2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

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First Drive Review: 2008 Aston Martin V-8 Vantage

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2013.
By Aaron Robinson of Car and Driver

Aston Martin's rooflines are some of the hottest numbers in car couture—they're low cut, tight fitting, and steaming with sex appeal. Cutting off one is like shearing the blond locks off a Barbie doll. Alas, the lovely V-8 Vantage goes headless with the new Vantage roadster, on sale now and priced for the still-working rich at $126,400.

Aston is simply being prudent. The Vantage counts among its rivals the Porsche 911, the Mercedes SL, the Jaguar XKR, and the BMW M6. All are offered with put-away tops. Indeed, Aston expects half of Vantage production to be roadsters. Recall that the Vantage shares its all-aluminum, glued-and-riveted VH chassis with the larger two-plus-two DB9 and DB9 Volante (Aston's other convertible). Intent on preserving the Vantage's much-applauded handling, Aston stiffened it for sun-scooping duty with 44 pounds of additional bracing.

The major change is to the longitudinal box sections at the cockpit's perimeter. They are extruded with thicker walls and extra webbing inside. To fight steering-column shiver, gussets on the door posts tie them more securely to the fire wall, and a thicker brace stretches from the fire wall to the prop-shaft tunnel, a fix that so pleased Aston it's being added to the coupe.

Driving Impressions
The extra structure, including two underbody shear panels that lace together the front- and rear-suspension subframes, helps the roadster approach the Vantage coupe's torsional stiffness—and it actually surpasses the DB9 coupe's, says Aston. During a drive in southern France, the Vantage roadster was jiggle-free as it galloped through corners with confident handling, slack-free controls, and the juiciest exhaust snort this side of a Ferrari's. The cammy 4.3-liter V-8 only lacks bottom-end torque, the big power not arriving until after 4000 rpm.

Packaging a folding hardtop stack would have puffed out the tail and ruined the lines on that delectable bod, Aston says, so it chose a snug-fitting clothtop that collapses under a body-color panel sculpted with seat fairings. The top and its push-button machinery add another 110 pounds. It sound-insulates the cockpit nicely and preserves the Vantage's suggestive roofline as best it can, but it also cuts visibility with expansive blind spots.

The roadster's introduction heralds Aston's new paddle-shift transmission, called Sportshift. All Vantages use Italian-made Graziano six-speed manuals mounted ahead of the rear axle. The Sportshift incorporates a Magneti Marelli hydraulic shifting system virtually identical to those used by Ferrari and Lamborghini. Shifts feel slightly slower than they are in Ferrari's latest F1-SuperFast but are still quick and accompanied by the requisite throttle blipping on downshifts.

Ford's sale of Aston Martin to a consortium of private investors was announced only a week before the roadster launch in March. Aston's management, headed by Ulrich Bez and credited with breathing new life and real performance into the brand, remains unchanged, and work on the four-door Rapide, which was delayed by Ford, has resumed in earnest with a launch predicted in 2009.

Perhaps it'll be one Aston Martin whose roof can't be cut off .

Performance Data:

PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 5.2 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 12.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 13.8 sec
Top speed (drag ltd, mfr's claim): 175 mph

PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
EPA city driving: 13 mpg
EPA highway driving: 20 mpg

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BB02 - 4/17/2014 3:03:25 PM