Many automakers have tried to design sports cars to take on the seminal Porsche 911. Success has been elusive. The latest automaker to give it a shot is Aston Martin. In the midst of a revival, the brand hopes its all-new 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage will be the 911-slaying silver bullet.
Designed to be the most accessible vehicle in this performance-oriented automaker's lineup, the V8 Vantage costs about $110,000, although the price could rise to as high as $120,000 by the time desirable options such as a navigation system and full leather trim are added. That's about $20,000 more than a fully loaded 911, but Aston buyers are assured of greater exclusivity, as only 2,000 or so units are expected to roll out of AM's plant each year in Gaydon, England.
The new Vantage is possibly the only car in the world that can make the gorgeous DB9 look less than perfect. As a sculpture, the V8 Vantage is one of the most stunning sports cars of all time; the body is tautly stretched over the 102.4-inch wheelbase with minimal overhangs and the fenders cover the 19-inch wheels with devastating sensuousness. The windshield is fitted into its one-piece aluminum frame at such an extreme angle that the car's profile is practically ballistic.
Underneath, the "VH" (Vertical Horizontal) structure that underpins the Vantage is an intricate assembly of aluminum extrusions, steel and magnesium castings and composite body panels, all bonded together with advanced adhesives, self-piercing rivets and welds so beautiful you can run your fingers over them and never feel a bump or a joint.
The Aston's firepower comes courtesy of a 4.3-liter V8 engine. Although a handful of components are shared with V8s used by Jaguar (the two share parent company Ford), Aston says its engine is very much its own. It develops 380 horsepower at 7,300 rpm and 302 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. By introducing a dry-sump oil system, Aston's engineers have been able to mount the engine low in the chassis. It also sits behind the front axle so this is very much a front-midengine car. The weight distribution is a respectable 49-to-51 percent front to rear.
Away from the numbers and on the road, the 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is indeed a very appealing choice for a no-excuses sports car. It's beautifully built and a brilliant performer. There's no doubt that it could be as pleasing to own as a Porsche 911, and the experience would be enhanced by the rarity induced by the car's newness and limited production. But make no mistake: The 911, with its prestigious racing history, rich model lineup and reputation for durability and resale, is in no danger (yet) of losing its status as the ultimate all-around sports car.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is an exotic sports car with a hatchback design. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels wearing 235/45ZR18 tires in front and 275/40ZR18s in back. Inside, the Vantage comes with leather upholstery, automatic climate control, power seats and a six-disc CD changer. Many optional features are also available. These include 19-inch wheels, HID headlights, a navigation system, upgraded leather upholstery, a premium audio system, heated seats and a variety of different wood or metallic trim interior highlights.
Interior Design and Special Features
The new Vantage shares its fascia architecture with the more expensive DB9. Quality leather upholstery and a glass starter button that illuminates in red when pressed greet the driver. Whereas the DB9 has a couple of token rear seats suitable only for go-faster babies, the Vantage is strictly a two-seater. Accommodations for most drivers are adequate, but larger pilots might find the seat and footwell to be too narrow. Outward visibility is hampered by the car's thick pillars. For gear stowage, the V8 Vantage has a 10.6-cubic-foot cargo area that's accessed via the rear hatch.
Though other sports cars costing considerably less money can match or better the Vantage's straight-line performance, none, with the exception of the Porsche 911, can provide such an enjoyable and exotic driving experience overall. On a curvy road, the Vantage moves confidently. It slides progressively and returns to its intended path with little drama. The 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is what it looks like: a seriously fast sports car that delivers on the promise made by its wide tires, gorgeous sound and svelte proportions.