What's New for 2008
The limited-production high-performance Vantage N400 debuts for 2008. It includes a more powerful V8 engine, firmer suspension tuning, lightweight wheels and exterior and interior trim changes. It is available in coupe and roadster body styles. The regular Aston Martin V8 Vantage coupe and roadster gain a few standard features for 2008 such as steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, an auxiliary audio jack, cupholders and a windshield-embedded radio antenna (versus body-mounted). Satellite radio is now on the options list.
"Just look at the thing!" That's about the only selling line the 2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage will ever need. If you've seen a V8 Vantage on the road, you know what we're talking about. Few other cars look this, well, sexy. Thankfully, this baby Aston has impressive talent lurking beneath its gorgeous face.
It all starts with Aston Martin's aluminum "VH" platform that also underpins the DB9 and DBS. This intricate assembly of aluminum extrusions, steel and magnesium castings and composite body panels are all bonded together with advance adhesives for light weight and exceptional rigidity. There are other desirable attributes as well, including a rear-mounted transaxle for enhanced weight distribution (49:51, says Aston) and a dry-sump lubrication system for the car's V8 engine.
That engine is a 4.3-liter V8 producing 380 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque. This is good enough to propel the nearly 3,500-pound Vantage coupe from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. While this acceleration time is certainly quick, it's not exactly record-breaking -- line up against a BMW M3 and you're in real danger of embarrassment. An Audi R8 and Porsche 911 -- the Aston's principal competitors -- will likewise leave it in their German dust.
A glimmer of hope comes in the form of 2008's new N400 trim level. Said to commemorate the company's success with its N24 race car at Germany's Nürburgring racetrack, this more sharply focused V8 Vantage comes with 20 more hp, firmer suspension tuning, lightweight wheels and exterior and interior trim changes.
Even in N400 form, this Aston Martin doesn't make much sense from a bang-for-the-buck standpoint. Considering the 911 Carrera S is about $30,000 less, the fiscally conscious should also view the Aston with a very suspicious eye. But there's more to the V8 Vantage than just numbers. In terms of exclusivity, style and character, the V8 Vantage delivers in a big way -- particularly the sexy roadster -- to a degree that no austere German automobile could ever hope to match. And from that standpoint, the V8 Vantage will never disappoint.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is a luxury sports car available in hatchback coupe and soft top roadster body styles. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, a power-operated roof (roadster), rear parking sensors, automatic climate control, a full leather interior, power seats and a 160-watt stereo with six-CD changer, iPod integration, USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
Options include 19-inch wheels, higher-performance tires, special exterior and interior colors, cruise control, xenon headlamps, heated seats, driver memory settings, power-folding mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a navigation system, Bluetooth, satellite radio and an upgraded surround-sound audio system.
The N400 special edition adds a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, lightweight 19-inch wheels, minor exterior and interior trim differences, special colors and most of the Vantage's optional features, including navigation, Bluetooth and the upgraded stereo.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Aston Martin V8 Vantage is powered by a (surprise!) V8 engine displacing 4.3 liters and capable of 380 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque. The N400 features an upgraded version of that engine making 400 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. This power is sent to the rear wheels via a standard six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission with steering-column-mounted paddle shifters. In our performance testing, a manual-equipped V8 Vantage coupe went from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, side airbags and rear parking assist.
Interior Design and Special Features
Despite its lower price tag, you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference inside between the V8 Vantage and its pricier DB9 sibling. The Vantage has only two seats and there are fewer interior detail options, but otherwise, the two cars share the same center stack, front seats and metallic instrument cluster with opposite rotating speedo and tach. As such, the V8 Vantage features a cabin truly befitting its lofty price tag and its celebrated Aston Martin badge (although cruise control and heated seats should not be optional on a $100,000-plus vehicle). Like other luxury sports cars, customers usually special-order their baby Aston and can choose from a variety of special exterior paint and interior leather color choices that stand to make their V8 Vantage truly one of a kind.
In terms of practicality, the V8 Vantage is a mixed bag among the few cars in its class. Its thick pillars and low-profile windows hamper visibility and tend to make occupants feel hunkered down -- a Porsche 911 exudes the exact opposite feeling. Space for most drivers is adequate, but larger occupants may find the seat and footwell too narrow, and headroom a tad tight. Still, the coupe's hatchback cargo area provides an impressive 10.6 cubic feet of usable space, while the roadster's traditional "boot" can swallow 5 cubes of stuff. The roadster's power soft top raises and lowers in about 18 seconds.
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 and Audi R8, can provide such an enjoyable and exotic driving experience overall. The seductive rumble and roar of its dual exhausts is enough to make your knees quiver and you belt out "Rule Britannia." On a curvy road, the Vantage moves confidently. It slides progressively and returns to its intended path with little drama, all the while feeding its driver useful information about what's happening at pavement level. The more aggressive N400 edition ups the ante even further.
The 2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage coupe and roadster are exactly what they look like: seriously fast luxury sports cars that deliver on the promise made by their wide tires, engine specifications and svelte proportions. And yet this Aston is surprisingly easy to drive, making it an ideal daily driver for those who'd like a little excitement with their daily commute.