From £87,495
The Vantage feels well developed and together. It's undoubtedly the best car Aston makes, and probably the best it ever has. Now, you can choose an Aston for style and not feel compromised on everything else.

Right now, Aston Martin makes the most remarkable range of cars in the world. Not since The Corrs (less aesthetically blessed brother excepted) has a gene pool produced better looking siblings. And, like the caramel-tonsilled Irish warblers, the collective beauty is all the more stunning for the almost clone-like similarities between the three models.Porsche may have evolved a single idea over generations, but Aston has elected to give us simultaneous reinterpretations of the same car to suit different pockets: oil-well deep (Vanquish S), mid-table premier league footballer (DB9) and well-heeled enthusiast (V8 Vantage).The DNA might be shared, but the flesh is different. Younger, lither, more responsive, the V8 Vantage isn't a cut-price, two-seat DB9 with four fewer cylinders. In fact, it isn't much of a GT at all. It's closer to being a pure sportscar: not so much a denuded V12, more the DB4 GT reimagined. It's also the second model to use Aston's new aluminum VH platform and is intended to bring Aston ownership to that much wider discerning audience. It costs £79,000 and that's Porsche 911 Carrera S territory.Aston boss Dr. Ulrich Bez unveiled the V8 Vantage at the Geneva motorshow earlier in the year. He said it was the culmination of the first phase of the reinvigoration of Aston Martin and "the most important car in the company's history". And it almost certainly is.The Vanquish and DB9 have been astonishing scene setters for Aston but the V8 is pivotal, the car entrusted with the task of returning Aston Martin to profitablility and lowering the average age of its customer base. AM's future depends on this car. And that means building the V8 Vantage in what, for Aston, is unprecedented numbers. By next summer, more V8s will be rolling out of the new factory in Gaydon than DB9 and Vanquish combined, representing some 3000 of Aston's planned 5000 annual output. Not bad going for what has hitherto been one of the world's least productive marques. To put it into perspective, that's a few hundred more cars each year than Ferrari.Power for the Vantage comes from what Aston calls an "all-new" but is in fact a Jaguar-derived (almost unrecognisably re-worked) 4.3-litre quad-cam 32-valve V8 that develops 380bhp at 7000rpm and 302lb ft at 5000rpm. It also has race-style dry sump lubrication which lets the engine sit deeper in the bay and lowers the centre of gravity to the benefit of the handling.In the best Aston tradition, the engine is assembled by hand at the new AM facility in Cologne which also builds the V12 for the DB9 and Vanquish S. It sits well back in the engine bay and is mated with a transaxle, allowing for the six-speed manual transmission to be mounted at the rear, giving a near ideal 49:51 front:rear weight distribution. A DB9 style paddle shift is on its way but after hearing what product development director Jeremy Main has to say about the manual 'box - he claims it's "one of the best manual gearchanges in the world - we'd be inclined not to bother.Based on a DB9 platform shortened by 150mm, the strictly two-seat-plus-decent boot V8 Vantage also lifts DB9 running gear and sub-systems from stem to stern, including its double wishbone suspension.The car is built around a lightweight aluminium structure, bonded with aerospace-style adhesives and rivets rather than traditional welds and the exterior panels are a combination of aluminium, steel and composite materials, with more than a smattering of magnesium components to further save weight. Arguably more important in the showroom, it looks fabulously purposeful with minimal front and rear overhangs and rear wheels that appear to push to the very edge of their subtly distended arches. The DB9 looks distinctly feminine by comparison. Could this be the best looking current Aston? By a whisker.Best looking current Aston interior? By a mile. The classiness of the dials alone deserves an award. Then there the spare but sensual architecture, the tasteful aluminum accents, the hand-stitched leather - it's the triumph the original Vanquish so desperately wanted to be. Design director Sarah Maynard says: "We wanted to continue to evolve the interior design we started with the DB9 while ensuring that V8 Vantage reflected the new direction the company is now taking. Everything you touch within the cabin area is special to Aston Martin." Just special will do.Nothing less than plenty in the go department would do given the latest Aston's historically horny name. So let's not mince statistics. Aston claims a top speed of over 180mph and 0-60mph in under five seconds. Not monstrously quick, maybe, but rapid enough to stare down a regular 911. That was always the minimum requirement. But the stats aren't even half the story with this car. To begin with, they even create a sense of urgency that's almost too well hidden. There's little about the hollow, slightly gutteral, but essentially subdued timbre of the burbling engine note at idle to warn the unsuspecting of what lies in wait.At rest, or trickling around town on a light throttle, this Aston is docility personified. Progress is smooth, measured, refined, distinctly un-hairy. Ease the power in gently and the V8 Vantage responds in kind, surging forwards on a fortified impulse but with little additional excitement.The clutch is remarkably light and the gearchange wonderfully precise and positive. No driveline snatch, either. Moving the V8 Vantage through the traffic is effortlessly easy. It's comfortable in here, too. And so elegant. Much of the cabin looks as if it's been sculpted from a solid chunk of leather. The slim seats offer man-sized lateral and under-thigh support and a huge span of adjustability while the driving position is laid-back perfection. It's easy to get lulled into a false sense of cosiness, an impression massaged by the outstandingly good secondary ride which filters small bumps and road surface scars with surprising facility.But take to the open road with closer inspection of the horizon in mind and life changes dramatically. Recent memories of drifting through the 'burbs evaporate like a pleasant daydream. To realise the potential pace of the V8 Vantage requires a mental as well as physical change of gear. If it's your intention to feel the carpet with the toe of your right foot, you'd better tense up other parts of your body.It is said that when the V8 Vantage gets angry, you can hear it from a couple of miles away. Believe it. I wouldn't be surprised if astronauts on the international space station didn't have their noses pressed against the windows. The Vantage howls like no other car currently on sale. The small hairs on the back of your neck don't so much stand up as faint. No, it isn't a sophisticated, multi-layered sound but it is raw and loud and violent and very, very V8. If they ever remake Bullitt, they know where to come for the Mustang's soundtrack. A 911 might make 60mph a fraction faster but it doesn't come close to matching the Aston's audio-visceral experience.The chassis is a thing of greater finesse, supplementing phenomenal grip with faster responses and more acute direction changing abilities than any Aston has ever had.The car has all around control arm suspension, giant ventilated disc brakes with four-piston monoblock calipers, and standard 18-inch wheels and tyres. In effect it's a DB9 chassis not only shortened but stiffening and granted 250 kilos of weight saving. The DB9's speed-sensitive steering system has also be omitted - another good call. The V8 Vantage corners flat and very fast.Of all Aston's recent models it's the one most transparently dedicated to the provision of pure driving pleasure. It looks gorgeous, sounds shattering in full cry, is very quick and handles beautifully.David Vivian

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