Test Driven: Aston Martin V8 Vantage S, Al’s Take (GRADE: B) | Mind over Motor

18 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Test Driven: Aston Martin V8 Vantage S, Al’s Take (GRADE: B) | Mind over Motor
Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Test Driven: Aston Martin V8 Vantage S, Al#8217;s Take (GRADE: B)

Las Vegas is a strange place. It was quite hot outside when I arrived at the track on July 5, during the tail-end of a massive heat wave in the vicinity. I was already sweating after just a few minutes in the 100+ degree heat.

After signing in and attending the driver#8217;s meeting, I chose this Aston Martin as my second car after some time in a Mercedes SLS AMG. After climbing out of the SLS, the sweat was replaced by a feeling of confidence.

I drove a total of four different cars on this track that morning, and of them, this Aston was by and large the most surprising. I didn#8217;t know what to expect, with this Vantage S being my first ever Aston Martin, but after I climbed out of the hot seat, I realized that this entry into Aston#8217;s lineup is a lot better than people might think.

Part 1: The Looks

Exterior: The V8 Vantage, in so many words, is a gorgeous car. The typical Aston Martin styling motifs shrink to fit this car#8217;s size with nary an issue, and in fact make this car look brutish and aggressive. All of the trademark Aston Martin styling tweaks are certainly present, with the side vents, shaped eggcrate grille, and swept-back lights making their presence.

The Vantage S adds a bit more of the dramatic to the Vantage#8217;s looks, with a front splitter, larger wheels, and a very subtle (but noticeable) ground-effects kit. This car happened to be painted a crystal gray color, set off with a gray interior.

Interior: The interior itself is a symphony of, again, Aston Martin#8217;s typical lines. Quality is befitting of a nearly 150K sports car, with good material choice throughout the interior. The clock, despite being mounted a little bit too low, is a fantastic-looking piece. I happen to love the stitching on the seats in this example.

Seat piping is also available, but this car was unfortunately not equipped as such.

Score: 4.0

Part 2: By the Numbers

The Aston V8 Vantage S is built in a way befitting of a car that costs $150,000. Shut lines are thin, the parts quality is solid, and the exterior paint quality feels nice and even. The gray metallic paint is evenly reflective and the wheels are sized well. The interior is, however, a bit of a letdown despite the excellent choice in materials. The clock is positioned too low and the tachometer sweeps in the opposite direction of pretty much every other tachometer in its competitor sports cars.

I#8217;ve also got an issue with the position of the HVAC and stereo controls, which should be placed in opposite positions (the stereo is too low and the ventilation system is too high). That said, the choice of materials is solid, including the carbon fiber additions in the rear spitter, crystal grey toned wheels, and well-applied silver paint.

Score: 3.0

Part 3: At the Helm:

Once I got on the frankly excellent racetrack, any of my minor complaints were wiped off the slate abruptly. This car is far more than the whole #8220;entry level#8221; moniker suggests. It accelerates briskly#8211;430hp does make a serious difference#8211;and sounds like a blanket being torn apart by a roaring leopard. The transmission shifts rather well for a single-clutch gearbox but could have used a bit more smoothness.

Past 50MPH and up to 105MPH (arguably the fastest I went over the main straight), the Vantage feels stable and planted. Gears do seem to engage smoothly at speed. The handling, however, is what made me truly smile behind my serious expression in the driver#8217;s seat.

The brakes are befitting of this car#8217;s sporting intentions#8211;the brakes engage smoothly and the pedal action is nicely progressive. Even though I had just finished piloting a Mercedes SLS AMG around the track, I felt like I was going faster in the Aston Martin into corners#8211;the Vantage S is all about momentum, where the SLS is more about brute force. After talking with the instructor, I realized that the Aston Martin was far better of a car than I was expecting it to be.

The steering and handling, however, were this car#8217;s best-kept secret.

As I turned the wheel, I felt directly in control. While piloting the heavier, more expensive, and much more powerful SLS, I didn#8217;t have the feeling of security that I had in the Vantage. Of note is that the Vantage does without electric steering, opting for a traditional hydraulic power steering system (in conjunction with not using an electronic throttle).

This decision pays more than a few dividends. The steering loads up noticeably well and the car is very direct, with minimal body lean and plenty of grip. Not once did I feel like I was in over my head in any corner.

After I finished my laps, I reviewed the video footage for a while and realized that despite the fact I was slower lap-to-lap than the Mercedes, I felt more confident in the Aston Martin. Additionally, after reviewing the footage, the frames did not lie#8211;I was slower, but a lot more accurate. The Aston was much less difficult to place on the track than the SLS (although not as accurate as a few of the other cars I had the pleasure of piloting), much more confidence-inspiring, and altogether a surprise.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Score: 3.0

Part 4: The Bottom Line

The Vantage is not without its flaws. For one thing, the competition is beyond it when it comes to interior design and options, as the interior was a bit devoid of gizmos for a six-figure sports car. Jaguar has created a car that can compete with it, at a lower point on price.

I#8217;ve now had a good amount of seat time in it, as well. Of course, I#8217;m talking about the Jaguar F-Type V8S.

With nearly 500hp on tap, and a starting price of just less than six figures, the F-Type a better value than the Vantage and it handles just as well. It sounds better, looks just as stunning, and still has that classy British charm. Thanks to the F-Type, the Vantage now no longer has the British corner of the sub-150K roadster market to itself, and the Jaguar is unfortunately the more capable car. However, considering how good the Vantage is, that#8217;s extremely high praise for the Jag.

Additionally, the Jaguar changes gears more smoothly and has a nicer interior, as well as a higher level of techno-wizardry inside.

Score: 2.0

So, what#8217;s my verdict on this entry-level Aston Martin? Well, it#8217;s far from entry-level in any way when the rubber hits the asphalt. The car looks sharp, sounds sharper, and the handling is the sharpest thing in the entire package.

It#8217;s a car that I think gets overlooked nowadays because it#8217;s not the newest model available in its segment. It has the cachet of the Aston Martin name, a great sound, and wonderful driving dynamics. It#8217;s a shockingly good car and I#8217;m glad I took it out for a drive.

Fact of the matter is this: there are other cars in this segment that will probably outrun the Vantage S, but few are going to attract the same amount of attention as this car. It lives up to its name, and its heritage.

-Albert S. Davis

The Grade: 4+3+3+2 = 12/16. Final Grade: B.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

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