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Aston Martin V8 Vantage S (2011 - 2017): a stunning analogue Aston for hot hatch money

The Vantage S is a V8 Brit that’s becoming even more appealing with age, especially given its price point in 2024

As it rumbled towards retirement, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage felt increasingly detached from its ever-more advanced and capable opposition. It is an unashamedly old-school car, and while that sometimes held it back in contemporary group tests, the tide has turned and now the V8 Vantage – particularly in S guise – feels wonderfully pure and refreshing.

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Launched in 2005, the V8 Vantage saw continuous development throughout its life, and with the S version, which went on sale in 2011, the package took a big step forward. A more intense, exciting and evocative V8 variant came in 2016 in the form of the bewinged GT8, but the Vantage has always been an elegant sporting GT at heart. With its 4.7-litre engine generating 430bhp, the Vantage S doesn’t grab headlines, but its performance, size and grip work together in supreme harmony. 

> New Aston Martin Vantage has Porsche’s 911 Turbo in its sights

Unlike the GT8, the S is far more at home on the road than it is the track, and that’s fine by us. Set off and it’s the quick-ratio hydraulically assisted steering that gets you first, clear in its feedback and measured in its responses. A firm but pliant edge to the ride adds to the sense of connection. The S’s tweaked suspension feels very well judged, and the car is exploitable and thrilling in the way that the best front-engined, rear-drive sports cars always are. The V8 feels muscular and sounds terrific without being overly sharp in its responses, with a strong, useable level of performance for the road. The Vantage doesn’t bite when you approach the limit either, partly because it communicates so well, but mostly because it has a neutral balance that draws you into carrying more and more speed with justified confidence. 

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Given its lengthy production run, the Vantage falls within a wide price bracket on the used market, but we’d avoid high-mileage early examples, tempting though they are. Our pick would be the S model for its extra power and dynamic enhancements, including a quicker steering rack and larger brakes. It represents great value from around £40,000. If you have more to spend you can go further with the motorsport-inspired N430 special edition, which features exterior paint accents that mimic those of the Vantage GT3 racers of the time, along with lightweight forged wheels and carbonfibre interior trim. It certainly looks and feels like a more focused machine, and it’s got rarity on its side with only 150 having been sold worldwide, but it’s not hugely dissimilar to the more plentiful and equally powerful S. 

The Vantage S was offered with either a Prodrive-developed seven-speed single-clutch auto or a six-speed manual gearbox, the latter rarer but far more involving. It’s also worth looking out for cars from 2016 onwards, which saw the baby Aston gain a new Vanquish-inspired dashboard with a far neater control suite and a slicker (for an Aston) infotainment system.

Whichever model you choose, the Vantage has proved to be reliable if maintained properly. The engine is as tough as it sounds, both gearboxes are more than up to the job of handling the V8’s outputs, and the extruded aluminium chassis isn’t prone to rust – although the steel rear subframe can corrode. A Vantage S in rude health, particularly with the manual ’box, emanates exactly the kind of noise, beauty and interaction that defines the greatest Aston Martins, making it a hugely desirable used choice.

What we thought

'As in the V12 Vantage, you play gently with the grip on the front end through long, fast corners, although with less weight in the V8’s nose, it adjusts and reacts more quickly. Then you get on the throttle, sense the loads alter, and the front-engine, rear-drive balance just feels so right. It’s a car that makes you want to drive, and then keep driving, which is why I ignore the prescribed route and go off for longer than I probably should…

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The engine seems to have been unshackled too. With shorter gears it always seems to be eager to rev, spinning up easily and encouraging you to just keep accelerating or overtaking. The ride is firm and controlled, which I like, but not harsh, although UK roads will admittedly be more of a test than Spanish ones.

The one small fly in the ointment is the way the gearbox changes up. Pull back on the right-hand magnesium paddle (which, incidentally, has a very nicely weighted action) and, even in Sport mode, the ECU dictates how fast the gearshift is depending on where you are in the rev-range. It’s not a problem if you are changing on the limiter on track, as the shift is banged through brutally fast, but if you shift earlier you get a slower change and a longer torque interruption. Change at 5000rpm and there’s a niggling pause-engage, which just interrupts the flow on road and isn’t what we’ve come to expect from the best paddleshifts.

There’s not much short-shifting when we’re allowed out on the track later. I’m not wild about circuits, but Ascari is a bit special, with so many interesting and daunting corners and cambers that you could spend years learning it. On some launches you’d get two or three laps, but to its credit Aston just leaves us to it.

The brakes start fading a bit after three or four rounds, but ease the pace sympathetically for a lap (concentrate on going sideways instead of quickly) and they come back nicely. It bodes very well for anyone wanting to do trackdays. Indeed, if this were a track-only review, the car would get five stars, but the behaviour of the gearbox on the road means that, as much as I like the Vantage S, it has to be four and a half.' – Henry Catchpole, evo 156

Aston Martin V8 Vantage S specs

EngineV8, 4735cc
Power430bhp @ 7300rpm
Torque361lb ft @ 5000rpm
Weight1610kg
Power-to-weight271bhp/ton
0-62mph4.8sec
Top speed190mph
Price new£102,500
Price todayFrom £40,000
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