All the goodness of a V8 Vantage S in a marginally cheaper package

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The Aston Martin Vantage’s eventual replacement isn’t due until 2018, and Aston Martin’s arguably too prominent VH architecture is being revised for the very thing.

Before that there’ll be a new DB9, after which all Aston Martins will be visually and mechanically more differentiated, but in the meantime Aston has to make the best of what it has.

The hydraulically assisted steering is sweet - accurate, feelsome, well-geared, and middlingly weighted

Oh look: new colours. I hesitate to say it, but it feels like Aston is about to enter a Bugatti Veyron/late Lamborghini Gallardo phase. The age of waiting. The age of the Aston Martin special edition. 

This one is called the N430. It’s a V8 Vantage but with Vantage ‘S’ mechanicals (bringing ten more horses to match the numerals stitched into the headrests), and ‘S’ suspension and steering. 

There’s also quite a long list of extras, supplied as standard including five colours like the Alloro Green (‘race’) pictured above. All the base colours are classy, to our eyes. Then there are the contrast cant rails, grille surround and diffuser. Those are… well, why don’t we move on?

Dynamically, things are as we’ve found them previously, which is no bad thing at all. The past two times a Vantage has been eligible for entry in our Britain’s Best Driver’s contest, it has finished on the podium (V8 Vantage S, and V12 Vantage S). 

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So this N430 handles terrifically. The hydraulically assisted steering is sweet – accurate, feelsome, well-geared and middlingly weighted – and near its extremes the Aston Martin Vantage has the sort of handling balance that other manufacturers would do well to use as a benchmark.

It nudges towards steady-state understeer, then can be easily provoked into a neutral or slightly tail-happy line, but every corner is a blank page – you can do with it as you please. 

On the road it’s pretty firm, mind you. The V8 Vantage S gets passive dampers, and so does this N430, so there isn’t the option to slacken or stiffen them like there is in the V12 Vantage S.

However, the ‘S’ is meant to be the keenest Aston to drive, so we’ll forgive it that. You wouldn’t tell off a Porsche 911 GT3 for being ‘a bit firm’. Charming engine? check. Average gearbox? check.

Where we’d send greater criticism the Aston’s way is inside it. We know the reasons and understand them. Aston doesn’t make many cars, and it gradually upgrades things when it can (the fit and finish and communications systems are far better than they were at the V8’s launch nine years ago), but understanding it doesn’t mean a customer will excuse it.

Should you buy one? Depends on your priorities. In some areas, like cabin efficiency, the competition has moved on, and while the Vantage still retains its feel of hand-built charm that’s absent from its rivals, the first time you try and retune the stereo, you’d swap the whole darned thing for a better system put into place by a robot.

Overlook that, though, and the rest of the V8 Vantage N430 package, such as the driving experience - which is, let’s face it, the most important bit of the lot – remain world class. You’re looking at one of the sweetest-handling cars you can buy. And that will never age.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Aston Martin V8 Vantage N430 2014-2015 First drives