911 GT3 RS and I'll happily nip to the shops in a bright orange car with full aero and a giant plank bolted to its back end. In the context of an Aston Martin Vantage I just can't quite shake the feeling it's all a bit ... Mansory. Especially in this colour scheme.
There, I said it.
Two mitigating factors. First, Mansory's work isn't all bad - check out its Evora package for instance. Second, the wing and more extreme front aero elements are optional. Had I a) £165K to chuck at a new Aston Martin and b) been quick enough to be among the 150 to bag a GT8, I think I'd have left that box unticked.
Make your mind up
While I'm being all contrary there's one option I think I would have gone for that may surprise people. This Aston Martin press car has a manual gearbox, which is obviously what any hairy-chested, purist driver PHer would want and demonstrates Aston Martin's dedication to the cause. I'll go out on a limb here and say in THIS car, specifically because it wears its GT racer influence so clearly, the Sportshift III paddle-shifted robo-manual would be my choice.
This is all academic of course, given the GT8 is already a sell-out. Now, when Porsche announced sell-out, hardcore, driver-focused special edition everyone who missed out got very cross indeed. Will Aston Martin incur the same kind of wrath? Comments thread below for that. First let me tell you what you could have won.
The main stats and facts about the GT8 remain true to those in the original announcement. In brief though we've got the regular 4.7 V8 tickled from 436hp to 446hp, shouting very loudly indeed through a centre-exit titanium exhaust system. This, and further lightweight bits like the magnesium centre-lock wheels, carbon roof and polycarbonate rear windows, are optional. So-equipped your GT8 would cost you (apparently) £200K and weigh about 100kg less than a regular Vantage S. Without them it's a still respectable 80kg saving and a burly £165,000.
The bodywork may match the exhaust for shoutiness but it's got factory developed provenance, 34mm/54mm front/rear increases in body width containing corresponding widening of tracks and distinctive, race-inspired scallops out of the broader front wings. Dampers are passive, spring rates are up 25 per cent front, the front anti-roll bar likewise by an undisclosed amount. Rear settings are standard. The front wheels are an inch wider, the rears half an inch, and all four wear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. After experiencing the same on the 911 GT3 I'm glad the rain doesn't come until final motorway miles back to Gaydon.
The source of existential crisis over the manual gearbox comes before that though. The character of the GT8 is in keeping with the looks. Which is to say racy. Like a proper competition car the suspension ties the body down but also has a suppleness about it too, the mark of some expert spring/damper tuning. It deals well with B-road pitter patter but the stand-out feature is the consistent, confident body control through fast direction changes. With the upright, fixed-back seats and wheel pulled close into your chest you can really get into character too, the weight and feedback through the Alcantara trimmed rim perfectly matched to the intent of the chassis set-up. Some camber sensitivity from the stiffer front end and wider tyres is fed back to you through the wheel and the weighting loads up naturally as you lean on the grip into the turns. But this is proper stuff, a world away from the numb electric set-ups prevailing in most rivals.
That's appropriate for the car's brief though and, really, the GT8 is a bit much for a nadgery B-road and requires a bit of space to really show its talents. The feedback through the wheel and sheer outrageousness of the noise all help it feel entertaining even when the speeds aren't really that high, which is an impressive contrast with the similarly pitched BMW M4 GTS I drove recently. Mighty on the track, the BMW isn't really interested at road speeds but the GT8 is happy to entertain to and from the track, as well as on it. If you can find one that'll let you run with an exhaust system this loud.
The noise is epic, even with my ears still ringing from the F-Type SVR. The V12 in the Vantage S and GT12 is a marvellous sounding thing. But for my money the V8 has an even harder, edgier tone, especially in the GT8. It sounds racy enough but it's still got rather a lot of flywheel inertia, lacking the crisp attack of a 911 GT3 engine and meaning your progress through the manual gearbox has to be anticipated with a slight lift ahead of the shift. On the way down it's not a natural blipper either, this rather deliberate gearshift style rather at odds with the racecar vibes coming at you from every other angle. In a regular Vantage, S or N430 I'd be manual all the way. But for keeping up with the rest of the package I'd go Sportshift and (likely) be damned.
ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE GT8
Engine: 4,735cc V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD, limited-slip differential (7-speed Sportshift optional)
Power (hp): 446@7,300 (436@7,300rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 361@5,000rpm
0-62mph: N/A (4.8sec)
Top speed: 190mph
Kerbweight: 1,530kg* or 1,605kg EU with 75kg driver (1,685kg EU weight with 75kg driver)
MPG: N/A (20.5 NEDC combined)
CO2: N/A (321g/km)
Price: £165,000 (before options)
*1,509kg with lightweight options
Figures in brackets for Vantage N430, where different