Driven: Aston Martin V8 Vantage S


Before you write the Vantage S off and accuse it of being yet another version of yet another similar-looking Aston Martin, just take a look at its credentials. Because this car - with its new seven-speed paddle shift gearbox, its 430bhp V8 engine and its candy-sweet (and rather deftly tweaked) rear-drive chassis - could actually be one of the very best sports cars money can buy right now. It's not as if the Vantage has been found wanting in the looks department since its inception in 2003, after all.


But that's the problem (or at least the perceived problem) with Aston Martin, right there, in a nutshell. Ever since it introduced the VH platform some eight years ago, the cars it has produced have all had a familiar kind of feel to them. And in the beginning that seemed really rather clever.

You could see the genes being gracefully handed down as each new VH model appeared - be that DB9, DBS and even the One-77, which took the idea, ran with it, and then turned it into some kind of cartoon. For a good while, though, the very familiarity of the brand felt slick, logical and considered.

But then some time during the last couple of years the worm turned; overnight almost we began to get fed up of seeing the same car being reproduced, again and again, featuring a bit more power, a bit less style, singing the same old tune.


Is that fair? Almost certainly not, if only because it's what Porsche has been doing for over 40 years with the 911, making a tidy amount of money (in more recent years) as a result. And in the case of the Vantage S, it seems wholly inappropriate to make the 'done that, got the T-shirt' accusation when the car itself is so very good.

The key areas in which it has been improved are the steering, which has a quicker rack and feels sharper in every dimension; the suspension, which has been further tuned to improve the handling/body control without denting the ride; the gearchange, which has one more cog and is frankly in a different league for shift speed/quality compared with the six-speed; and the engine, which not only develops more power and torque (430bhp/361lbft) but makes a significantly more delicious noise in the process.


The net result is almost certainly Aston Martin's best car. On the road the Vantage S feels searingly rapid and rides/steers/handles/stops with breathtaking clarity. Yet it also has a grown up resolve to its overall personality that would make it very easy to live with everyday. If you drove this car in isolation, unaware of its immediate family history, you would be knocked sideways by how superb it is. That's the point, even if it's also Aston's dilemma.

Thus, if any car can be a bargain at £102,500, this is it - and the first person who points out that a Nissan GTR is faster but costs £32,000 less must now go and stand in the corner with their hands behind their backs for at least the next five minutes. Because they will have missed the intention of the Vantage S entirely.







Specifications:
Aston Martin V8 Vantage S - £102,500

Top speed: 189mph
0-62mph: 4.5sec
Economy: 21.9mpg (combined)
CO2: 299g/km
Kerb weight: 1610kg
Engine: V8, 4735cc, petrol
Installation: Front, longitudinal, rear wheel-drive
Power: 430bhp/7300rpm
Torque: 361lb ft/5000rpm
Gearbox: seven-speed Sportshift II
Fuel tank: 80 litres
Boot: 300 litres
Wheels: 8.5jx 19in (front), 10.0jx19in (rear), alloy
Tyres: 245/40R19 (front), 285/35 R19 (rear)

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (115) Join the discussion on the forum

  • TomTVR500 22 Mar 2011

    K50 DEL said:
    Probably the best explanation of my feelings regarding paddle shift that I've read... certainly better than I could write myself.
    Thank you biggrin

  • caboosemoose 19 Mar 2011

    Shmee said:
    As an owner of a paddle-shifting AMV8 I feel very much like it's not a simple task as pulling the paddle towards you and boom perfect driving.

    My previous car was an Audi S5 S-Tronic, powerful but featuring VAG's awesome double-clutch gearbox, an almost perfect example of effortless and perfectly smooth gear changes with almost no driver input. While that was fantastic in its style, the V8V gearbox is a whole different kettle of fish. I'm not going to claim to be the smoothest driver, I try my best but it's not a case of pulling the paddle and it's done; you have to get the timing right, do it in an appropriate place, working the accelerator correctly on changes. Every now and then I do a bad change and the whole car jumps and cue the instinctive apology to the passenger - something that's impossible to make happen in a double-clutch car these days.

    In conclusion, I really like this gearbox, a lot. It's the fun of manual without destroying your ankles in city or traffic jams.
    Hum. Not convinced that a recalcitrant paddle shift is an optimal alternative to a full manual. With the V8V sportshift, you've still lost most of the control over the box. You hit a button / pull a paddle and then time your throttle modulation to suit. But you don't control the timing or rate of clutch and gearshift actuation other than initially requesting a gear change with the paddle pull, after which the system does the rest.

    The "fun" of a manual for me is having full control of gears, clutch, brakes and throttle, and thus smoothly orchestrating the lot. Any paddle shifter takes much of the process away from you.

  • waremark 19 Mar 2011

    Shmee said:
    K50 DEL said:
    TomTVR500 said:
    There is very little skill in pulling paddles towards you at the appropriate moment.
    Probably the best explanation of my feelings regarding paddle shift that I've read... certainly better than I could write myself.
    As an owner of a paddle-shifting AMV8 I feel very much like it's not a simple task as pulling the paddle towards you and boom perfect driving.

    My previous car was an Audi S5 S-Tronic, powerful but featuring VAG's awesome double-clutch gearbox, an almost perfect example of effortless and perfectly smooth gear changes with almost no driver input. While that was fantastic in its style, the V8V gearbox is a whole different kettle of fish. I'm not going to claim to be the smoothest driver, I try my best but it's not a case of pulling the paddle and it's done; you have to get the timing right, do it in an appropriate place, working the accelerator correctly on changes. Every now and then I do a bad change and the whole car jumps and cue the instinctive apology to the passenger - something that's impossible to make happen in a double-clutch car these days.
    I agree completely with Shmee about that bit. A Sportshift upchange without accurately syncronising the throttle movement is truly horrible, and in my experience it is more difficult to make smooth changes than in a regular manual.

    That being the case my conclusions are different from Shmee's: I prefer any of a regular manual, a torque-converter auto or a dual-clutch box to the Sportshift style. But as mentioned earlier I would like to know what the box in the V8VS is like, since others have said it is a major improvement on previous Sportshifts.

  • Shmee 18 Mar 2011

    K50 DEL said:
    TomTVR500 said:
    I accept that there are many advantages that come with a paddle shift, the main one being speed and smoothness of shift. However the reason i say stick and pedal manuals are still "proper" driving is because to me, speed doesnt come into it and the smoothness should be accounted for by the driver.
    Driving to me means everything that is exciting about driving, the thrill of driving (excuse the unintentional evo magazine reference) and to me the thrill of driving is largely down to the skill of the drivers inputs making a difference to how the car behaves, goes and reacts.
    This requires the driver to acquire and hone certain skills over their lifetime behind the wheel. There is very little skill in pulling paddles towards you at the appropriate moment. Thus taking away a large chunk of the connection between driver inputs and car.

    Im not saying paddles dont have a place in modern cars or that they are rubish i just think drivers cars and paddle shifts should be kept appart.
    For example i could very much see the attraction of a paddle shift box in a car like an Audi RS6 Avant for example because the whole car is designed for very fast but easy, effortless mile crunching, but then this isnt a "drivers" car its just a perfectly capable comfy and rapid way of getting from a-b.

    But please not in an AMV8 or the latest range of Porsche's when they come out next year. PLEASE!
    Probably the best explanation of my feelings regarding paddle shift that I've read... certainly better than I could write myself.
    As an owner of a paddle-shifting AMV8 I feel very much like it's not a simple task as pulling the paddle towards you and boom perfect driving.

    My previous car was an Audi S5 S-Tronic, powerful but featuring VAG's awesome double-clutch gearbox, an almost perfect example of effortless and perfectly smooth gear changes with almost no driver input. While that was fantastic in its style, the V8V gearbox is a whole different kettle of fish. I'm not going to claim to be the smoothest driver, I try my best but it's not a case of pulling the paddle and it's done; you have to get the timing right, do it in an appropriate place, working the accelerator correctly on changes. Every now and then I do a bad change and the whole car jumps and cue the instinctive apology to the passenger - something that's impossible to make happen in a double-clutch car these days.

    In conclusion, I really like this gearbox, a lot. It's the fun of manual without destroying your ankles in city or traffic jams.

  • K50 DEL 18 Mar 2011

    TomTVR500 said:
    I accept that there are many advantages that come with a paddle shift, the main one being speed and smoothness of shift. However the reason i say stick and pedal manuals are still "proper" driving is because to me, speed doesnt come into it and the smoothness should be accounted for by the driver.
    Driving to me means everything that is exciting about driving, the thrill of driving (excuse the unintentional evo magazine reference) and to me the thrill of driving is largely down to the skill of the drivers inputs making a difference to how the car behaves, goes and reacts.
    This requires the driver to acquire and hone certain skills over their lifetime behind the wheel. There is very little skill in pulling paddles towards you at the appropriate moment. Thus taking away a large chunk of the connection between driver inputs and car.

    Im not saying paddles dont have a place in modern cars or that they are rubish i just think drivers cars and paddle shifts should be kept appart.
    For example i could very much see the attraction of a paddle shift box in a car like an Audi RS6 Avant for example because the whole car is designed for very fast but easy, effortless mile crunching, but then this isnt a "drivers" car its just a perfectly capable comfy and rapid way of getting from a-b.

    But please not in an AMV8 or the latest range of Porsche's when they come out next year. PLEASE!
    Probably the best explanation of my feelings regarding paddle shift that I've read... certainly better than I could write myself.

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