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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Auto Express
by Paul Bailey

Less than a year after launching the acclaimed DB9, Aston Martin is poised to release its next world-beater: the V8 Vantage.

Conceived as a rival to Porsche's 911, the V8 vantage is entering the final stages of an exhaustive two-year development programme.

This has seen prototypes cover a total of two million miles, in locations as diverse as the scorching heat of Dubai, the freezing cold of Sweden and the punishing Nürburgring circuit in Germany.

Set for its official unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March, and released to the press for driving appraisal in the summer, it's no surprise that few outsiders have seen the car in the metal, and fewer still have experienced it from the cockpit. How-ever, Auto Express was given privileged behind-the-scenes access to one of the development prototypes, including a passenger ride with one of the company's senior development engineers. If you're a sports car fan, the early news is very good indeed.

Built using the same innovative aluminium chassis technology as the DB9, the V8 Vantage is much smaller and lighter, its short wheelbase and wide track giving it a suitably muscular, broad-shouldered stance.

Although it is the same size as Porsche's latest 997-generation 911, the Aston's minimal front and rear overhangs mean it appears more compact, while a rakish windscreen and low roof- line add to its aggressive appearance. When it starts up, that aggression erupts from the pair of exhaust pipes with a deep V8 bark, a sound leaving you in no doubt that the Vantage is a sharp, potent sports car unlike anything Aston has ever built before.

A strict two-seater, the Vantage will be launched with a six-speed manual transmission, and is powered by a 4.3-litre V8. Apart from its basic block, which is derived from a Jaguar V8, the Vantage's motor is entirely Aston, from the internal components to the design of the cylinder heads. Official figures are yet to be released, but the engine is believed to develop around 380bhp, with a torque figure to match.

From the passenger seat, the en-gine delivers vivid performance as wellas a truly magnificent soundtrack. It is sharp, responsive and loves to be worked hard, pulling with increasing vigour as the revs pile on.

That it also feels refined and happy lower down in the range is ample proof the car is as comfortable in everyday traffic as it is on the open road. Top speed is claimed to exceed 175mph, with a 0-60mph time of five seconds.

As you'd hope from a car aimed directly at the 911, the Vantage is supremely grippy and agile. The suspension is firm and taut, but there's just enough suppleness to absorb the sharp edges from road imperfections.

This sporting bias pays dividends on fast, open A and B roads, where the Vantage feels incredibly sharp and secure and displays sufficient poise to impress even the most loyal Porsche fan.

It's hard to judge which would be quicker, but the front-mid-engined V8 Vantage's superior balance should ensure it's easier and more forgiving than the rear-engined Porsche.

In keeping with Aston's exclusivity, production of the V8 Vantage will be limited to 3,000 cars per year, almost 10 times less than the number of 911s made annually. Pricing is not yet confirmed, but Aston insiders say it will be in the region of £70,000.

While the low production volumes ensure Porsche won't lose too much sleep, the fact the 911's dynamic superiority is under threat must be cause for concern. We'll have to wait six months to see first hand just how good the Aston is, but judging by this preview, our patience will be handsomely rewarded.

First Opinion
Aston's smallest car in recent years is also its most exciting. Although the firm plans to build only 3,000 of the baby Astons, the £70,000 Vantage V8 is of huge importance to the company. The proven chassis technology and familiar looks combine to create a car with huge potential. Let's hope that the V8 can live up to its early promise.

At a Glance
* On sale later this year
* Shares DB9 chassis technology


7,859 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·

Aston Martin is looking for 0-to-60-mph times of less than five seconds for its V8-powered Vantage, a platform-mate of the V12-powered DB9.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Taking Aim at Porsche: V8 Vantage has the venerable 911 in its sights


Aston Martin prototype VX04 WUL has led a hard life. Accelerated, braked, cornered, and generally thrashed to within an inch of its life, the black-painted V8 Vantage sits ticking away in the bright sunshine, awaiting yet another tortuous test cycle.

Considering it has survived 44,400 miles in the arid heat of a European summer at Nardo, the banked test-track bowl in Calabria in southern Italy, this V8 Vantage is in surprisingly good shape. A sticky clutch and chattering gearbox are the only signs of abuse, and they’re due for adjustment once back at the factory in England.

These prototypes are quite a sight up close, real working cars—not showroom dollies. Duct tape holds the headlights in place, the bumper is a bit loose, and the trunk overflows with wiring spaghetti routed to a huge data logger.

In the cabin are a roll cage, full harness belts and a fire extinguisher. The latter not so much to preserve the occupants, but to save the much more precious prototype, whose loss could seriously slow Aston’s test program.

But these visual cues are misleading, because the key components for testing are under the skin. “All the essential engineering parts, like the alloy chassis, powertrain, brakes and subsystems are very close to production items,” says senior engineer Ian Hartley, our driver.

In fact, the V8 Vantage is a clever platform variant of the DB9. The short chassis is chopped down in wheelbase, front and rear overhangs, and even powerplant: A 4.3-liter V8 replaces the DB9’s V12.

All these key components are getting a thrashing at Nardo, particularly the brakes.

The test car was wired to gather data to help tune the production car that is due in U.S. showrooms later this year.

Aston is aiming the V8 Vantage at the Porsche 911 and has imported Porsche’s brake-fade tests to augment its Ford-based endurance program. One such test involves 25 repeated maximum-effort stops from 160 mph, the antilock system tested to the absolute limit.

Another requires a repeated braking effort of 0.3 g to haul the speed down from 220 km/h (136 mph) to 140 km/h (87 mph), generating heat-soak that threatens to fade even the stoutest braking systems.

Signs that nothing can be taken for granted are the handwritten dates around each tire that correspond to X-rays taken as a precaution against blowouts, a lesson learned after a Jag prototype suffered a high-speed crash some years back.

It is food for thought as Hartley fires up the engine and we strap into the passenger seat. The full-race harness needs a bit of adjustment, but the delay allows a chance to get familiar with the cabin.

This is an AP car—Attribute Prototype—one step before the last level of Production Prototype. But like the underskin parts, the instrument panel, switchgear, seats and door trim are all production designs, if still in development and a long way from showroom condition.

But the cabin is as snug as you would expect of a fast two-seater, the seating position as low, and the view down the long hood as intoxicating.

Hartley points the V8 Vantage toward the sinuous lanes around Nardo, the six-speed manual gearbox and clutch in this well-worn prototype chattering away, and the car riding quite firmly.

That there is plenty of power on tap is evident as Hartley guns the V8, takes his time with each gear change, and the Vantage rockets up the road with bellowing exhausts.

This V8 is new to Aston, and though the alloy block is shared with Jaguar, the rest is all-new; crankshaft, con-rods, pistons, heads and camshafts are specific to Aston. A major step up in the spec is dry-sump lubrication, technology usually reserved for race engines.

Power is around 390 hp and weight around 3250 pounds, a combo said to be good enough for 0 to 60 mph in sub-five seconds, with a top speed in excess of 170 mph. In other words, close to the 911. We didn’t see more than 120 mph during our ride, but the rate at which the V8 Vantage piles on speed, effortlessly overtakes lines of traffic, and punches out of slow-speed corners suggests both figures are believable.

Test driver Hartley takes a few corners at speed and the absence of body roll is instantly noticeable. The chassis is responsive, too. One corner is damp and the Vantage understeers before a careful application of power turns that into a gentle powerslide.

Hartley reckons the spring and damper settings still need some work, but the basic feel is of a well-balanced and sporty rear-drive two-seater that is a bit more direct and visceral than either the DB9 or Vanquish.

As an appetizer for the production V8 Vantage, on sale later this year in the United States, this drive is a welcome taste. No wonder Aston has a reputed one-year waiting list for a car that is shaping up to be 2005’s most desirable exotic.

Behind the wheel of the Vanquish S

Boil the new Vanquish S down to its essence and you’d be left with a starter button. A single disc of clear plastic, backlit in warm orange, is the first step toward unleashing the fury of 520 hp from its V12.

Few cars start with such a fabulous snarl. In fact, start up anywhere public, and onlookers will turn to gawk. They gawk with delight, too, not envy. In Britain there is a warm glow about Aston Martin.

Something about the old-money image that softens Brits to such an extent that fellow drivers break into a wide smile and spontaneously give you the thumbs-up.

Mind you, there is plenty to smile about from the driver’s seat, because this new S model benefits from a host of carefully judged engineering improvements.

Most headline-worthy is the 60-hp hike to 520 hp, but of equal dynamic significance are the lower final drive, quicker steering, stiffer suspension and new aerodynamic package.

So this is quite an overhaul, but it has to be, because the Vanquish needs a boost up to justify its much higher price over the DB9.

No doubt the new Vanquish is a much improved drive. It feels faster for one thing, simply because the Vanquish now responds more like a sports car than a touring GT.

The quicker rack improves steering feel, even in a straight line, making the Vanquish S a much more involving drive.

It has also become a fast car that requires concentration in order to drive it to its potential. Our test was marred by wet country roads in mid-Wales, some of the best in Britain, and the Vanquish S needs careful control of the throttle if those rear tires aren’t to be provoked out of line in the wet.

Still, that’s a major part of the appeal of the car—it is a more focused sporting flagship for the Aston range, and if your budget can stretch to it, the muscular Vanquish S won’t disappoint. —J.R.

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