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TheCarConnection.com’s editors drove the new 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage to provide you with an expert opinion of its styling, performance, safety, comfort, and features. Editors at TheCarConnection.com’s also reviewed other respected automotive Web sites to give you the best information possible on this new four-seat convertible.
The 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage sits in a unique niche in the sports car world—: a bit more expensive than the Porsche 911, Audi R8, and Maserati Gran Turismo, but a bargain compared to supercars from Ferrari and Lamborghini. Offered as a two-seat roadster or coupe, it’s hand-built in Great Britain and is offered from a base price of about $130,000. For 2009, it’s been improved with more power and finer interior details. TheCarConnection.com’s editors drove a new Vantage provided by the manufacturer to write this road test summary.
First impressions are critical in the supercar world, and the Aston Martin Vantage’s initial vibe is “stunning.” A two-door coupe or roadster, the Vantage’s shape is sleeker than that of Porsche’s 911, and more technical in appearance than that of the Maserati Gran Turismo. Coupes are hatchbacks by design, while Vantage Roadsters sport a fabric soft top that folds invisibly under a cover. Either shape telegraphs to other drivers, that the Aston Vantage is something affordable on an unearthly budget—it’s a speed-seeking missile from its projector-style headlamps, to its gently curved haunches, to the LED taillamps. It’s these details that give the Vantage a techno appeal, particularly inside, where every detailaccessory—a crystal-capped key, available piano-black trim, controls like those on high-end audio equipment—lends a James Bond air to the car that’s actually transported him to safety on the silver screen. It’s exquisite, even without the Sports Pack, which adds five5-spoke or 20-spoke wheels.
As a street performer, the Aston Martin Vantage excels in unexpected ways not expected. It’s just a touch less earth-shattering than the 911 Turbo and GT-R, but copious power and deft, connected handling turn in a thrilling performance at most any speed. Aston reports a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph. That’s a second slower than a 911 Turbo—and 1.5 seconds off the Nissan GT-R’s 0-60 mph time of 3.3 seconds—but the Aston’s crisp exhaust bark and suave road manners make up for that marginal shortfall. The 420-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 engine pours on powerbrawn through an automated manual shifter with paddle controls or a six-speed manual transmission. The former gearbox, which TheCarConnection sampled, is an older style of shifter that’s not as smooth or quick to shift as a dual-clutch transmission like that found in the Audi R8. Dash-mounted buttons shift the Vantage from Park to Drive and Reverse. Fuel economy for the automatic-equipped Roadster rests at 13/19 mpg.
Once you’re engaged, the Aston responds neurally:; steering is sharp in either the Comfort or Sport modes, and it’s easy to make smooth transitions in corners and through lanes. We prodded exit ramps and canyon-to-coast roads, but this mega-GT is best exercised on a track if you’re looking for the edge of its amazing performance envelope. Ride control is smooth even in Sport mode; an optional Sport Pack adds tighter tuning, 20-spoke 19-inch wheels, and more sporting shocks. Compared to the hefty feel of a Porsche 911, the Aston Martin Vantage is a lighter, point-and-shoot driving experience.
It’s a sumptuous life inside the Aston Vantage cabin. With either Coupe or Convertible, the stout bonded-aluminum body yields a good amount of passenger room for two—though luggage and in-car storage is minimal. Leather swaddles the interior, where foot room and head room are par for the class. Seat comfort is above the average, though the lumbar placement is a bit high. Trunk space is minimal—a couple of weekend bags are about its limit—and interior storage behind the seats could fit a few magazines or atlases at most. Cowl shake is minimal, but the rearview mirror vibrates along with the premium audio’s bass output. Stunning interior materials start with the heft of the console lid and the LED lighting on the glove box button and contribute to a strong quality feel. Optional piano-black trim has the gloss of a Steinway, the chrome buttons are cool to the touch, gauges are trimmed in polished and textured metal, and available red stitching lends a hip, high-tech feel to thea cabin that’s utterly modern.
The 2009 Vantage has a complete set of safety equipment. Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t crash-tested one—and likely won’t ever test it—crash-tested one, the Vantage does offer dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability and traction control. Visibility might be the biggest safety issue, even with front and rear parking sensors. It’s the feeling of driving alongside a Scion xB and looking up at it. The Vantage lacks some cutting-edge safety features--—a rearview camera or blind-spot detection--—that might help drivers get a clearer view of the road.
With a long list of standard features, the Aston Vantage also leaves much up to the owner’s choice. TWe tested hea Roadster testedthat sported a base price of $134,800 and paid a gas-guzzler tax of $1,700. The base Coupe is priced from $119,000. Standard features include power leather seating; a 160-watt audio system with a six-CD/MP3 player and integrated iPod connector and USB; and automatic climate control. Options on the test car included Bluetooth (which pairsed more quickly than any car tested by TheCarConnection thus far); a navigation system that’s not easy to use with the controls provided; satellite radio; and memory and heated seats. A 700-watt audio system is available, though steering-wheel controls for it are not and would be a useful upgrade. With those options and custom trim, the Vantage tested here camecomes to a total of $152,465.