What is it?
This is the new MY12 V8 Vantage, Aston Martin’s entry-level model. It adopts some of the cosmetic and hardware upgrades first seen in the Vantage S. The price has also been revised with the basic manual transmission model you see here costing £84,995, a reduction of some £5900.
The changes are comprehensive and effective. Bigger front brakes with four-pot callipers, quicker steering and 10mm wider tyres complete the standard hardware changes, while a lower front splitter and bigger rear diffuser together with a new design of alloy wheel complete the styling tweaks. The most significant option is the seven-speed Sportshift II ‘box, which now replaces the obsolete six-speed paddle-shift unit. There’s also a choice of standard ‘comfort’ suspension or optional ‘Sport’ suspension, which is essentially Vantage S settings.
What’s it like to drive?
There are faster and more technologically advanced cars in the baby Aston’s sector, but few offer its poise, balance and enthusiasm for being driven hard. The 4.7-litre V8 (still developing 420bhp) is a bit long in the tooth, but is no less endearing for that, while the chassis remains one of the best exemplars of all that’s great about a front-mid-engined layout.
The bald output and performance stats aren’t startling yet there’s definitely something special about how the Aston feels. The standard ‘Comfort’ suspension set-up offers a little more pliancy than the unashamedly firm – but still controlled – Sport set-up, which is from the Vantage S. The weighty steering is a little dead for the first fraction of a turn either side of straight ahead, but once you’re applying lock the weight and feedback gives you a perfect picture of what the front tyres are doing. The balance is neutral, and it’s a willing and intuitive car to drive up to and over the limit. Few 400+bhp cars are more fun to hustle.
The new brakes are a big improvement in terms of outright stopping power and stamina, although on this test car they were also overly responsive to initial brake inputs. I don’t recall them feeling like this on the last Vantage S I drove, so will reserve judgement until I’ve tried another.
It’s a sign of the times when you’re surprised to find a gearlever protruding from the transmission tunnel of a newly introduced car, but when you nail the perfect redline upshift or execute a sweet series of heel-and-toe downshifts - accompanied by an approving gargle from the V8’s twin exhausts – the simple, enduring pleasures of a manual gearbox are made abundantly clear. To be given the choice suggests Aston understands these things matter to people like us.
How does it compare?
The entry-level Aston is working hard to keep station with its newer rivals, but there’s no question it’s as handsome as the day it was launched back in 2003. The price reduction is a big help, especially in the face of Porsche’s bullish pricing of the new 911, and in terms of purity and tactility its actually gained ground on the more accomplished, but less endearing 991. Ultimately the revised Vantage still hits the spot.
Anything else I need to know?
These MY12 upgrades also apply to the V8 Vantage Roadster. Prices have also been revised downwards, with the base Vantage Roadster is now £5000 cheaper at £93,995.