- Pretty, timeless looks
- Characterful and engaging engines
- Great balance and handling
- But needs to be worked hard to feel quick
- Thirsty in all guises, but the payoff is V8 sound
Thanks to recent events, the introduction of the VH platform V8 Vantage feels like ancient history - largely because it is, in car terms at least. The 2003 North American International Auto Show played host to the reveal of Aston’s pretty concept, with the production car looking barely any different when it was launched at Geneva two years later. The car immediately grabbed attention, and sales commenced in the September, with prices starting from £79,995.
That price pitched the new 'baby' Aston directly into competition with the Porsche 911, exactly where Aston knew it had to be to garner sufficient sales – projected to be 3,000 V8 Vantages per year. All things looked ripe and ready to achieve this, with the V8 Vantage’s modern looks and characterful 4.3-litre engine doing their bit to shake up the established sports car segment.
The Vantage’s launch wasn’t all plain sailing though, with early press and owner criticism of the V8's relative shortage of low-down torque. The numbers told their own tale; the maximum 302lb ft wasn’t available until 5,000rpm and the peak of 385hp came two thousand revs after that. This was a motor that needed to be worked hard to achieve its best. Still, Aston did address the early complaints to some extent with its revised 4.7-litre V8 in 2008, which came packing 426hp. A Sports Pack was also then offered for the 4.3-litre N400 model (influenced by Aston’s Nurburgring 24-hour race car) that improved power to 405hp, or 400bhp in old money to give the N400 its name.
At the start of 2011, things got even better, with Aston introducing the Vantage S and its 436hp and 347lb ft of torque V8. The S saw off 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, compared to the normal car’s 4.7 seconds, and 4.9 seconds for the 4.3. But mostly, it was the variant’s improved tractability that provided the most significant reason for someone to opt for the pricier model. Those wanting wind in their hair could go further and opt for the Vantage Roadster, which launched in the spring of 2007.
A range overhaul in February 2012 saw Aston Martin give the standard Vantage models the same bodykit as the S. This revision saw the six-speed SportShift automated manual gearbox replaced with a seven-speed SportShift II transmission as well. Aston’s range also included Prodrive-tuned versions of the V8 Vantage, the N24 race car, GT2 and GT4 racing models. And we shouldn’t forget the Rally GT car that actually first took to competition back in 2006.
For this guide, however, we'll stick with the roadgoing V8 models. At the moment, prices of the V8 Vantage start at around £25,000 for an early 4.3 coupe, which buys you a car with around 60,000 miles. You’ll need to go over £30,000 for full Aston service histories. Roadsters cost from around £29,000, while the V8 S starts at about £48k.
SPECIFICATION | ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE
Engine: 4,280cc, V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 385@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 302@5,000rpm
0-62mph: 5.0 secs
Top speed: 174mph
MPG (official combined): 16.4
Wheels: 8.5 x 19in front, 10 x 19in
Tyres: 235/40 front, 275/35 rear
On sale: 2005 - 2017
Price new: £79,995
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage started life with a 4,280cc normally aspirated engine with connections to Jaguar's AJV8. However, not only was the capacity of this engine bespoke to Aston Martin, the quad-cam 32-valve heads were, along with the dry sump oil lubrication system, cylinder heads, crankshaft, con rods, pistons, ECU management and the entire exhaust system. This engine comes with a bore and stroke of 89mm x 86mm.
From 4.3-litres Aston managed 385hp at 7,000rpm and 302lb ft of torque at 5,000rpm, which did lead to those complaints about about low-down grunt. The flipside to this is the Aston's V8 is very happy to rev hard to deliver its best, though doing so while the engine is still not fully up to temperature can result in motor-wrecking damage and a large bill to put it right. When warmed through, it will deliver 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds and a 174mph top speed.
Otherwise, the Aston's V8 motor is generally regarded as very strong and reliable. The alternator belt can squeal when the car is cold, but this can sorted by adjusting the tensioner or a revised pulley kit is also available. When checking a potential purchase, make sure the plastic engine cover is securely mounted as it can work free and melt on the exhaust manifolds. Not as dangerous as it sounds, but worth looking out for.
You should also ask if the current owner has removed fuse 22, which is a popular tweak to free up more noise from the exhaust by keeping the valve in the exhaust open permanently rather than just at higher revs. Freer-flowing exhaust systems can be ordered from Aston Martin through its Works programme or from Prodrive, but several PistonHeads V8 Vantage owners recommend the Bamford Rose exhaust system that delivers more power, noise and improved driving manners at all speeds. Add in an improved air intake and you can expect more performance and better fuel economy, too.
In 2008, Aston reworked the front mid-mounted V8 engine with pressed cylinder liners rather the earlier 4.3's cast liners. This allowed the engine to be bored out and stroked to 91mm x 91mm for a capacity of 4,735cc and maximum power of 426hp at 7,300rpm and 347lb ft at 5,000rpm. In the V8 Vantage coupe, this meant 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and a 180mph top speed. A Sports Pack was offered for the 4.3 engine at the same time that borrowed from the N400 limited edition to up power to 405hp. This pack included a revised induction system and remapped ECU that added another 7lb ft to the torque and upped top speed to 177mph, while reducing the 0-62mph time to 4.8 seconds.
For the 4.7-litre engine, Aston lightened the flywheel by 0.5kg to improve throttle response, though the weighty clutch pedal in manual gearbox versions remained. The six-speed transaxle has always had a heavy action, but it can be pushed through the gears quickly and the transmission is considered very strong and unlikely to give trouble. More of a problem is the clutch that can let go with no notice and is expensive to replace, so bank on spending around £2,500 at an Aston dealer if the clutch fails, though a specialist should be able to sort this for less. The SportShift six-speed automated manual is also tough but its changes are not as swift or smooth as the latest dual-clutch 'boxes can offer. Aston replaced this gearbox in 2012 with a seven-speed SportShift II transmission that is much better.
The V8 Vantage S arrived at the beginning of 2011 with a 436hp version of the 4.7-litre V8, delivering a 190mph top speed and 0-62mph in 4.0 seconds with help from closer gear ratios and a lower final drive rear differential. The changes aren’t thought to hamper reliability. You may also come across cars with Prodrive equipment fitted. This was offered in four packs, covering engine, suspension, wheel and styling. For the engine, Prodrive increased power by 45hp courtesy of a new exhaust and ECU remap. Again, no major issues have arisen from this work.
The last-gen V8 Vantage is built around Aston's VH platform, which it shared with the larger DB9. For the original 4.3 coupe and Roadster models, Aston fitted rack and pinion steering with power assistance, but it wasn't until 2012 the standard Vantage models received the quicker steering rack of the S to give it sharper responses and better feedback.
The steering gives the 4.3- and pre-2012 4.7-litre models a turning circle of 11.1m, while front and rear tracks come in at 1,568mm and 1,562mm respectively. The 4.3 V8 coupe has a kerb weight of 1,570kg, while a 4.7 Roadster tips the scales at 1,710kg. Independent aluminium double wishbones are used front and rear, while coilover dampers work with an anti-roll bar at both ends. The Sports Pack for the 4.3 could also include firmer Bilstein springs and dampers, as well as lightweight forged 19-inch aluminium alloy wheels with a five-spoke design.
When the 4.7 arrived in 2008, 19-inch alloys became standard and there was a range of optional wheel styles. The 4.3 had 18-inch alloys as standard, with 19s as an option. When launched in 2005, the Vantage came with Bridgestone Potenzas in 235/45 ZR18 front and 275/40 ZR18 rear sizes. A Prodrive pack provided seven-spoke alloys that saved 2.5kg per wheel and used Pirelli tyres, while the Prodrive suspension pack used firmer Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers.
To ensure equal stopping power, Aston fitted 355mm ventilated front discs and vented rear 330mm discs with Brembo monoblock calipers. A separate caliper for the handbrake is fitted to the rear discs, which can seize if the car is left to stand for longer periods.
For a prospective used Vantage buyer, all of the suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres of any V8 Vantage for sale should be in good condition. Otherwise, factor in the expensive replacement or repair of these items. That being said, the brakes should last 25,000 miles with ease. Any squeals from them probably means new pads are needed imminently. Tyres should last 20,000 miles on a car driven gently, but 10,000 miles is a more realistic point to budget for new rubber.
The suspension wears well and only high mileage Vantages might need more than a simple service to bring them back to full health. A firm low speed ride is to be expected but the Vantage should also feel planted and secure when driven quickly.
The V8 Vantage's body is a mix of aluminium and composite panels in either a two-door coupe or Roadster shape. There are halogen projector front lights and LED tail lights, while the 300-litre boot is accessed through a good sized tailgate. When it rains, the tailgate can let water run into the boot, though there is a kit to prevent this. You should also check for blocked drain holes that let water overflow into the boot and leak water inside the cabin.
Otherwise, the only points to look for on the Vantage's body are signs of accident damage and paint defects. Properly repaired accident damage should be invisible to spot and the Vantage's body can be lifted away from the running gear for larger repairs.
Paint problems are likely to show up around the bottom of the A-pillars and around the door handles in the form of small bubbles. If you see this, the cost of rectification should be factored in or sorted by the seller. On newer V8s, these problems will be covered by the warranty. At the front of the V8 Vantage, the grille can work loose and the finish become milky, though both are easy repairs.
Several V8 Vantage-owning PHers say they feel the fuel filler cap is quite heavy and could knock the bodywork if not carefully removed, so look for signs of damage around the filler. Owners also report that fold-in door mirrors are desirable for parking in tighter spaces and rear parking sensors are a must.
As for the Roadster, the fabric roof is of very high quality with several layers of insulation to make it more than capable of year-round use. Other than some marks in the fabric where it has been folded, the roof should still be in good condition and the rear glass screen unmarked.
In both coupe and Roadster forms, the V8 Vantage is a strict two-seater rather than trying to claim to be a four-seater as with the Porsche 911. The cabin is quite roomy for this class of car, despite the Vantage being 335mm shorter than the DB9. Leather upholstery is standard on all models, as are electrically adjusted seats, climate control, a CD stereo, front and side airbags, and a battery isolator switch. This last item is useful for cars that will be left standing for longer periods to prevent battery drain, though a trickle charger is a wiser idea and can be connected to the socket in the boot that is standard on all Vantages.
Check the boot for damp carpets that are a result of water coming in when the boot is opened or a blocked drain pipe. Fitted luggage can be bought to make the most of the Vantage's 300-litre boot space.
The cabin should be in fine condition and show no wear. Some owners say they can see the reflection of screw heads from the top of the dash in the windscreen in bright sunshine, but cabin quality is rated as very high by owners.
However, there are some interior niggles, such as the earlier Volvo-based sat-nav that is basic and slow in operation. Many owners simply use their smart phones or an aftermarket sat-nav instead. Door windows can fail and need a new module to be fixed, so check every button does as it should inside the Vantage. Earlier cars also did without a Bluetooth connection and this can be pricey to retro-fit.
Air conditioning can falter and need a new compressor, so make sure it's pumping out cold air. Some drivers find the seating position quite low-set, but comfort is reckoned to be good. However, some PHers report it has taken a long time to get used to the driving position and adjusting it to perfection takes time, trial and error. It’s worth the effort, though.
Now more than ever, Aston Martin’s handsome, compact two-door is something to win over your heart and head. Because something that looks and sounds like the Vantage, with the added allure of that iconic badge, is never not going to be desirable. The fact that good ones still lurk around new hot hatch money, and that fundamental bits of the car have proved sturdy, only increases the temptation. Niggles remain, no doubt, predominantly related to the cabin, and the sensible money would probably still go into a 911, but the Vantage's case remains a compelling one.
Prices for the cheapest cars seem to have stabilised in the past few years, but more expensive versions – including the Roadster and S – continue to become more attainable, suggesting they haven't reached their lowest value. Given the Vantage's multitude of talents, some eventual reappreciation only seems a matter of time; it wasn't the first car built on the VH architecture, but it was one of the most popular and perhaps the best representation of what it could achieve. Along with a rip-roaring V8, it isn't hard to see the appeal. Do your homework and there's no reason why a V8 Vantage couldn't be the affordable Aston you've always dreamed of.
[This is a comprehensive update of a Used Buying Guide that was originally published in 2013]
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