What's New for 2012
The 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage gets a few updates this year. The base model is now equipped with the seven-speed automated manual transmission, quicker steering, bigger brakes and wider tires from the Vantage S. A new optional navigation system also arrives for 2012, replacing the Vantage's previous, much-maligned navigation system. The Vantage also receives slightly updated exterior styling.
Being beautiful can get you far in life. It can get you a free drink at a bar or your family a reality show on E! For the 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, being beautiful can also help you get noticed when a variety of less expensive rivals boast more thrilling performance and sharper handling.
That's not to say the Vantage is talentless -- far from it -- but this isn't a car you buy based on the merits presented in a spec sheet or generated at a test track. It's about a car that'll make you place a chair in your garage just to stare at it. It's about a car that still draws admiring glances even after six years on the market. It's about a car built in limited numbers to your exact specification. It's about a car with a cabin lined in sumptuous leather that makes you feel as if you're driving something truly special. And truth be told, you are.
For 2012, the Vantage gets a little more special. The automated manual transmission, quicker steering, bigger brakes and wider tires from the last year's new Vantage S model are now standard across the board and make for a sharper driver's car. For extra power and more aggressive suspension tuning, you still have to step up to the Vantage S or the V12 Vantage (discussed in a separate review). Other changes this year include a subtle styling update you'd be lucky to notice and a new, much improved navigation system.
The question, of course, is whether this special car is worth almost $26,000 more than the new Porsche 911 Carrera S, which matches the V8 Vantage in terms of acceleration and blows it away through corners. The Audi R8 is blessed with similar dynamic advantages, for roughly the same price as the Aston.
But there we go talking about specs, facts and which car transmits the most information through its steering wheel. Truth be told, we're comparing and contrasting varying degrees of awesome. At this price point, the question is really: "Does the 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage excite you more than a 911, R8, Maserati Gran Turismo or Jaguar XKR?" Ultimately, you'll weigh any number of factors, but there's no doubt the answer will be based to some degree on character, style, and yes, beauty. If nothing else, the Aston Martin Vantage will forever have an abundance of all three.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage seats two people and is available as a hatchback coupe and a convertible Roadster. There are two trim levels that deliver a different degree of performance: Vantage and Vantage S. The V12 Vantage is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, 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, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB audio jack and an iPod interface. The Roadster adds a power soft top.
The optional Sport Pack adds lightweight forged-aluminum wheels and revised springs, dampers and antiroll bars. The N420 Special Edition includes these items, along with special styling elements, unique gloss-black wheels, faux-suede trim for the steering wheel, cruise control, front parking sensors, Bluetooth and the availability of special colors. It is also 60 pounds lighter than the base V8 Vantage.
The Vantage S gets a more powerful engine, revised suspension tuning, unique styling elements, cruise control, Bluetooth and piano black wood trim.
The options list is extensive and includes items that are often standard at this price range, including heated seats, driver memory functions, satellite radio, a navigation system and on the base Vantage, cruise control and Bluetooth. Other options include front parking sensors, a wind deflector (for the convertible), an Aston Martin premium audio system and a Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system. Custom paint and leather colors are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 that produces 420 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a seven-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission is optional.
Aston Martin estimates a manual-equipped coupe will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds -- about the same as an Audi R8 or Porsche 911 Carrera S. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined with the manual transmission and 14/20/16 with the automatic.
The Vantage S gets a version of the same engine bumped up to 430 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque. Aston Martin estimates it will return 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway.
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 rollbars, 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 DB9, DBS or Virage. The Vantage has only two seats while the others are available as a 2+2, plus there are fewer interior detail options (no choices of wood veneers), but otherwise the Vantage shares the same dash design, controls and instrument cluster as its pricier siblings.
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, an auto-dimming mirror and Bluetooth are instead on the options list. At least the horrible old navigation system has been replaced in favor of a much better Garmin-powered unit this year.
In terms of practicality, the Aston's squat greenhouse and thick roof pillars can make occupants feel hunkered down in a restrictive space. There is an adequate amount of room for most drivers and passengers, although the footwells are a bit narrow. In comparison, even the Porsche 911 feels spacious. Still, the cargo area beneath the Vantage coupe's hatchback provides 10.6 cubic feet of usable space, while the convertible's traditional trunk can swallow 5 cubic feet of stuff. That makes the Vantage a better choice for a road trip than either of its German rivals. Meanwhile, the convertible's power-operated soft top deploys or retracts in about 18 seconds.
Though other cars that cost considerably less money can match or better the 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage's performance, you're still going to have an awful lot of fun behind the wheel. On a curving road, the V8 Vantage moves confidently, while feeding its driver useful information about what's happening at pavement level. This Aston Martin also offers a surprisingly comfortable ride and is easy to drive, making it a plausible choice for road trips and the daily grind. Outright acceleration is arguably a little disappointing for this class of car and the single-clutch automated manual may be a little jerky at slower speeds, but nobody will have complaints about the V8's seductive exhaust sound.
The new Vantage S ups the performance level considerably, representing the latest advancements in Aston Martin's engineering capabilities. The suspension is revised, the steering quickened and the tires wider. This makes the Vantage S a must-have for those who want the best handling possible, as it changes direction with precision thanks to perfectly weighted and ultra-responsive steering. Unfortunately, this comes with a rather un-Aston ride that can be teeth-chattering on rough roads.