mated to the rear mounted transaxle, achieves an excellent balance of 49:51 front to rear. The 2-seater chassis is 315 mm shorter than DB9, but the wheelbase is just 140 mm shorter, implying the wheels are pushed towards the corners to aid handling.

The chassis is made of aluminum space frames, bonded by rivets and glue like its sister car. Chassis rigidity is increased to 27,000 Nm/degree. The body consists of various lightweight materials, such as aluminum (doors and bonnet), steel (side panels and rear fenders), composites (front fenders and hatchback) and magnesium (inner door panels). However, the whole car tips the scale at 1570 kg, just 140 kg lighter than DB9. Porsche engineers must be proud that its steel monocoque 911 Carrera S undercuts that by 150 kilograms.

On paper, the 4.3-litre V8 of the baby Aston is also considered to be sub-standard. The origin of the engine is the 300 hp 4.2-litre Jaguar V8. Although Aston tried very hard to improve it with its own cylinder heads, intake manifolds, pistons, con-rods and crankshafts to loosen its top end, it can only liberate another 80 horsepower at 7000 rpm. The 302 lbft torque is as unimpressive. With variable valve timing at the intake side only (this is untouched from the Jaguar engine), and the lack of variable intake manifolds, no wonder it produces power without the efficiency of Porsche's boxer engine, let alone Ferrari's 4.3-litre V8. The F430 engine produces an astonishing 110 more horsepower from the same capacity and 40 lbft more torque. That car stormed to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and tops 196 mph. This makes the Aston's 4.9 seconds and 175 mph almost leisure. Even the Carrera S' 4.4 sec and 182 mph can easily leave the Aston in dust.

So what did Ulrich Bez bring to Aston?

The answer is desirability. We always know desirability is not necessarily related to measurable performance. I prefer to use Smart Roadster as an example: it runs like a turtle, but its desirability matches a 911. The same can apply to the baby Aston.

The desirability starts when you drop in its hand-stitched leather buckets. The V8 Vantage employs a metallic instrument panel and center console almost exactly the same as DB9. The bespoke feel is not mass production sports cars like Porsche can reproduce.

Then you press the start button and the V8 comes alive. Squeeze the throttle and it roars loudly in a raw and violent sound, like an angry lion. What a sound ! how it cheated those noise regulations is a mystery, but this unique sound definitely adds to the unique experience in the Aston.

I suspect the engine sound is one of the secret weapons of Bez to fight against his ex-employer, because it comes at no extra cost and it lets the V8 Vantage feel faster than it is. In fact, the car cannot keep up with Carrera S, let alone GT3 and the similarly priced 911 Turbo. BMW M6 is also faster. But these German cars have a common problem: they are mass production, or based on a mass production model. People buy them to exploit their performance. In contrast, the baby Aston is more like Ferrari (its production rate is the same as F430) - people buy them to enjoy their style and character, plus the premium image they deliver.

That said, the V8 Vantage is the most user friendly Aston Martin to date. Its power delivery is smooth and linear, its clutch is light and progressive, its gearshift is even one of the best in the industry, being crisp and short. The driveline refinement is impressive.

On the other hand, the V8 Vantage also rides and handles brilliantly. Compare with the stiffly sprung DB9, the baby Aston rides much more comfortable, thanks to the lighter engine, stronger chassis and the extra time it spent to refine the damping. The ride is firm but supple enough to be a long distance cruiser. On poorly surfaced B roads, it is even more absorbent than the 911 Carrera S.

Steers into corners, the baby Aston's flat body control and superb balance inspires confidence. It might be just 140 kg lighter than the DB9, but it feels much more nimble and the difference is the same as their type suggest: sports car vs grand tourer. The steering, having lost speed sensitive power assistance, is more precise and faithful than the DB9.

That said, Porsche 911 Carrera S is even sharper – its steering has more feedback at lock, its tires provide more traction, its brakes are more powerful, and it corners with higher limit than the Aston can manage. The margin is small, but in every objective area the German car outperforms the British car even though it is considerably cheaper. It proves that Porsche is still the standard of sports car industry.

However, the high level of precision, refinement and user friendliness achieved by the baby Aston is already sufficient to impress its wealthy target customers. Then they will consider the subjective aspects – design, engine sound, exclusivity.... Bez knows this business very well.
Verdict: 
 Published on 18 Feb 2008 All rights reserved. 
V8 Vantage N400


The best handling Aston ever made...

Have you ever heard Aston Martin mentioned how fast its cars lapped Nurburgring Nordschleife ? Five years ago no one could have imagined that, because the British luxury sports car brand used to stress brutal power and impeccable craftsmanship more than anything else. But time as changed since German guy Ulrich Bez sitting at the top of the company. He copied the know-how trained in Porsche to Gaydon and started measuring the absolute performance of his cars according to Nurburgring lap time. In this way, a sportier version of V8 Vantage was produced. It lapped Nurburgring Nordschleife in less than 8 minutes, which matched a 911 Carrera S. Aston would call it N400, where N stands for Nurburgring and 400 is the horsepower count. Some 480 units of this car will be produced before most of its technology is transferred to the production V8 Vantage. Each one will cost 13 percent more than the standard car.

Externally, the V8 Vantage N400 doesn't differ much from the regular car. What impress us most are the tuned engine and suspensions. The 4280 cc V8 gets a smoother intake system and revised engine management program to liberate more power from the mid-range to the top end. Now it generates 400 horsepower at 7300 rpm instead of 380 hp / 7000 rpm. Maximum torque increases a little bit as well. Subjectively, the engine feels livelier than the numbers suggested. However, Aston claims 0-60 mph is reduced by only 0.1 seconds while top speed is increased by 2 mph.

That means most of the reduction in lap time is down to the suspension upgrade. Stiffer springs (40% up at front and 30% up at the rear), stiffer dampers and thicker rear anti-roll bars improves the body control a lot, resulting in flat cornering and excellent high-speed stability. Amazingly, the ride quality is actually improved over the regular V8 Vantage, thanks to the well-judged damping as well as the lower unsprung mass contributed by lighter alloy wheels. Unquestionably, N400 is the best handling Aston ever made. However, a 911 Carrera S is considerably cheaper, while GT3 is faster and sharper still. The Aston will need more muscle to justify its price.
Verdict:
 Published on 5 Jun 2008 All rights reserved. 
V8 Vantage 4.7


AM V8 no longer feels second-class to 911 Carrera S and Audi R8...

Soon after the completion of V8 Vantage N400, Aston Martin introduced an evolutionary upgrade to the whole V8 Vantage line. This is certainly not a “facelift”, because apart from a different wheel design there is no changes at all to the exterior – no complaints here, considering how good the V8 Vantage always looks. There are some refinements made to the interior, but they are too minor to be mentioned in AutoZine, too. The biggest change is the V8 engine, which has grown from 4.3 to 4.7 liters.

By lengthening the stroke by 5mm and enlarging the bore by 2mm, Ford’s Cologne engine plant (which builds all Aston Martin engines) increased the capacity of the V8 to 4735 cc. Predictably, a larger bore requires larger valves, intake ports and manifolds, while the longer stroke requires a new forged crankshaft and conrods. Cologne also took this chance to lighten the conrods and counter weights to improve engine response. As a result, horsepower has been up by 40 to 420. Max torque is 347 lb-ft, a considerable improvement from the previous 302 lb-ft. Aston claims top speed is raised from 175 mph to 180 mph, while 0-60 mph acceleration is reduced from 4.9 to 4.7 seconds.

In normal driving, you can feel the extra punch from 3500 rpm upwards, but the magnitude (and sound) is not as sensational as the similarly-sized V8 of Maserati GranTurismo S or Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Among 2-seater sports cars it is not particularly quick. In fact, it is still slower than Porsche 911 Carrera S, which is quite disappointing because it has a larger engine, a more sophisticated aluminum chassis and a higher price tag. We heard Cologne will build a 5.0-liter version V8 for Jaguar. Why doesn’t Aston Martin employ an engine at least as large ? You know, the name “V8 Vantage” used to refer to a 5.3-liter V8 model, so there is still plenty of space for upgrade.


 
Why doesn't it employ a 5.0 V8 like the future Jaguar ?

To save the day, at least the new engine is more economical and clean. Fuel economy is improved from 18.8 mpg to 20.4 mpg, while CO2 emission is reduced from 358g/km to 328g/km. Like many other cases, a larger and torquer engine actually reduces fuel consumption as it does not need to be revved so hard.

Apart from engine, Aston also refined the drivetrain by introducing a lighter clutch and flywheel, refined software of Sportshift semi-automatic to improve response in Sport mode and improve smoothness in Comfort mode. That said, this gearbox is still far from world class, thus the standard 6-speed manual is always recommended. At the chassis, suspensions have received stiffer springs (up 11% front and 5% rear), revised upper damper mountings and bump stops and standard low-friction Bilstein dampers. Steering feel and accuracy is improved by revised steering geometry and stiffer bushings at front lower suspension arms. New 19-inch alloy wheels complete the chassis modifications.

On the road, there is a slight improvement to ride and handling. However, to enjoy the full effect you must equip this car with the optional Sports Pack, which includes 45% stiffer springs, retuned dampers and lighter forged alloy wheels. For sure, low speed ride is quite hard, but once you push the car its damping improves, its body control is excellent, its rear end feels more planted and its steering is meaty and responsive. On back roads the AM V8 no longer feels second-class to 911 Carrera S and Audi R8. It still lacks the tactile steering feel of Porsche and the controls are physical compare with Audi, but it is engaging to drive nonetheless. Putting style and exclusivity into the equation, the revised V8 Vantage is still a sensible choice, if not the best of the class objectively.
Verdict:
 Published on 19 Jun 2009 All rights reserved. 
V12 Vantage


Combines the best of the both worlds: V8 Vantage's chassis and DBS' V12...

We prefer the handling of V8 Vantage to the bigger DBS as it is nimbler and better balanced. However, its V8 engine, even in the latest 4.7-liter form, is no where as powerful and aurally desirable as the 5.9-liter V12 sitting under the bonnet of DBS. Now Aston Martin is going to give you the best of both worlds in V12 Vantage. The concept behind this car is simple: drop a big V12 into the compact chassis of Vantage, then beef up its suspensions, brakes, tires etc. to create a hardcore driving machine. A £135,000 price tag is closer to the level of DBS (£160,000) than the standard V8 Vantage (£83,000), but its exclusivity is guaranteed by limiting annual production to 300-500 units. In other words, it will be rarer than the small Ferraris, Lamborghini and Porsche GT3 / GT2.

V12 Vantage measures the same length, width and wheelbase as its V8 brother. Externally, it can be easily recognized by four cooling scoops opened on the bonnet. The rest is similar to N400, including the aggressive side skirts and tail spoiler. If you have eagle eyes, you may notice its wider and lower profile Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires. Inside, everything is identical to the standard car except a few minor alternations, such as carbon-fiber door handles, aluminum gearstick and, if you pay an extra £1800, a pair of lightweight carbon-fiber bucket seats by Recaro. The latter saves some 17 kilograms.

The 5935cc V12 has the same specifications as DBS, which means 510 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. The only difference is that it is mounted closer to the ground, so close that the depth of its sump has to be cut by 15 mm and the smooth undertray of DBS has to go away. The latter explains why its top speed is “only” 190 mph, or 1 mph lower than DBS. Transmission is again that 6-speed manual transaxle – what else can you expect for the most hardcore Aston Martin?



N400 donated its aggressive side skirts and tail spoiler.

Because the V12 is heavier than the V8 by 87 kg, some weight has to be trimmed elsewhere. Apart from the aforementioned Recaro seats, this car employs Brembo carbon-cermaic brake as standard (same size and specifications as DBS again), lightweight forged alloy wheels and thinner inner rear quarter panels. In the end, V12 Vantage carries only 50 kg more than V8 Vantage. As a result, power-to-weight ratio has been lifted from 258 to 304 hp per ton. On the downside, as the engine bay does not have enough room to accommodate the whole V12 behind front axle, its static weight distribution is reversed from 49:51 to 51:49.

Modifications to the chassis is business as usual. Its ride height has been dropped by 15 mm to lower center of gravity. Front springs have been stiffened by 70% to take on the extra weight of engine, versus 45% at the rear. Front and rear anti-roll bars have gained 45% and 75% stiffness respectively. Designed as a hardcore machine, the car forgoes DBS’ electronic adaptive dampers.

On the road, V12 Vantage feels stronger, sharper and angrier than any other current Aston Martins. Its big engine produces tremendous torque so that the first two gears are superfluous. 3rd and 4th are what you need to attack most roads. 0-60 mph can be easily done in 4.1 seconds, very fast considering it doesn’t have Ferrari’s clever gearbox and launch control. The engine is very responsive to your right foot. Press the Sport button, its throttle response gets sharper still, so sharp that you could feel a little nervous. The thunder coming from the V12 is another warning signal.



510hp V12 barely fits the small engine compartment...

Surprisingly, despite of the extra weight over the front axle, the V12 Vantage doesn’t feel nose heavy. For sure it is not as flickable as 911 GT3, but it still steers accurately into bends as its front tires grip hard and its body hardly rolls. Those semi-slick Pirelli Corsas generate tremendous grip on dry surface – just beware of wet. What really feel heavy are its controls, i.e. steering and gearshift. It needs its pilot to work hard to deliver the best results, very much like older generations of supercars. Should you do that, it will reward you with accuracy and keen response. The ride quality is similar, hard at low speed – but with just enough compliance to deal with pot holes – and composed at high speed. Body control is always excellent, ditto the powerful braking.

Ultimately, the car is not as agile as those lighter mid or rear-engined rivals. You can storm a GT3 or Scuderia into bends more fluently than the 1680 kg Aston, which needs a slow-in / fast-out technique to avoid unsettling its balance. You may also ask for more feel from its heavy helm. Otherwise, there are not many faults.

In terms of usability, V12 Vantage is at the extreme of the GT spectrum. If you want to go long distance travel, it will give you just enough bump absorption, luggage space or creature comfort to do so. However, its true character is clearly in the sporting side. This is the GT2 of Aston Martin. One that combines maneuverability of modern sports cars and some brutal character of traditional supercars.
Verdict:
 Published on 19 Mar 2011 All rights reserved. 
V8 Vantage S


If you expect a big leap in performance, you might be disappointed with Aston Martin V8 Vantage S. This car follows the mild evolution strategy of Porsche, something no stranger to Aston boss Dr. Bez. In his words, the existing V8 Vantage is so right that no big changes but fine polishing are necessary. Its VH aluminum platform is still state of the art. Its V8 still produces the loveliest noise around. Its exterior is still beautiful and its interior is as tasteful as before. I mostly agree his arguments, but I believe the mildness of its evolution is more due to the company's lack of funding since its independence from Ford three years ago.

As a result, the S version – even the S stands for Sport – is not as powerful as you would expect. The 4.7-liter V8 gets only a boost of 10 horsepower and 14 pound-foot of torque through revised intake and ignition and new mufflers. It is not as punchy as Maserati MC Stradale's same-capacity V8, especially at mid-range rev. Due to the lack of variable intake manifolds and variable exhaust cam phasing, its power concentrates at the upper end, so you will need to work harder through gearchange to keep the engine boiling within its sweet zone, which lies somewhere between 5000 and 7300 rpm. Fortunately, the new Graziano 7-speed Sportshift II gearbox helps. With an additional ratio, its first 6 ratios can be stacked closer to aid the engine, so you get the desired rev more easily.

Nevertheless, the robotized manual gearbox is by no means the best gearbox around. Aston chose it instead of modern twin-clutch box because it fits into the Vantage without much modifications. Yes, it is much lighter than DCTs – even compare to the old 6-speed Sportshift it is 24 kg lighter, thanks largely to switching from oil to air cooling – but the shift quality is far from perfect, much less smooth than DCTs. It has two modes – normal or sport. In the former, gearshift is sluggish. In Sport mode, gearshift is said to be 20 percent faster than before, but even so it is nowhere as responsive as the one of Maserati MC Stradale, which is also a single-clutch box. That said, the Aston gearbox works well at 100 percent effort. Push the engine harder and you will get better response from the gearbox. Gearchange near redline is fast and incisive, if slightly brutal. The new gearbox might be temperamental, but the reward it brings to hardwork is quite satisfying.



The Sport button not only speeds up gearshifts but also throttle response and switch the new mufflers to "loud" mode. I always think the V8 Vantage produces the angriest noise among road cars, more so than any Ferrari flat-crank V8s. The S version is even crazier once its bypass valves open. It is a race-car-like scream – sharp, raucous and incredibly loud. How it can pass noise regulations is a mystery. If there is any area the car clearly overwhelms its rivals, it is definitely the noise.

Rest of modifications are predictable. The S gets lower and firmer suspension setup (still without adaptive damping though), larger front brake discs (380mm instead of 355mm) with 6-piston calipers, wider Bridgestone rubbers, lightweight wheels and a quicker steering rack (15:1 instead of 17:1). The whole car is 30 kg lighter than the standard Vantage. All these sum up to a better chassis dynamics. The ride is definitely firm on rough surfaces, but in return it brings more composure at speed, and the chassis feels tauter and sharper all the time. The combination of quicker steering and enhanced front-end grip sharpens its turn-in, if not really sorted out its slight nervousness at the limit of adhesion. Overall, the S is more capable and more entertaining than the standard V8 Vantage while losing no friendliness as a road car.

However, I can't help thinking more could have been done if Aston was given a bigger R&D budget. The engine could be more advanced, more powerful and flexible. The ride could be more supple if adaptive dampers are introduced. The gearbox could be quicker and slicker. These weak spots prevent the V8 Vantage S from challenging the laurels of Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8 and Nissan GT-R. That said, those buying the Aston are unlikely to make purchasing decisions purely on the ground of objective measurement. If exclusivity, style and engine noise are especially important to you, then it will be a very good choice.
Verdict:
 Published on 19 Mar 2013 All rights reserved. 
V12 Zagato


The partnership between Aston Martin and Italian coachbuilder Zagato is one of the most romantic in the car industry. 52 years ago, they joined forces to create DB4GT Zagato, one of the most sought after classic cars of all time. In the 1980s, they built the fastest car in the world, Zagato. At the turn of the millenium, they produced two more cars based on the DB7, i.e. DB7 Zagato and DB AR1. However, today Zagato no longer stands at the forefront of design and coachbuilding business. To Aston, its own designer Marek Reichman can draw prettier (and less strange) designs, while the craftsmen at Gaydon are capable to deliver higher build quality than Zagato's outdated technique. As a result, the creation of V12 Zagato actually has no involvement of Zagato. The latter becomes merely a nameplate licensed to keep the legendary story goes on.

The V12 Zagato is built on V12 Vantage, the most sporting Aston Martin to date. It combines the same 510 horsepower V12 and short-wheelbase chassis to give maximum performance and handling. The bodywork is pretty stylish. Although there is a strong resemblance to Nissan GT-R in its blackened A-pillars and sloping side windows, the double-bubble roof is a pure Zagato signature. The same goes for the big mouth up front. On the other hand, the racing rear spoiler, pseudo diffuser and cat-eye taillights inject a sense of aggression to differ it from the donor car.

Part of the body work is made of carbon-fiber, such as the front and rear fenders, door sills and boot lid, whereas the remaining (bonnet, doors and roof in particular) are hand crafted aluminum. The whole car takes 2,000 man-hours to build, 10 times that of the regular car and just 500 less than the One-77. This explains why it commands £330,000 (plus local taxes), and production is limited to 101 units. Its production is carried out by the same guys who have just finished the production run of One-77.



£330,000 plus taxes is way more expensive than a Ferrari F12 or Lamborghini Aventador (both at £240,000 including tax), but the performance it offers remains at the level of V12 Vantage – 190 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds. The handling and ride it offers are also remarkably close to the regular car that costs just a third of its price. Aston did not spend much time to modify its suspensions or steering. Neither did it stripe out its interior to save weight. This mean the Zagato carries the same 1680 kg kerb weight. Admittedly, the V12 Vantage has always been a keen driver's car. It might not be as quick or as sharp as Ferrari or Porsche, but its steering is communicative, its responses are honest and it engages its driver in the same way as the best classic sports cars. The rebodied version is the same. Buyers will never complain for lack of driving thrills.

Still, the absurd price tag can hardly be justified by the new body shell and mildly retrimmed interior, or the exclusivity brought by its rarity. Yes, not many cars are so rare, but Aston can easily create similar specials in the future – and I have no doubt that another one will follow it closely once all 101 cars are sold. After all, it is the product instead of production numbers that counts. In my opinion, it is more reasonable for One-77 to charge £1.2 million because it is a thoroughly new development. Even though the V12 Zagato is almost as rare and cost "just" a third, it is not quite desirable and collectible.
Verdict:
 Published on 10 Oct 2013 All rights reserved. 
V12 Vantage S


Following Vanquish and DB9, the V12 Vantage is also upgraded to the 4th generation VH platform and variable-valve-timing V12. Unsurprisingly, the new car is called V12 Vantage S.

At a glance, the new car looks almost indistinguishable from the old car. Its main difference is the front grille, now made of black carbon-fiber frames instead of aluminum ones. Another noticeable difference is the set of 10-spoke forged alloy wheels, now cuts 1 kg of unsprung weight at each corner. Otherwise, the car looks practically the same as the old one. As before, the V12 model uses a bonnet with four ventilation outlets to cool the larger engine. This distinguishes it from lesser V8 Vantage.


Big news is the AM28 V12 engine. It is identical to the AM11 used on Vanquish except minor differences in mapping. With CNC-machined combustion chambers, lightweight hollow camshafts and dual-VVT, it produces exactly the same output as its bigger brother, i.e. 573 hp (or 565 bhp) and 457 lbft of torque, up 11% and 9% respectively from the old engine. The peak power is now released 250 rpm higher at 6750 rpm, so it is freer and stronger at the top end.

Another good news is the use of Graziano 7-speed automated manual transaxle. Aston calls it Sportshift III, as it is an upgrade from the Sportshift II unit launched on V8 Vantage S a couple of years ago. Its extra top gear enables the top speed to be stretched to 205 mph, a significant increase from the previous 190 mph, while keeping the other 6 ratios close to aid acceleration. The official 0-60 mph time is quoted at 3.7 seconds, a sizeable improvement from the previous 4.1 sec. Incredibly, the new 7-speed transaxle is 25 kilograms lighter than the old 6-speed unit. As a result, the whole car is also a tad lighter.



The 4th gen VH platform has quite a lot of advances. First is the improved insulation, which cuts cabin noise by 30 percent. Second is the adoption of 3-stage adaptive dampers, which should make the ride and handling more versatile than ever. It provides Normal, Sport and Track modes to choose from. The Sport and Track damper settings also alter the weighting of the hydraulic power steering. Meanwhile, another Sport button on the console can alter throttle response, gearshift speed and exhaust noise. Speaking of exhaust, the lightweight muffler comes directly from the Vanquish and One-77, guaranteeing great sound.

Like the V8 Vantage S, it adopts a quicker steering rack with ratio reduced from 17:1 to 15:1. As before, the V12 model employs Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, although it is now upgraded to the 3rd generation or CCM3. The sticky Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires are carried over.



On the road

It is a little disappointing to see that the cabin looks the same as the old car, which starts getting dated. It seems that Aston does not have the resources to redo the car from ground up, so the new wine has to settle with an old bottle.

However, if you focus on the driving experience, the V12 Vantage gets better than ever. In the past, it was already an excellent sports car, with sharp responses, engaging and predictable handling as well as addictive engine sound to match the best Italian supercars, but unfortunately it lacked the right performance. Thanks to the upgrade, the gap is largely narrowed. It is still slower than Ferrari 458 or McLaren MP4-12C, but no longer embarrassingly so. There is noticeably more low-end grunt to aid acceleration. On full song, the V12 engine note has to be rated as one of the best in the world, one that easily beats the flat-crank V8 noises of Ferrari and McLaren.



The 7-speed automated manual is undoubtedly better than the older Sportshift II in other Astons, but it still takes some getting used to. Its downshift is near perfect, but upshift is considerably slower and clunkier than modern twin-clutch gearboxes. This hurts the driving satisfaction a bit. Nevertheless, you can learn to live with it. By lifting off throttle appropriately during upshift, the delay can be reduced to acceptable level. Still, you may miss the joy of using the good old manual gearbox.

The chassis remains first class. The V12 Vantage S remains the best driving car among all Aston Martin models. Its handling is faithful. Its steering is sharp and feelsome. Its brakes are powerful yet return good pedal feel. The combination of a big front-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive and short wheelbase does not hurt its handling. On the contrary, its behaviour is very predictable. You can overcome its slight understeer with steering and throttle beautifully in bends. Without resorting to electronic aids, its chassis displays exceptional balance. It is one of the few supercars that feels truly confidence inspiring to drive at the limit and to push on narrow mountain roads. The new car's quicker steering and adaptive damping just improves it a little further, all the while without altering its adorable essence. It might lack the thrills and sense of occasion of Ferrari 458, but it is more engaging to drive than the new 911 Turbo S which costs the same money. British sports cars are not dead yet.
Verdict:
 Published on 14 Aug 2015 All rights reserved. 
Vantage GT12


Recently I observed a trend in the sports car industry: building a small batch of very expensive sports cars is easier to earn money than large quantity of production sports cars like 911. That’s why many makers turn to introduce super-pricey exclusive models. One of them is Aston Martin. Following the One-77 and V12 Zagato, it is working on 2 new exclusive models, Vantage GT12 and Vulcan. Both are track-oriented, just like Ferrari 458 Speciale or McLaren 675LT, and both are very expensive, costing £250,000 and £1.5 million respectively. The Vantage GT12 materialized first, because it is based on the GT3 race car which enjoys quite a lot of success on racing circuits.

This car would have been called Vantage GT3 if not Porsche objected to the idea. Never mind, as GT12 is a good reminder of how many cylinders it possesses. Yes, this is a classic Aston Martin with a big V12 up front driving the rear wheels. Its single-clutch 7-speed automated manual box sits at the rear axle to improve balance, but it doesn't have state-of-the-art mechatronics like active differential, torque vectoring or side slip control. The basic elements are actually carried over from the production V12 Vantage S, but the GT12 can command double the price thanks to some extensive modifications, ranging from weight reduction, power upgrade to aerodynamics improvement. Oh yes, also because its production is limited to 100 units.



The GT12 looks really like a race car. It has a massive rear spoiler, and its aggressive front splitter, skirts and diffusers leave little ground clearance. Its flared fenders house wider Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, too. These aero kits as well as the bonnet, front fenders, doors and roof are made of carbon-fiber to save weight, while the rear screen and side quarter windows are polycarbonate items. The new single-locking wheels are made of lightweight magnesium, ditto the torque tube that connects between the V12 and transaxle. The new exhaust is made of titanium. Inside, Aston leaves the air-con and infotainment system intact, but the door panels, center console/transmission tunnel as well as bucket seats are all converted to carbon-fiber. The cabin is trimmed with lightweight Alcantara instead of leather. The center console has switched to touch-sensitive panel like Vanquish to save weight, too. In addition to a lithium battery, the GT12 is 100 kg lighter than the standard V12 Vantage S, tipping the scale at 1565 kg. Not quite as light as GT3 RS or 675LT, but it’s the lightest V12 machine on the market.

That 5.9-liter motor now produces a full 600 horsepower at 7000 rpm, up 27 ponies from the standard model. This must thanks to the lighter and higher flowing magnesium intake manifolds as well as the titanium exhaust. Peak torque barely inches up from 457 to 461 lbft, but the Aston V12 has never been short of mid-range torque. Coupling to the weight reduction, performance is awesome. It certainly feels very fast and powerful, although the numbers don’t do it justice – its top speed is dragged down to 185 mph by the massive spoilers and a shorter final drive ratio, while standing start acceleration (0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds) is limited by the traction available at rear tires. In the real world, it feels faster. Part of the reason is the shocking howl of the V12. It is not only much louder than any road-going Astons but its aural thrills compare well with the best Ferrari V12s. In fact, the noise has to be the most outstanding element of this car.



That is not to say the rest of the car unremarkable. It’s just not as remarkable as the best bunch of track-biased sports cars, i.e. 458 Speciale, 675LT or 911 GT3 RS. The Aston does not produce as much traction and grip as those cars thus it is more tail-happy, more prone to oversteer should you turn off DSC and abuse its throttle. Despite of the massive aero kits, it doesn’t produce as much downforce, too, at least at road speeds. This means it feels wider and less precise to be driven hard on country roads. However, the sharp throttle response of the naturally aspirated V12 and the responsive, beautifully weighted hydraulic-assisted steering deliver honest feedback that many rivals couldn't quite match. It takes a while to understand its temper and build trust on it, but the more miles you have driven the more it grows on you. Eventually you will find an immensely fun and characterful machine to work with.

Despite of the stiffer suspension setup, the GT12 still delivers enough compliance on country roads provided you leave its adaptive damping in Normal mode. If not the explosive engine noise and excessive tire roar, it would have been easily suitable for everyday use. The only real weakness is the Sportshift III automated gearbox, whose shifts are jerky and slow compared with a dual-clutch box. It deserves a better gearbox.

Verdict:
 Published on 19 Jun 2016
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Vantage GT8


It is easy to downplay Aston Martin Vantage GT8 by looking at its figures only. For a car costing £165,000 before options, you should expect McLaren 570S or even Ferrari 488 level of performance, but the GT8 offers only 446 horsepower from its 4.7-liter V8, or a mere 10-hp boost from the usual Vantage S which costs £95,000. Its 190 mph top speed and 4.2 seconds 0-60 mph are also not what you would call "supercar league”. It is not even as quick as a Porsche 911 Carrera S. Those race-car big spoilers and skirts just make its modest performance all the more ridiculous!

Frankly, limited edition Aston Martins have never been cheap. Like last year’s GT12, you pay higher prices for the GT8 for its rarity, its bespoke design and components. As only 150 units will be built, this investment won’t be wrong. Moreover, you are buying not just another Aston Martin special but probably the very last old-school Aston Martin sports car, one comprises of a naturally aspirated V8, a manual transaxle gearbox, passive dampers and a good old hydraulic steering. By the way, the successor of Vantage is set to receive Mercedes 4.0 V8 turbo and electric power steering. This is already a good reason to pay the premium for the farewell edition.

Aston said the GT8 is the road-going version of its Vantage GTE race car, but I guess it would be more appropriate to call it the V8 version of GT12. Many of its carbon-fiber supplements come from that car, such as the massive rear spoiler, front splitter, side skirts, diffusers, roof and inner door panels. Ditto its lithium battery and polycarbonate windows (rear screen and rear quarter). It also features similar (but not exactly the same) carbon-fiber fenders, titanium exhaust and lightweight magnesium center-lock wheels. With all lightweight options it is 100 kg lighter than the standard car, or a kerb weight of 1510 kg. Nevertheless, that is still 90 kilos more than a 911 GT3 RS. On the plus side, the Aston keeps air-conditioning, audio system and sat-nav, so it is not as one-dimensional as its racy looks suggested.



The car’s flared fenders house wider tracks, but surprisingly, the wheels and tires remain the same size as the regular Vantage S, although it turns to semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubbers for more grip. The suspension’s springs, dampers and anti-roll bars get stiffer. As in the case of the regular car, it rides firmly in town, but out of town with 40 mph or more, ride quality improves markedly. You would realize that its suspension is still designed primarily for road use. The higher the speed, the better it soaks up bumps and floats over the road.

Such an enthusiasm for action is also evident in other controls. The hydraulic-assisted steering is heavy at low speed but lights up at speed. Regardless of speed, it is always loaded with tactile feedback, nudging in your hands and telling you about the surface ahead. What a pity its days are numbered.

While the car doesn’t feel light, its chassis balance is first rate, thanks to the Vantage’s optimum positioning of engine (close to fire wall) and gearbox (at the rear axle). As its grip limit is not overly high, you can put the car to dance in fast corners. Prod the throttle momentarily and you can push the tail out with millimeter accuracy. Flick the steering and the front wheels also break away, resulting in a rally-car-style 4-wheel drift! Only a chassis with great balance and feedback can do so.

The 4.7-liter V8 is an outdated design. It is neither very powerful nor torquey by today's standards, but it is adequate for road use. It has a linear power delivery and a willingness to spin to 7500 rpm. The fact that you can usually access its top end on road is a bonus, because from 5000 rpm upward its thunderous noise produced by the large-bore titanium exhaust is just amazing! It’s racecar-loud yet comes with an addictive sound quality. Next to the chassis balance, this is the main attraction of the car.

So perhaps we should not pay too much attention to numbers. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity… provided you can afford it, of course.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission

Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
V8 Vantage 4.3
2005
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, steel, composites
4382 / 1866 / 1255 mm
2600 mm
V8, 90-degree
4280 cc
DOHC 32 valves, VVT
-
-
380 hp
302 lbft
6-speed manual

All double-wishbones
-
F: 235/40ZR19
R: 275/35ZR19
1570 kg
175 mph (c)
4.9 (c) / 4.9* / 4.7**
11.5* / 11.4**
V8 Vantage N400
2008
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, steel, composites
4380 / 1865 / 1255 mm
2600 mm
V8, 90-degree
4280 cc
DOHC 32 valves, VVT
-
-
400 hp / 7300 rpm
310 lbft / 5000 rpm
6-speed manual

All double-wishbones
-
F: 235/40ZR19
R: 275/35ZR19
1630 kg
177 mph (c)
4.8 (c)
-
V8 Vantage 4.7
2008
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, steel, composites
4380 / 1865 / 1255 mm
2600 mm
V8, 90-degree
4735 cc
DOHC 32 valves, VVT
-
-
420 hp / 7000 rpm
347 lbft / 5750 rpm
6-speed manual or
6-speed automated manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 235/40ZR19
R: 275/35ZR19
1630 kg
180 mph (c)
4.7 (c) / 4.3*** (auto-manual)
10.2*** (auto-manual)




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
V12 Vantage
2009
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, steel, composites
4380 / 1865 / 1241 mm
2600 mm
V12, 60-degree
5935 cc
DOHC 48 valves
VIM
-
517 hp / 6500 rpm
420 lbft / 5750 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 255/35ZR19
R: 295/30ZR19
1680 kg
190 mph (c)
4.1 (c) / 4.3* / 4.2**
9.3* / 9.2**
V8 Vantage S
2011
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, steel, composites
4380 / 1865 / 1255 mm
2600 mm
V8, 90-degree
4735 cc
DOHC 32 valves, VVT
-
-
430 hp / 7300 rpm
361 lbft / 5000 rpm
7-speed automated manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 245/40ZR19
R: 285/35ZR19
1610 kg
190 mph (c)
4.6 (c)
-
V12 Zagato
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, carbon-fiber
4385 / 1865 / 1250 mm
2600 mm
V12, 60-degree
5935 cc
DOHC 48 valves
VIM
-
517 hp / 6500 rpm
420 lbft / 5750 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 255/35ZR19
R: 295/30ZR19
1680 kg
190 mph (c)
4.1 (c)
-




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
V12 Vantage S
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, steel, composites
4385 / 1865 / 1250 mm
2600 mm
V12, 60-degree
5935 cc
DOHC 48 valves, DVVT
VIM
-
573 hp / 6750 rpm
457 lbft / 5750 rpm
7-speed automated manual
All double-wishbones
Adapive damping
F: 255/35ZR19
R: 295/30ZR19
1665 kg
205 mph (c)
3.7 (c) / 3.9*
8.6*
Vantage GT12
2015
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Mainly carbon-fiber
- / 1905 / 1250 mm
2600 mm
V12, 60-degree
5935 cc
DOHC 48 valves, DVVT
VIM
-
600 hp / 7000 rpm
461 lbft / 5500 rpm
7-speed automated manual
All double-wishbones
Adapive damping
F: 265/35ZR19
R: 325/30ZR19
1565 kg
185 mph (c)
3.5 (c)
-
Vantage GT8
2016
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum spaceframe
Aluminum, carbon-fiber
4539 / 1923 / 1257 mm
2600 mm
V8, 90-degree
4735 cc
DOHC 32 valves, VVT
-
-
446 hp / 7300 rpm
361 lbft / 5000 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 245/40ZR19
R: 285/35ZR19
1510 kg
190 mph (c)
4.2 (c)
-




Performance tested by: *R&T





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V8 Vantage S


V12 Vantage S


Vantage GT8


Vantage GT12



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