Aston Martin V8 Vantage

When it comes to performance in a bespoke package, the Aston rules

  • Appearance, strong brakes, sharp steering, good handling, driving position
  • Standard kit, fiddly centre console buttons, servicing costs

Audi claims the R8 is mostly built by hand, but for real craftsmanship, look no further than the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Assembled by a dedicated team at the firm’s factory in Gaydon, Warwickshire, it oozes class and sophistication.

It’s less ostentatious than the Audi, but remains a stunning car to look at. As with its rival, the British coupé uses LED running lights and feels small on the road. That’s not a misleading impression – it’s shorter than the Porsche and not much taller than the Audi. And to improve weight distribution, Aston has mounted the powerplant as far back in the frame as possible – giving it a front mid-engined layout.

This format does limit cabin space. The V8 Vantage is a strict two-seater with little stowage in the cockpit. However, as with the Jag, it has an accessible 300-litre boot and an additional shelf behind the seats. This traditional GT layout serves the Aston well – as does the interior design.

With swathes of leather, a neat Alcantara roof lining and a bold, sweeping dash design, it looks a million dollars. But the finishing lets it down. The buttons on the centre console are fiddly, there’s too much Ford and Volvo switchgear on display and build quality isn’t a match for the Jaguar, let alone the Porsche or Audi.

All this distracts attention from what is possibly the best seat and driving position combination of these four cars, offering a near-perfect blend of comfort and support. This further increases the Aston’s feelgood factor, helping to keep it in contention with the Audi.

But the British car’s 4.3-litre V8 simply can’t match the firepower of the Audi engine, and only just equals the outputs of the Porsche’s unit, which is half a litre smaller. Nevertheless, 380bhp is not to be sniffed at – nor is the fact that 75 per cent of the 410Nm torque figure is available from 1,500rpm.

The trouble is, it doesn’t feel especially potent at low revs, only really picking up the pace once past 4,000rpm. That’s when the noise doubles and the exhaust note hardens, giving the V8 Vantage an aural tone to rival either German.

And according to the stopwatch, when driven flat-out on the test track, it’s not much slower. But somehow the acceleration never seems to have the urgent feel of the R8 or 911. The six-speed manual gearshift isn’t as crisp or positive, and the weighty clutch is hard work in town. The Aston, does, however, have very strong brakes – second only to the 911 in terms of stopping distances.

And it drives well, too. Placing the engine a long way back in the frame and mounting the gearbox in the rear, near the driven wheels, aids weight distribution and balance. As a result of that, and the Vantage’s advanced bonded construction that enhances chassis stiffness, the British car handles very well. The steering is sharp and accurate and there’s minimal roll or weight transfer to upset things.

However, the suspension isn’t as well developed. The dampers fail to absorb bumps as well as any rival, so the Aston doesn’t fully instil confidence and the ride occasionally becomes jittery.

Put simply, the Vantage’s driving experience lacks the last bit of polish that would make it truly great, and also help to justify the high price tag. Nor are equipment levels particularly impressive – you have to pay extra for xenon lights and cruise control, for instance.

Put simply, the Vantage’s driving experience lacks the last bit of polish that would make it truly great, and also help to justify the high

Details

Price: £82,800Model tested: Aston Martin V8 VantageChart position: 3WHY: Audi’s drive upmarket takes it straight into the world of Aston Martin’s hand-built exclusivity.

Economy

The V8 in the Aston requires 15 litres more tank capacity to travel the same distance as the 911. As a result, it has the highest fuel costs in this test, with a 16.2mpg average.

Residuals

Our experts can’t calculate accurate running costs for the Aston due to its exclusivity and low production and sales figures. But it’s safe to say it will be pricier to own than the XKR.

Servicing

Wow! While we expected the Aston’s servicing to be pricey, an average of nearly £1,000 per visit is excessive. That’s the highest figure we have ever been quoted.

Tax

HSBC was unable to supply us with a contract hire price for the Aston, so you will have to shop around if you want to buy that way. Expect monthly figures similar to the R8’s.

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