Subtle alterations make a big difference when the Vantage is driven hard
23 May 2008

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.

Jamie Corstorphine

Price: £85,000 (£87,500 with Sport Pack)Top Speed: 180mph0-60mph: 4.7secEconomy: 20.4mpgCo2: 328g/kmEngine: V8, 4735cc, petrol Power: 420bhp at 7000rpmTorque: 347lb ft at 5750rpmGearbox: 6-spd manual

Our Verdict

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The Aston Martin DB9 matches the emotion of a Ferrari but it adds practicality and offers an experience unmatched for versatility and all-round appeal

Join the debate


23 May 2008

Plus ca change! Compared to a 911 S, the Vantage's higher cost is acceptable (economies of scale, exclusivity etc), but it's poor performance relative to engine size (4.7 litres vs 3.8), curiously greater weight (aluminium/composite/steel vs 911's ALL-steel) & thirst, still add up to a car that underperforms in all areas, aside from front/rear engine preference & looks. Surely, Aston has to start producing cars that are 'more than just a pretty face' asap?

23 May 2008

And another thought, why re-bore the current Jag-derived V8 to 4.7 litres & not wait for Jag's new 5.0-litre V8, which will also be lighter & more fuel/CO2 efficient? Or does Tata's deal with Ford re Jag not include Aston engine supply?

23 May 2008

this was probably developed around the same time - assuming engines take more then a year to develop. May be they don't need the 300cc extra.

23 May 2008

Disagree with 6th replicant's view. I would love to be in the market for one of these, or a Porsche for that matter. If I was, I don't think I would really give two hoots about the performance comparisons as the figures for the Aston are fantastic in most respects (apart from the fuel economy, but at this price level I reckon most wouldn't be that fussed). It is not all about whether it can beat Porsche or whoever else round the Nurburgring, its still mega fast anyway. The fact that it is a pretty face, sounds FANTASTIC, and has a way superior interior (in terms of perceived luxury if not sportiness) would swing it for me. But I'd imagine any Aston or Porsche would be very rewarding. At this end of the market, unless you're a dedicated track day enthusiast (how many Aston enthusiasts can say that?) I think the performance differences between Aston, Porsche, or whatever else would be irrelevent to 99.99999% of potential buyers. Other than for pub bragging rights.

23 May 2008

Julian, a point that I have been trying to press home for some time now, when Autocar and others bang on about the way a road car performs on track. Exactly right 99.999% of people are not bothered what a road car does on track and would they really be able to tell the difference if they were bothered?

And for what it's worth, even if the Aston is slower I would rather have one over a Porsche anyday. It's not likely to happen though.

23 May 2008

Accept your overall point, julianphillips, from an emotive POV. But it's still a matter of priciple(s) that the Vantage is the shorter car, uses more lightweight materials, has a larger engine, yet is still heavier, slower & thirstier than its main rival - and in engineering terms, surely that is a poor result? And let's not start comparing build-quality & reliability. (And no, I'm not a 911 fan - the engine is in the wrong place!) It's not simply a case of 'pub bragging rights' or track day performance: day-to-day the 911 is quicker & uses less fuel. Fact. I just think that the Vantage should at least match the 911 S - even to be as quick but use a wee bit more fuel cos of the bigger engine would be OK. The pride of British automotive engineering is at stake!!

23 May 2008

Good point, but if only it was that simple.
Beating porsche at their own game is increadibly, unbelievably difficult, and much easier said than done. It isn't a matter of Aston's chief designer saying "hey guys, the 911 is lighter, faster and more ecomonical. Let's make the V8 vantage to match it".

Porsche is one of the richest car companies on the planet, and they have been making and refining the 911 for decades, using some of the finest engineering minds on the planet, with (in recent years) absolutely vast development budgets. It has a bespoke engine, and a bespoke chassis, desgined from the ground up to work together.

The V8 vantage was made under cash-strapped ford, and the whole car probably had the R&D budget of the 911s engine alone. It had to use a hand-me-down engine from Jaguar, and a version of the VH platform underpinning the DB9. It would have taken a miracle for them to out-do the 911, or even match it.

And the differences are pretty slim:
0-60 top speed mpg bhp/litre
Aston 4.7 180 20 89
Porsche 4.6 182 24 92

Admittedly the price is miles different, but that really can be put down to the fact Porsche makes 10 times as many 911s as Aston makes V8 vantages. Personally, if I was in that position, I'd take the exclusivity of the Aston.

23 May 2008

Both Lotus and Noble have proven they can make cars that handle as
well as Porsche's. I think the Aston was just really made on a silly small
budget (as was said) . I know this will sound hard to believe but in all truth
the new Mondeo probably has a better chassis, and as such a small coupe
derived from it with the V8, would be better than the AMV8.

One also gets the feeling that Aston will continue to develop with the

wing and prayer mentality it has up to now; continuing to rely on this

exact chassis for all its future iterations. And this coming from a Mr.
Richards who knows how to make the best handling road cars of all.
Imagine if Mr. R one day drover over in his prodrive designed P2 for
a little back to back drive with this V8. The V8 does look very nice
of course.

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