What's New for 2011
The special-edition N420 is added to the V8 Vantage line for 2011, but is more of a trim package than a performance upgrade. The new V12-powered Vantage is reviewed separately.
There's a generalization that beautiful people can get a free pass in life. A supermodel might be a klutz, but as long as she looks great on the runway, she'll do fine. When it comes to the 2011 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, its looks will override any reservations you might have about flaws in its character. And yet the most affordable version of Aston Martin's GT cars has more than just good looks going for it.
It all starts with Aston Martin's all-aluminum platform, the same basic chassis that also underpins the Aston Martin DB9, Aston Martin DBS and Aston Martin Rapide. The aluminum construction the weight down, while the transaxle mounted aft of the cabin helps deliver an even balance. The Vantage is also the smallest car on this platform, and with its sharp steering and firmer suspension tuning, it's the most sporting of the current Aston Martin lineup.
Hardware isn't the only thing the Vantage shares with its larger, more expensive siblings. Though it lacks the DB9's rear seats, the Vantage otherwise shares the same interior, one impeccably crafted by hand with the same abundance of fine leather and metallic trim. Plus, Aston Martin offers a high level of customization, so the V8 Vantage can match your personal style in a way that few other cars can.
Power is another issue, however. While its 420-horsepower V8 bellows with a marvelous roar and the V8 Vantage nearly matches the rapid acceleration of the V12-powered DB9, this car can't quite match the all-out thrust of comparable cars like the Audi R8, Jaguar XKR, Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and Porsche 911. And indeed, this is a similar theme when talking about the V8 Vantage relative to its competitors. It's a thrilling drive and no one should ever call it slow, but other coupes and convertibles will give you more performance and often do so for less money.
But the competition can't match the Aston Martin's V8 Vantage ability to combine automotive theatre with comfort and practicality. Whatever flaws it may have, the Vantage doesn't need a free pass to entice you into falling in love.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is a two-seat sports car available in two body styles: a hatchback coupe and the convertible Roadster. The V12 Vantage is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, eight-way power seats, power lumbar adjustment, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, a battery deactivation switch (for extended parking) and an audio system with a six-CD changer and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Roadster adds a power soft top.
The options list is extensive and includes items that are often standard at this price range, including cruise control, heated seats, memory functions, satellite radio and a navigation system. Other options include front parking sensors, a wind deflector (for the convertible) and a pair of upgraded sound systems. The Sport Pack adds lightweight forged-aluminum wheels and revised springs, dampers and antiroll bars. Custom paint colors and leather are also available.
The V8 Vantage N420 gets a sport suspension, a lightweight exhaust system, different wheels, carbon-fiber bodywork trim, clear-lens taillamps, power folding mirrors, front parking sensors, cruise control, sport seats, memory functions and Bluetooth. Most of the regular V8 Vantage's options are available, along with faux-suede seat inserts and special paint colors that celebrate Aston Martin's racing heritage: Rose Yellow, Kermit Green, Elwood Blue, Asia Cup Black and White, and Aston Martin Racing Green.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2011 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 good for 420 hp and 346 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic with shift paddles is optional. Aston Martin estimates a manual-equipped coupe will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy with the manual is 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, rear parking sensors and side airbags that provide head and torso protection. The Roadster includes pop-up roll bars. and front parking sensors are available.
Interior Design and Special Features
As long as you don't peek over your shoulder, you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the V8 Vantage and the pricier DB9 2+2. The Vantage has only two seats and there are fewer interior detail options (no choices of wood veneers), but otherwise the two cars share the same front seats, center stack and instrument cluster. Altogether this is a high-class cabin that lives up to the celebrated Aston Martin badge, not to mention this car's lofty price tag. At the same time, there are a number of things missing from the list of standard features, as items like heated seats, driver-seat memory functions, auto-dimming mirror and Bluetooth are instead on the options list. The outdated navigation system is also a notable letdown.
In terms of practicality, the V8 Vantage falls between the comfortable Audi R8 exotic car and the practical Porsche 911 sports car. The Aston's taut roof line limits window area and features thick pillars, which make its occupants feel hunkered down in a restrictive space. There is an adequate amount of space for most drivers and passengers, although the footwells are narrow, as in a sports car. Still, the cargo area beneath this coupe's hatchback provides 10.6 cubic feet of usable space, while the convertible's traditional trunk can swallow 5 cubic feet of stuff. (This is one way in which the V8 Vantage proves more practical than either the Audi R8 or Porsche 911.) Meanwhile, the convertible's power-operated soft top deploys or retracts in about 18 seconds.
Though other exotic cars costing considerably less money can match or better the 2011 Aston Martin V8 Vantage's straight-line performance, none can provide such an enjoyable driving experience. On a curvy road, the V8 Vantage moves confidently while feeding its driver useful information about what's happening at pavement level. It also offers a surprisingly comfortable ride and is easy to drive, making it a plausible choice for road trips and the daily grind. It certainly makes sitting in traffic a happier experience.