What is it?
Well, it certainly isn’t a facelift, because despite considerable under-the-skin modifications, the exterior of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage has been left unaltered except for a new wheel design. The big news in what Aston is calling a “technical enhancement” – an enlargement of the V8 from 4.3 to 4.7 litres, with power rising to 420bhp (up 11 per cent) and torque to 347lb ft (up 15 per cent).
The chassis has been tweaked, with the coupé inheriting the improved components and stiffer spring rates already fitted to the roadster, and Bilstein dampers are now standard. And there’s now the option of a Sports Pack (lighter wheels, firmer springs and retuned dampers), available on both roadster and coupé, and it’s a manual coupé with this fitted that’s tested here. The interior gets the same tidier but still fiddly fascia from the DB9 and DBS, and with it the ‘Emotion Control Unit’ key replacement.
What’s it like?
First impressions are not good. While the gearchange has certainly improved since the very first cars and there’s now a lighter clutch, the V8 Vantage remains a physical car to thread through traffic, more so with the Sports Pack’s stiffer springs adding a firmness to the low-speed ride.
And although the added power is noticeable at low revs, I was expecting more. The disappointment persists until I find a road to the middle of nowhere and discover that when wound past 3500rpm the Vantage reacts more keenly to your right foot and gains momentum with more urgency.
Officially 0.2sec has been shaved from the 0-60mph time, but subjectively the in-gear performance feels stronger still. The noise is different too – a touch quieter and a little less shrill, the effect of the exhaust bypass value less polar but overall no less satisfying. Less effect and more substance, I’d say.
So to really appreciate the engine enhancements the Vantage needs a little commitment from its driver, and it’s a similar story with the chassis. Driven at five-tenths, the V8 feels similar to the original, only better damped, but it’s when you, or the road, start making tougher demands that the improvements shine.
With the £2500 Sports Pack fitted, the Vantage grips harder and the front and rear axles now work more harmoniously. Being front-engined and rear-wheel drive, the Vantage still needs a classic ‘slow in, fast out’ approach, but the front end can now be leant on more reliably and the extra poke exploited. Body control is also improved, now bordering on excellent, effectively keeping bodywork and tarmac separate without adversely affecting comfort.
Should I buy one?
If you’ve always been tempted by the Vantage but wished it hit a bit harder, well, now it does. Given current economic worries and the raft of competitor activity, Aston has wisely resisted the temptation to use this refresh to jack up prices, the coupé rising just £2000.
Aston’s revisions for the Vantage are far from glaring – it takes time and a decent drive to fully reveal them – but invest this and you’ll find a car that preserves the character of the original, but adds polish where it was needed. Better still, the changes are as cohesive as they are individually effective. The final reckoning comes at the end of long drive. Before, you’d want more from the car; now you just want more time with it.