Aston Martin V8 Vantage 2009 Review
December 3, 2008
$76,230 - $87,560
Every day we expect to hit the freeway and be nudged, have drivers cut in front, confront outside lane hogs, late brakers, tail gaters and the general lost souls who don't know where they are and only belatedly know where they want to go.
It's a war zone and for city commuters, it happens twice a day with the same enemy in the same armory on the same roads.
In this turmoil, behind the wheel of a 2009-spec Aston Martin V8 Vantage, you'd at least expect a bit of respect.
In fact, things get worse as the enemy takes on new tactics of eyeballing to the point of distraction and — even worse — failing to note the low-slung car and without indication, deciding to do an impromptu lane change.
Basically, an Aston on the freeway sends the already pack of errant drivers into a series of uncontrollable muscle spasms resembling what a waft of Mortein does to a kitchen-cruising blowfly.
Agog with desire, a few drifted into the lane the Aston and I occupied. One tried to ram the car he was following. A few more spotted the black Vantage in freeway traffic and committed a few regulatory insults by cutting and shoving to reach it.
But an Aston Martin driver should be beyond this.
Not for them the cut and thrust of city traffic but more the open pastures of the less frequented country roads.
You will now expect me to gush obscenely about living with a V8 Vantage for three nights. A sleepover that, normally, you'd be very happy to tell your mates about.
It is not just a beautiful car. It is a stunning car. If it was a woman you would retreat and cringe unworthily into a darkened corner. Well, I would.
It is so drop-dead gorgeous that from a styling perspective it is impossible to update. And if Aston did, in the future, redesign its coupe, the great unwashed would forever mutter: "Yes, but what about the 2008 model?"
Well, Aston has done it. It has changed the V8 Vantage.
All new for 2009 is the coupe you see here. Note the detail of the change and then write 2000 words about it.
Good luck. For though the V8 goes to 4.7 litres from 4.3 litres, the alloy wheel design is altered to become more spidery and the centre console gets a lidded storage bin and a very welcome relocation of switchgear, nothing has changed.
This is still the prettiest thing on four wheels.
Driving it is also pretty much the same, with just a hint of disappointment.
Though up 30kW in power to 313kW and an extra 60Nm to 470Nm in torque, there's no impressive impact in performance.
Sure, the extra torque is noticeable off the mark where — if your clutch work is neat and the gears slot in correctly — it will press you deeper into the thick leather seat.
It'll run the 100km/h sprint a mere 0.1 seconds faster compared with its smaller-engined predecessor.
That's a surprise because despite an extra 15kg of weight on the old model, the new engine runs harder and longer with a brutal attack on the occupants' senses at 4000rpm.
Measured in increments at higher speeds — specifically in the 100-150km/h range which is the "pounce" speeds for overtaking on European roads — there would be a greater difference.
The 4000rpm reference point is where the exhaust system's baffles are bypassed and, basically, all hell breaks loose.
Putting that in perspective, if the shape of the Vantage makes you dribble, the sound of the V8 charging towards its 7500rpm redline with the exhaust baffles open makes your hair curl. And if it's already curled, it'll curl it tighter.
It's quick but could be quicker. I don't dispute the 4.9-second sprint time but it doesn't do it easily. The clutch pedal is firm and the plate has a fine line between free and engaged.
The gearshift, in sympathy with the clutch, is also heavy and notchy and won't forgive a delicate hand. I'll add that the test car had only 3300km on the clock so things could improve.
On its third-to-fourth plane the action is neat and fast. Here, on a winding country road, it's where the Vantage feels far more comfortable than the plodding stop-start of the city.
Rural air unmasks a different, more vibrant Aston Martin. You'd have to question why a city-based commuter would want a manual transmission Aston.
The steering, now lightened at speed with air beneath its grille, is direct and conveys all the coarseness of country bitumen roads.
The brakes reveal their need to be hot and punished before exercising all their power.
And the handling becomes firmer and sharper and every corners begs a quicker entrance and faster exit.
In honing the V8 Vantage, the now privatised Aston Martin company has made a few updates to the cabin.
There is now a centre console with a lid and cables for an iPod and a USB stick.
There is a tiered arrangment on the vertical console section that neatly and ergonomically divides functions into audio, ventilation and a central monitor with a simple yet effective menu selector.
Some switches have remotes on the steering wheel. Symbols of previous Aston Martin owner, Ford, remain.
The master switch for the cruise control, for example, is hidden behind a steering wheel spoke in a fashion recreated in the latest Falcon.
The V8 Vantage gets no rear seats — go to the DB9 for that pleasure — and while its shorter wheelbase gives more acute handling dynamics, there's not a lot of cargo room.
There is no spare wheel — and one wouldn't fit anyway — so instead there's an aerosol kit.
Look closely and it's clear that this Aston would change a cynics mind about British-built cars.
The boot lid, for example, rise on satin-finished gas struts with ornate steel hinges finished in black crinkle paint.
The rain gully around the boot opening is both curved and sharply angled yet the metalwork is seamless and without the blemishes of spot welds, rivets or bolt heads.
Just by touch you can gauge the weight of the leather used for the upholstery. Just by vision you can see perfect cut lines that separate each body panel. And just by listening you accept a body that is taut and free of creaks and rattles.
Someone has taken great care in assembling this car.
In profile the car is beautifully proportioned but its purity makes rear three-quarter vision suffer.
Visibility to the front and rear when parking could be simple guess work — like, guess who's paying for the damage — but for 2009 park sensors are standard front and rear.
But it all comes back to what it looks like. Simply, this is a car you could buy without test driving.
ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE COUPE
Price: from $258,737
Engine: 4.7-litre, V8, quad-cam, 32-valves
Power: 313kW @ 7300rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 5000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-mounted, carbon-fibre prop shaft; rear-drive, LSD
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 290km/h
Economy (official): 13.9 litres/100km
Economy (tested): 16.3 litres/100km
$76,230 - $87,560