What is the Aston Martin Vantage?
This is the stalwart of the Aston Martin range, a foot soldier that has been on the front line of the sports car battle since it went on sale in 2006. It is available as a two-seat coupé or roadster, and there are V8 and V12 versions and a special edition N430. However, no amount of tinkering and updating can hide that fact that, compared with competitor cars from the likes of Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Maserati and Porsche, the Vantage is showing its age in significant areas.
The current range was introduced in 2012, when a raft of cosmetic and mechanical improvements were introduced ‒ including a very welcome, seven-speed automated single-clutch transmission. The V8 Vantage is priced from £86,080 (or £95,080 for the roadster) and ‒ with our sensible hat on for a moment ‒ truth be told it’s probably the best model in the range.
However, who wants to be sensible when there is the astonishingly good V12 Vantage S as well (even if it does cost from £138,000)? It’s the best performance car that Aston Martin builds ‒ better, we suspect, than the £1m One-77. (And if you own a One-77 and disagree, get in touch and we’ll arrange a head to head comparison…)
The Vantage may be getting on but like a professional boxer who’s done their time in the ring, it can still put on a formidable fight compared with the Porsche 911, the benchmark for this class of car.
All models are built around an aluminium chassis, which is used throughout the Aston Martin range. It is relatively light and stiff, and makes a sound basis for the suspension and steering to work from. The engines are mounted as far back in the bay as possible, to the point that the 1,630kg V8 version achieves the ideal 50/50 weight distribution. In 2012, changes made to the steering, suspension and tyres elevated the driving experience of the V8 and V12 Vantage models to the top of the sports car league.
The 420bhp V8 sounds great the harder you rev it, and the V12 S positively blows your mind. Both are quick cars ‒ 0-62mph takes 4.8 or 3.9 seconds respectively ‒ but it’s the 565bhp V12 S that leaves the most lasting impression. Since it is naturally aspirated (a rarity these days) the response to the throttle is immediate and perfectly measured. The V12 pulls smoothly from 1,000rpm yet punches like a champion heavyweight at the top of its rev range.
While neither is as relaxing to drive as more modern rivals (the ride comfort is firm, the noise in the cabin too loud) both models are thrilling and inspire a great deal of confidence when you’re pushing their tyres to the limit of adhesion. The Vantage tells its driver what is happening at all times ‒ through the seat of their pants and via the particularly good steering system ‒ and for such a big machine, this Aston displays the delicate touch of a glass blower.
Drivers who commute may prefer to ditch the standard manual gearbox, with its heavy clutch, and instead choose the Sportshift automatic. It is standard on the V12 S, which is a shame. It doesn’t respond with the immediacy, or change gear with the smoothness, of a double-clutch system, but it is good enough to ensure the driving experience isn’t tarnished.
The Vantage still looks as good as the day it was launched, but beneath the bodywork the interior is showing signs of its advancing years. If cars could age, the Vantage’s cabin would be going grey and wearing wrinkles. Press then pull the pop-out handle to open the door and from a distance the cabin looks suitably luxurious and inviting. A lot of cows went into the Vantage’s interior; there are acres of soft-touch leather, with contrasting stitching, set against alloy furnishings, and the deeply sculpted sports seats snugly embrace the driver.
But bum notes abound. There are nearly as many small switches on the centre console as on the flight desk of a Boeing Dreamliner ‒ and being the same shape they’re all impossible to distinguish between, either at a glance or when driving at night. The sat nav is derived from a Volvo system and is fiendishly complicated to operate. The lever for the manual gearbox is awkwardly sited, forever feeling uncomfortable.
In short, the cabin’s expiry date passed several years ago. For some drivers, however, this matters not one bit; owning an Aston Martin is what matters. And the fact that this is the most affordable and the best to drive means it’s impossible not to fall for the Vantage.
What to look out for when buying a used Aston Martin Vantage
Vantage owners seem, on the whole, a very happy bunch. However, a few bemoan the Volvo-derived sat nav and the general running costs that go hand-in-hand with an Aston Martin. But what V8 or V12 supercar has ever been cheap to maintain?
The Vantage has suffered its fair share of recalls ranging from a seatbelt issue on some examples, through to a more frustrating starting problem. All recalls will be conducted by a franchised dealer without charge regardless of the car’s age, so check that the car you intend to buy has been rectified.
Owner testimony appears to be pretty positive about the Vantage; there have been a few reports of squeaking brakes (normally remedied by a spirited blast on some A or B roads) and faulty Lambda sensors in the exhaust system. But engines, gearboxes and suspension appear to be pretty much trouble-free. As with any car of this type, a full main dealer or specialist history is vital and look for original invoices that accompany the stamps in the service book.
The one to buy
Aston Martin V8 Vantage S
- £96,080 (Correct at first publication)
- 4735cc V8, 32-valve
- 430bhp @ 7300rpm
- 362 lb ft @ 5000rpm
- 7-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 4.5sec
- Top Speed:
- 21.9mpg combined
- Road Tax Band:
- L 4385mm, W 1865mm, H 1260mm