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As the smallest, sportiest model in Aston Martin's lineup, the Vantage holds a position with dual natures: it's the least exclusive, but also the most coveted by performance enthusiasts.
Available in three flavors, including the V8 Vantage, V8 Vantage S, and their roadster variants, plus the V12 Vantage (the V12 Vantage Roadster is not available in the U.S.), there is a Vantage to suit most tastes. Prices start from about $120,000.
New standard features for all 2013 model-year Vantages include: automatic headlights; rain-sensing wipers; and a backup camera. Optional upgrades on V8 Vantage models include: the Luxe Pack, with a premium audio system, heated/memory seats, bright-finish grille, and more; the Exterior Carbon Pack with carbon fiber mirror caps, side strakes, and rear light housing fills; and the Interior Carbon Pack, which adds touches to the gearshift surround, door pulls, and dash. All Vantage models get a range of new color and trim options.
Power for the V8 Vantage comes from a 4.7-liter V-8 engine rated at 430 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque, driving the rear wheels through either a seven-speed Sportshift II automated manual transmission or a standard six-speed manual transmission.
The V12 Vantage uses a 6.0-liter V-12 engine good for 510 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. The greater power output makes this the fastest Vantage, capable of 4.2 second runs to 60 mph and 190 mph top speed. Despite the larger engine, the V12 Vantage is only 110 pounds heavier than the V-8 model.
The weight difference is not noticeable in terms of handling--either Vantage model delivers surprisingly nimble direction changes, ample mechanical grip, and stable straight-line tracking. Acceleration is likewise brisk, and, especially in manual-transmission models, the sporting mission seems well-met. For a more detailed description of the Vantage's handling qualities, read this first drive report of the V8 Vantage S at Motor Authority.
Whichever model you choose, you'll get a similar profile, with a low hood, swept-back windshield, and wide, high haunches. The familiar flattened oval grille, fender vents, and side body character lines are also shared across models. The V12 Vantage gets extra ventilation in the hood to better cool the tightly-fitted V-12 engine.
Inside, the Vantage range exhibits fine materials and a marriage of classic and modern styling themes. A crystal key fob plugs into the center stack, performing dual function as the ignition button. In the V12 Vantage, optional carbon fiber and Kevlar composite seats shave weight while adding performance-driving stability. Throughout the Vantage cabin, Alcantara, leather, and metallic trim accents and highlights the car's performance mission.
Because of the Vantage's sporty ride and compact size, there's not a lot of space for luggage, though the rear trunk will easily accommodate luggage for a weekend getaway. Ride quality is a touch on the stiff side, and engine noise can intrude into the cabin, but with Aston's beautifully tuned exhaust notes, that might not be a problem.