The British car’s 4.3-litre V8 engine simply can’t match the firepower of more glamorous rivals. 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 past 4,000rpm. That’s when the noise doubles and the exhaust note hardens, giving the V8 Vantage an aural tone to match any rival. A 0-60mph time of 5.1 seconds means acceleration is a match for them, too – but somehow, it never seems to have the urgency of an Audi R8 or Porsche 911. The six-speed manual gearshift isn’t as crisp or positive, and the weighty clutch is hard work in town (though there is a £3,000 semi-auto option). The Aston does, however, have very strong brakes. 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 very jittery. Put simply, the driving experience lacks the last bit of polish that would make it truly great.
For real craftsmanship, look no further than the V8 Vantage. Assembled by a dedicated team at the firm’s factory in Gaydon, it’s hand-built – and oozes class and sophistication. It’s a stunning car to look at. Using LED running lights, it feels small on the road, and that’s not a misleading impression – it’s shorter than a Porsche 911 and not much taller than an Audi R8. They’re the car’s key rivals, with the Aston matching both in terms of image, and easily turning more heads than the Porsche, if not the Audi. As with the 911, a Volante soft-top model is available, but other than that, model choice is currently limited with the V8 Vantage, to just a single engine and optional sports suspension pack. It’s very expensive, too: consider Jaguar’s XKR if you want a good-looking British coupe without spending quite so much.
Cleverly, Aston has mounted the engine as far back in the front of the V8 Vantage as it will go, giving it a front mid-engined layout. However, while this is great for driving dynamics, it does limit cabin space. The baby Aston is a strict two-seater with little stowage in the cockpit. However, it has an accessible 300-litre boot and an additional shelf beneath 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 Jaguar – let alone Porsche or Audi. Don’t let this detract from a superb seat and driving position combination, though. The Aston offers a near-perfect blend of comfort and support, further increasing its feelgood factor. That will be shattered when you look at running costs, though! The V8 Vantage averages just 16.2mpg, but this pales when you consider that every 10,000 miles, it demands a service that average out at £1,000 per visit. That’s the highest figure we have ever been quoted. Then again, given a heady list price, plus the fact that essentials like xenon lights and cruise control reside on the options list, perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised. Put simply, the Aston is an expensive car to buy and to run.