James Mills drives the Prodrive Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Quite why it took Aston Martin’s GT racing partner, and now owner, Prodrive, to think of making the most of existing technology is beyond us. Doubtless the legislators can be blamed. But as an after-market conversion, Prodrive’s neat little bundle of tricks is free from keeping bureaucrats in jobs. Praise be.
The aero package will set you back £2,937. Throw in another cheque for £6,239 and you can have the exhaust together with an engine upgrade. Its remapped ECU engine management unit – read snappier throttle response - and sports catalysts liberate a handy 45bhp and 23 Ib ft of torque. That’s enough that you’ll feel the difference, as well as hear the difference…
The result is akin to a sprinter who’s just had their arms untied from behind their back. New life and energy radiates from this V8 Vantage. And as for the newfound soundtrack, no car enthusiast in their right mind could help but fall for the exhaust’s bellow.
As for the engine, its newfound performance sits at the top of the rev range, so you need to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in to reap the rewards. Do so and you’ll experience a car that thrives on revs.
The added firepower helps drop the 0-62mph time to 4.7seconds – but it’s the changed character of the car, not the raw stopwatch times, that really grab you. On an open valley road with the full 8,000rpm deployed, sound bouncing off the hillsides and exhaust popping on the over-run, there comes a moment where you feel you might have found your very own little bit of motoring nirvana.
But not so fast, because there’s still the not inconsiderable matter of how Prodrive’s V8 Vantage carries itself…
Nevertheless, for all the 911 Turbo’s stunning pace and ability, the Prodrive V8’s interactive front engine/rear-wheel driving characteristics have a strong appeal of their own.
In the dry, you can pitch the car hard into long fast bends, feeling all four-wheels load up before playing around with the throttle and adjusting its stance to your taste. There's more composure too from the rear axle under acceleration and over bumpy road surfaces. Yet although it’s the baby of the Aston range, it still has that hefty feel which requires a degree of manhandling to get the best out of it – a characteristic of modern Astons you’ll either love or loathe.
Most of the time, you’ll drive the car in the standard damper setting. The composed body control allows you to tackle the roughest, most undulating and cambered roads without breaking into a sweat. But for those occasions when you venture onto a track, the sport setting is ideal for some fast and furious action. Nevertheless, try running that setting on any of the UK’s shabbily surfaced roads and you’ll tire of it faster than Bernard Manning at a Women’s Institute meeting.
As for the brakes and gearbox, they’re left untouched. But despite our best efforts to cook the brakes, they never showed any signs of weakness, while the gearshift – although no master class in the art of slick-shifting – somehow fits with the car’s macho undertones.
The end result is a car that PHers will love. It may not have the edge in every respect, but it serves up a great big slug of character that makes the V8 Vantage a more desirable proposition. It isn’t cheap, but Prodrive has had no end of interest from existing owners, so clearly it’s hit the target.
But the one thing that leaves a lasting impression is that neat little button on the steering column...