Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe (2008) review

Published:22 May 2008

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

It might look exactly the same, but there's a new 4.7-litre V8 in this Aston Martin Vantage. The suspension, steering, interior and transmission  of the V8 Vantage has also been significantly revised. The revisions push the V8 Vantage’s price from £83,000 to £85,000.

This new Aston Martin V8 Vantage still looks the same to me.

If you’ve already got a Vantage you’ll be pleased to hear that the new model is indeed identical on the outside. Step inside, however, and you’ll notice that the centre console has been tweaked to look much like the DBS with its so-called Emotional Control Unit and theatrical push-the-key-in-the-slot start-up procedure.

There are also some useful extras including iPod and MP3 integration and a 30GB hard disc drive sat-nav that replaces the previous DVD-based system. The comfy leather seats remain but you’ll still notice that a little more support wouldn’t go amiss through quicker corners.

And it still sounds great, right?

Yes indeed. The bypass valve in the exhaust still opens at around 4000rpm, so it still has that head-turning, whip-crack soundtrack. Previously it sounded better than it went, but now the 4.3-litre V8 has been bored and stroked to 4.7-litres. The bore goes up from 89mm to 91mm thanks to new pistons and cylinder liners, while the stroke is upped from 86 to 91mm with an all-new crankshaft.

That translates to 420bhp and 346lb ft (up from 380bhp and 302lb ft respectively) and much more urgent progress on the road. There’s instant shove as soon as you drop the accelerator, and one long progressive rush to beyond 7000rpm.

A very unscientific test against a hard-charging E92 V8 M3 on the autobahn suggested the Aston had the legs on the BMW from 60mph until traffic intervened at around 160mph. And the M3 isn’t slow!

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Aston Martin V8 Vantage first drive

We’ll pay for that at the pumps, then.

Impressively both emissions and fuel consumption are down considerably. When the V8 was first developed the focus wasn’t really on C02, so now they’ve put their minds to it Aston’s engineers have been able to down-size that all important carbon footprint from 358g/km to 328g/km (360 to 312g/km Sportshift). Likewise, mpg rises from 18.8mpg to 20.4mpg (18.7mpg to 21.4mpg Sportshift).

How does it handle?

Well. The Vantage has loads of grip, it’s agile and it’s pretty benign too. Get to a twisty road and enthusiastic drivers will find the one-stage traction control a little too keen to intervene. But switch it off and the Aston feels highly exploitable and controllable when the rear end does break away.

That’ll be the chassis revisions, then. Improvements introduced with the Roadster last year have now been carried over to the Coupe. It gets new upper damper mountings and revised bump stops plus front springs stiffened by 11 percent and rears by 5 percent.

Despite claims that the Roadster would be stiffer (thanks to the extra structural stiffening required to compensate for the chopped roof), we actually found the Roadster to serve up a near perfect blend of suppleness and control where the Coupe’s ride was noticeably more jagged.

We also found apparently identical brakes on two different Coupes to have very different pedal responses, one instant and bitey, the other noticeably softer though still as effective.

And the steering?

It’s also revised, the alignment modified to improve steering feel, while the front lower suspension arm compliance bushes are stiffened by 22 percent to counter criticisms that the old car’s helm was a little vague.

Move the steering away from the dead ahead and, while it’s light, there’s instant meat giving some vital feedback. It’s progressively linear too but the initial feel fails to develop into the proper weight it promises when you commit to a bend – something that’s solved with the optional Sports Pack.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Aston Martin V8 Vantage first drive

 

Sports Pack? I’m all ears.

For a £2495 premium you get more robust-looking forged lightweight five-spoke alloys (the same 20-inch diameter as standard with the same tyre sizes), revised Bilstein dampers, uprated springs (45 percent stiffer on the Coupe, 25 percent stiffer on the Roadster) and a revised rear anti-roll bar (Coupe only).

So equipped, the V8 Vantage corners flatter, rides a little firmer (the damper travel is tighter, meaning vertical movements are more abrupt and imperfections in the road are transmitted more clearly) without being crashy.

The suspension changes also add the extra steering weight on turn-in that the standard car promises but fails to deliver. It’s unfortunate that you can’t have the better steering with softer suspension but, on balance, the Sports Pack is an option we’d tick.

Also worth bearing in mind is that, for now, the Sports Pack is factory fit only, but a well-placed source suggests it will eventually become a retro-fit option – a good way of refreshing a second-hand car, although we can’t imagine the package being quite so cheap. Not with those wheels.

Should I choose the manual gearbox or the Sportshift automated manual?

We drove two Coupes – one with and one without the optional Sports Pack mentioned above – but both were manual. We’ll deal with the manual here, but the Sportshift is examined in detail in the Roadster review.

The manual six-speeder is improved with a revised clutch design to make it a less physically demanding drive. But it still feels old school in a TVR kind of way. The shift between gates is smooth enough, but the linkages required for a front-engined/transaxle (ie the gearbox is located at the back axle) layout means the gear engagement can feel a bit baggy. We also struggled to engage first cleanly at a couple of junctions.

Heel and toe gear changes (blipping the throttle to smooth the transition between gears while downshifting and braking), are useful for smoothing out clunky shifts. But with the Vantage featuring a wide transmission tunnel, it’s difficult to cant your right foot into the perfect position. It is possible to do, but I rarely got it right in nearly 200 miles of driving. Maybe it will be easier in right-hand drive cars with the accelerator located away from the transmission tunnel. And maybe you couldn’t care less about heeling and toeing!

If there’s a manual on offer, usually I’ll take it. But, like 80 percent of Vantage buyers, I’ll have my Vantage with Sportshift please.

Verdict

The style remains the same, but Aston has addressed some key criticisms of the original car. The big draw is the engine – upped from 4.2 to 4.7-litres – which at last delivers the performance that the looks promise. Also welcome are the chassis improvements, which strike a good balance between ride and handling without having to resort to twin- or triple-mode dampers.

All in, the V8 Vantage has been holistically improved without drawback. It has more character than a 911, more style than a BMW M6, more badge appeal than a Jaguar XK and a sportier edge than the Maserati Granturismo S.

It’s still a four star car, but this time it’s much closer to five.

 

 
 
 

Specs

Price when new: £85,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4.7-litre 32v V8, 420bhp @ 7400rpm, 346lb ft @ 5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.9sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 20.4mpg, 328g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1630kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4380/1865//1255

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Photo Gallery

  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Coupe first drive CAR review: side view picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Coupe first drive CAR review: picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Coupe first drive CAR review: side view picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Coupe first drive CAR review: front view picture
  • Aston Martin 4.7-litre V8 Vantage Coupe first drive CAR review: side view picture

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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