First Drive Review: 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2014.
By Patrick Hong of Road & Track
Cologne, Germany — For sports and grand touring cars, often the manufacturers' marketing centers on its racing heritage or the intense attention to the racetrack-tuned development process. But rarely, if ever, does a company CEO talk up his newest sporty car one day and then jump into a similary equipped machine the next day and go racing, and for 24 hours to boot!
Well, that's exactly what happened for Dr. Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin. At a small gathering just days before the famed 24 Hours of Nürburgring enduro in Germany, Dr. Bez talked about the improved 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage and shared his enthusiasm for racing the Vantage N24 in the classic German endurance event. In fact, Dr. Bez — after celebrating the Aston Martin's class 1-2-3 podium sweep — probably drove his own Vantage (parked all weekend in the paddock) back to the office on Monday.
As the Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24 (named for Nürburgring 24 Hours) teams were busily preparing for the race, we had a chance to sample the new 2009 road-going model in nearby Cologne on the Autobahn and some twisty roads. The baby Aston retains the same beautiful exterior styling as before, but now it comes equipped with technical improvements that make the driving experience much more exciting.
First on the upgrade list is the V-8 engine. The new 4.7-liter powerplant (up from 4.3) is rated at 420 bhp and 347 lb.-ft. of torque. All this is made possible by bore and stroke increases, intake manifold changes, and new forged steel crankshaft, connecting rods and cast-aluminum pistons. To ensure proper lubrication under extreme cornering conditions, the oil pick-up points have been moved from the ends to the sides of the sump. According to the factory, the new engine has increased fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions (by 13 percent fitted with the Sportshift automatic transmission).
Other welcome changes to the V8 Vantage are driveability improvements to the 6-speed manual and the optional Sportshift transmissions. For the manual, the clutch pedal effort and rotating mass are reduced to ease gear engagement and bolster engine response. For the automatic, a dual throttle map is available in Comfort and Sport modes to accommodate those who wish to cruise at a relaxed pace, or aggressively attack winding mountain roads. These transmission modifications may seem minor, but when you are driving the Vantage, the added precision in gearchanges and the readily available power on tap turn the baby Aston into a serious sporting machine.
To keep up with the added power, the Vantage's suspension has been stiffened, and the steering geometry tightened to improve response and handling. Bilstein shocks are now standard on the Coupe and Roadster. A Sports Pack is available for more spirited driving dynamics; it includes forged lightweight alloy wheels, retuned shocks, up-rated springs and a revised anti-roll bar (Coupe only). There are noticeable differences between the standard suspension fitment and the Sports Pack. On turn-in, the sportier Vantage with stiffer springs and shocks holds the line better with minimal roll, while the standard model's rear tends to lean a bit more. Overall, the new Vantage exhibits tighter steering feel combined with crisper and smoother cornering abilities.
While the Vantage's exterior is little changed, the car's interior gets a new center console made with cast zinc alloy wrapped in a graphite silver finish. The ignition key, which Aston calls the ECU, or the Emotional Control Unit, is constructed with glass, polished stainless steel and polycarbonate. To turn the car on, slide the ECU into a slot on the upper part of the center console. Push it in and the light turns from red to green to signal the car is ready.
The 2009 V8 Vantage should be in showrooms even as I write this, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price about 5 percent over last year's, which puts the Coupe's sticker starting at around $120,000.