► Aston Martin Vantage GT8 driven
► Track-bred sports car packs 440bhp
► All 150 already sold – for £165k each
What’s in a name, as if we couldn’t already guess?
The 8 denotes the number of cylinders under the bonnet. The GT12 had, you guessed it, 12 cylinders – but it also had one other large number on the spec sheet: the price. That car cost a cool £250,000, while the GT8 costs a more reasonable (but only comparatively) £165,000.
So it’s all show and no go?
Not quite. The V8’s been massaged to produced an extra 10bhp, for a 440bhp total, and there’s 361lb ft to help haul you up the hill at Eau Rouge. We’re not talking GT3 RS pace here – 4.4sec to 62mph is an entire second adrift go the Porsche’s best, and seven tenths behind the GT12.
But it feels fairly potent from behind the wheel, offering enough mid-range torque to keep you interested, but not so much that you aren’t compelled to explore the top end of the rev range. Do that and the GT8 rewards with a rich growl so hair-stiffeningly exciting that you’ll never quibble about rivals being a shade quicker from the lights.
But what makes it so much more special than an ordinary Vantage?
What, apart from the fact it looks like Aston’s GTE endurance racer just burst through the trackside wall at Le Mans and out onto the street? There’s no mistaking the jutting front splitter, high level rear wing, and extended side skirts – though not immediately apparent is that they’re all made from carbonfibre, as is the roof, bumpers and wider wings.
Technically, that rear wing and carbon roof are optional, along with polycarbonate rear and side windows, a titanium exhaust and centre-lock wheels. Tick every box and the Aston clocks the scales at 1510kg, a full 100kg less than a Vantage S, and 55kg below a GT12. You’ll end up paying closer to £200k for a GT8 if you do tick every box, mind...
What’s the standout feature?
Probably the steering, which is hydraulically assisted and fizzing with feedback – it’s key to this car’s dynamic appeal. Not that the rest of the package isn’t great, however. The steel brakes are impressively strong and feelsome, and so is the grip level from the sticky track day-focused Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, at least in the dry. In the wet the front end washes out a bit too easily for comfort though, followed in short order by the rear if you’ve got the ESP disengaged.
At low to medium speeds the special passive dampers and spring rates, up 25 per cent at the front and 10 per cent at the back, feel a little stiff – but really get the wheels rolling and the GT8 loosens up beautifully, working as well on real roads as it does in the track.
Any reason not to buy one?
Maybe the fact that all 150 were snapped up long ago. But let’s consider reasons not to be disappointed about that, starting with the terrible single-clutch paddle-shifted gearbox, which goes through the gears in a hideously lethargic manner, even in sport mode.
Fortunately there’s a manual alternative available, something denied to GT12 buyers. But you’ve still got to accept that the GT8 is significantly slower and more expensive than a 911 GT3. It’s also twice the price of the standard Vantage and, as fabulous as it is to drive, it doesn’t feel special enough to justify that premium. But as one CAR reader fortunate enough to be among the 150 pointed out, its rarity will ensure values remain so high that it could actually turn out to be best value Vantage of all.
The all-new DB11-based Vantage is only a year away, but despite this generation’s advancing years, relatively modest performance and awful gearbox, there’s still an awful lot to like here. The GT8 shines when it comes to steering, balance and soundtrack, and ably demonstrates that Aston Martin’s baby sports car is still bang on the pace when it comes to delivering a truly immersive driving experience.
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