Engine: 4.7-liter V8 with 430 bhp and 361 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 13 miles per gallon city, 19 highway, 15 combined
Price: $99,900, including gas-guzzler tax, excluding $2,825 in delivery fees
The Vantage serves as Aston Martin’s entry-level model, if something with a six-figure price tag could ever be described as basic. This lustily styled two-door is offered as either a coupe or an open-air roadster, though both models are sweeter than confectioner’s sugar.
Over-Egging the Pudding
Compared to its stable-mates the Vantage is smaller and perhaps more approachable. Walking up to a Vanquish or Rapide S for instance can be quite intimidating because of their commanding presence and larger dimensions. In fact comparing coupe models the Vantage is appreciable more compact than the Vanquish. Its body is 13.5 inches shorter, two inches narrower and sits 1.3 inches closer to the ground. Also, with a curb weight of 3,549 pounds it’s about 285 pounds lighter.
It may be small(er) but this model is still pure Aston Martin, with a long hood, low body and truncated rump, plus it’s got that trademark grille that’s instantly recognizable and screams premium, which is probably why Ford aped it.
The Vantage’s body is a mélange of materials including aluminum, magnesium, composites and steel. Underneath that alluring skin it rides on a variation of the company’s VH architecture, which underpins essentially every Aston Martin. Overall this mean machine is lithe, stylish and ready to thrill as soon as it starts rapidly oxidizing hydrocarbons.
Nineteen to the Dozen
On the subject of internal combustion, the V8 Vantage GT is motivated by a nicely isolated 4.7-liter two-by-four. This all-aluminum engine features a dual-stage intake, dry-sump lubrication, a sport exhaust system and numerous other technical advancements that help increase output.
All told it provides 430 bhp, a torque peak of 361 lb-ft and plenty of smiles, especially as the tachometer sweeps toward redline. That’s enough beans and franks to move the Vantage from zero to 60 MPH in as little as 4.6 seconds, paving the way to a terminal velocity of 190 MPH.
Ensuring the car handles as well as it turns heads, the Vantage rides on a four-wheel, double-wishbone independent suspension. Giving it the athletic agility of a baby gazelle its steering ratio is 15-to-1 and goes from lock to lock in just 2.62 turns.
At Sixes and Sevens
The Vantage GT may only offer one engine but aft of the bell-housing it’s a two-party system. Drivers have a choice of transmission, either a six-speed stick or a seven-ratio Sportshift II automated manual. For maximum enjoyment the test car I evaluated was equipped with the former. Of course this means the Vantage is the only Aston Martin with three pedals. If you want to row your own gears here’s your car.
The engine’s output is routed to the rear wheels through a torque tube instead of a more conventional open driveshaft. This alloy conduit houses a lightweight carbon-fiber propeller shaft that rotates a limited-slip differential for enhanced traction.
The Vantage stickers at 13 MPG city, 19 highway and 15 combined when equipped with the manual. Cars featuring the automatic do slightly better, returning 14 MPG in urban conditions and 21 on the interstate, figures that result in an average of 16 MPG.
Surprisingly after roughly 50 miles of aggressive driving and high-RPM shifting, much of it on California’s scenic Mulholland drive, the car managed to return about 16.5 miles per gallon. Of course this is according to the digital readout in the instrument cluster but still, if it’s accurate that’s a pretty impressive figure given the Vantage’s capability.
Belt and Braces
This car’s body is low and sexy, a theme that’s mostly carried through to the cockpit. Its trim exterior dimensions strongly hint at confined quarters within, something you quickly confirm when sliding inside. There’s precious little cabin room, especially in coupe models; at least roadsters can drop their tops to open things up a little.
I’m an even six feet tall, but if I were any lankier it would be darn uncomfortable inside the Vantage. This car’s seats have fairly limited travel, both fore and aft as well as backrest movement. Additionally the footwells are somewhat intrusive, preventing you from really stretching your legs and the seats are fairly narrow, all things that make the Vantage’s accommodations even cozier. This is not a car for large individuals.
As for the rest of this cabin, for the most part it’s constructed of very high-quality materials. Supple leather abounds, covering the majority of interior surfaces from the steering wheel and shifter to the dashboard and center console. Bright yellow contrast stitching really livened up in the test car I evaluated but some of the seams were slightly uneven. In this class, you should expect perfection and the Vantage’s fit and finish falls a little short.
The car’s technology is another disappointment. I’ve groused about Aston Martin instruments in past reviews and I’m going to do it again. The digital readouts in the Vantage’s cluster and elsewhere look positively archaic, like something borrowed from a graphing calculator. Similarly the turn signal and wiper-control stalks have a brittle, economy-car feel, like they might snap off in your hands.
The same is true of the radio, navigation and climate controls. It’s all very confusing and the array of buttons and knobs on the center stack looks pretty low rent. The saving grace of this whole area is the ignition, which is located front and center on the dashboard. Aston Martin has the coolest keys in the business, crystalline little fobs that you push into a slot to start the engine.
Keen as Mustard
And once this car’s big V8 is up and running you’ll be salivating to take her for a spin. Buckle yourself in and hang on tight because you’re in for a wild ride.
In a world of smartphones, political correctness and helicopter parents, this car reminded me of what it’s like to live. It feels energetic and borderline dangerous, like riding a motorcycle across a tightrope or something. In a way I was surprised it hadn’t been declared illegal by safety or environmental zealots. Maybe next year.
Starting out the clutch is unexpectedly heavy, requiring a beefy left leg to operate. Likewise the shifter requires a firm hand to stir the car’s gears. This is not a machine you can sweet talk, she likes it rough. If you were hoping these controls would feel like light and slick like those in a Volkswagen Golf or something similar you’re in for a shock.
But in spite of its extra-high-effort controls the V8 Vantage GT is incredibly easy to drive smoothly. The clutch engagement point is broad and friendly plus the engine’s torque is reasonably prodigious at low RPM. All told it’s a simple affair to pilot and shift; within a just few blocks you’ll feel like a pro driver, changing gears with the silkiness of a torque-converter automatic and rev-matching perfect downshifts.
With 4.7-liters of fury under the hood, this car is seriously quick, though it really doesn’t come alive until about 5,000 RPM at which point it surges to redline. The Vantage likes to be revved, and hard, something that just encourages you to do naughty things.
While it doesn’t produce the unholy warble Aston Martin’s V12 generates this two-by-four is still a vocal star. The exhaust is rousing and adds another layer to the overall experience. The Vantage is a very visceral machine, you almost drive it with all of you senses opposed to just two or three.
The steering feel is extremely direct and the ratio is quite quick, which makes the Vantage change direction with an eagerness not found in lesser vehicles. Additionally the ride, while firm, is appropriate and gives this car a delinquent demeanor.
With a base price of $99,900, a figure that includes the gas-guzzler tax but NOT $2,825 in destination fees the 2015 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT Coupe falls a whisker shy of the 100-grand mark; they’re offering a legitimate exotic machine for less than six figures. Like retailers selling things for “just” $0.99 the psychology of this pricing is powerful.
But at the end of the day is that enough? You could argue a Jaguar F-Type is more modern or that Porsche’s 911 offers better driver engagement. These are legitimate concerns and when you throw in this car’s cramped interior, antiquated technology and iffy controls things get murky. However, rival cars cannot touch is this machine’s exclusivity; nothing else looks like an Aston Martin and very few people will ever own one. To some drivers that’s all that matters.
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