Aston Martin tests hot V8 Vantage in Germany, takes aim at new 911
By JULIAN RENDELL/AUTOWEEK
(All photos by John Johnson)
PROTOTYPES OF ASTON MARTIN’S V8 Vantage sports car are turning hot laps at Germany’s Nürburgring a year ahead of launch.
The alloy-structured two-seater, aimed squarely at Porsche’s new 997 version of the 911 (AW, July 19), is engineered to compete head-to-head with the German icon as much on handling and performance as on badge credibility.
In styling terms, the V8 Vantage is very similar to the Henrik Fisker-penned concept car that claimed AutoWeek editors’ Most Fun award at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Fisker, Aston’s design chief, also leads Ford’s new advanced design studio in California.
Under the alloy body is a shortened version of the chassis under the new DB9 coupe (AW, May 17) with the windshield, firewall and rear structure all carried over from the DB9. About 3.5 inches are chopped out of the wheelbase and the front and rear overhangs are tightened.
As befits its name, the V8 Vantage opts for a V8 in place of the DB9’s V12. Although genetically related to Jaguar’s AJ-V8, Aston has significantly re-engineered the Jag powerplant to 4.3-liters with unique machining of block and cylinder heads, new crank, rods, pistons and dry-sump lubrication. Output is estimated at between 350 and 400 hp.
Italian gearbox specialist Graziano supplies the six-speed rear transaxle, which is shared with the DB9.
A conventional stick shift will be standard with paddle shift manual/auto control an option. The DB9’s smooth six-speed automatic won’t be available in the V8.
With the new 997 in Aston’s sights, the V8 targets the Porsche’s 182-mph top speed and its 4.8-second 0-to-60-mph time, but with an estimated sticker of $110,000, the Brit sports car will carry a significantly higher price tag. Still, Aston’s order book is said to be full, with at least the first year’s production sold out ahead of the May 2005 launch.