The GT8’s super-aggressive sills, splitter, spoiler and diffuser give this Vantage truly jaw-dropping presence when you first lay eyes on it. The cut-outs at the lowest part of the trailing edge of the front wheel arches also look especially pointy and angry. Bits of the car are still pretty, just as the Vantage always has been, but other parts are savagely, gorgeously functional.
There’s another treat in store when you open the door to find it dressed on the interior side in a one-piece carbonfibre panel. But the cabin isn't so sparsely done out as to be missing niceties such as air conditioning or a colour infotainment system, and the seats aren’t so deeply dished as to threaten anyone’s long-distance touring comfort.
Start the engine, then, and prepare for a bigger shock to your eardrums than the late, great Lemmy might once have supplied. We’re used to Vantage V8s being loud – particularly since early owners discovered the function of ‘fuse 22’. But the GT8 sounds as if it’s had the fuse for its active exhaust removed, spat on, stamped on, driven over and then set on fire, before having a megaphone held up to its 4.7-litre V8. Lordy, it’s noisy - and fantastically, deliciously so.
The car’s controls are uniformly heavy, so it takes plenty of muscle to punt around at low speeds. But as ever with the Vantage, they give the car a wonderfully evocative throwback character instantly redolent of a 1960s front-engined GT.
You imagine you’ll need strong wrists and plenty of brave pills if you’re going to drive really quickly. And yet in the event, nothing could be further from the truth. The more speed you carry in the GT8, the lighter and more manageable the steering becomes, while continually feeling supremely feelsome, and positive towards the direction in which the front wheels are actually travelling. Start to time your gear changes carefully as you come down the ratios and the weight and spongy resistance in the linkage melts away. You’re speeding up; the car is responding in turn.
The 4.7-litre V8 still feels somewhat light on mid-range torque, needing to spin to 5000rpm before it peaks, and even then not producing so much of it as to make the GT8 feel effortlessly quick. But there’s a new-found urgency to the car’s acceleration between 5000rpm and the 7500rpm redline, which does ratchet your perception of its outright performance level up a notch. It also comes accompanied by a V8 soundtrack so full-blooded that you’d probably consider wearing earplugs under your helmet if you were going to spend a long track stint at the wheel.
The lightness of the GT8’s V8, compared with the 6.0-litre V12 in the GT12, lends the car a keener and more precise front axle than its bigger sibling – according to Aston’s chassis engineers. And you’d better believe ‘em. Handling balance is first-rate and turn-in is as crisp as any front-engined machine we can think of. The suspension spreads the car’s weight quickly and evenly during hard cornering and lateral grip levels are high – albeit not quite at the level of a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or a McLaren 675LT.
Where the Aston outstrips those cars is exactly where a well-sorted front-engined GT ought to: on handling controllability at the limit. The GT8 is sublimely adjustable and forgiving when it slides. The rear wheels are easy to unload with a lift of the accelerator, and their path relative to the front ones can be pushed ever wider almost by the centimetre. With the electronics in ‘DSC Track’ mode you get some handling adjustability; with them off, you get as much opposite lock as you can handle, as often as you want it. That’s what the glorious linearity of the GT8’s power delivery and the vivid communication of grip levels that comes flowing through rim and seat will do.