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The Aston Martin Vantage is the brand's smallest and sportiest vehicle, as well as the least exclusive, but that by no means relegates it to second-tier status. In fact, it's coveted by enthusiasts all the more for its performance, and, like all Aston Martin's its still relatively rare.
The latest edition of the Aston Martin Vantage sees a number of minor updates to the three variants offered. The new V12 Vantage S replaces the previous V12 Vantage, when it joins the V8 Vantage and V8 Vantage S in the model range as a 2015 model in early 2014. New features include a sport button for V8 Vantage and V8 Vantage S models, and an available upgrade to the sport exhaust system for the base V8 Vantage (it's standard equipment for the V8 Vantage S).
Starting from around $120,000 and moving upwards of $185,000 in top trims, the Vantage comes with a strong standard feature set, including last year's updates, which brought automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a backup camera.
Under the hood of the Vantage range you'll find the base 4.7-liter V-8, rated at 420 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque, upgraded to 430 horspeower and 361 pound-feet of torque in V8 Vantage S trim. The V12 Vantage gets S a 565-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-12 engine rated at 457 pound-feet of torque. All models drive the rear wheels only, through a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed Sportshift II (Sportshift III in the case of the V12 Vantage S) automated manual transmission.
With its extra power, the V12 Vantage S is capable of a top speed of 205 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration in just 3.7 seconds. The V8 Vantage S manages the 60-mph run in 4.3 seconds with a maximum speed of 190 mph, while the standard V8 Vantage takes 4.9 seconds and tops out at 180 mph.
All Vantage models exhibit crisp steering and suspension responses, with perhaps a sportier bent than you'd expect in this luxury class. The V12 Vantage S gets an all-new three-mode adaptive suspension offering Normal, Sport, and Track modes that ramp from plush to firm and agile. The suspension mode settings also tie in to the throttle, shift speed (in automated manual models), and exhaust note to further enhance--or rein in--sportiness. For a more detailed description of the Vantage's handling qualities, read this first drive report of the V8 Vantage S at Motor Authority.
The entire Vantage range shares similar cockpit and seating features, with low-slung but comfortable seats, a wide and relatively simple center stack, and good forward visibility. In all, it's a nice environment for sporty driving or even extended cruises, but it's neither especially roomy nor especially quiet. A new NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) package is fitted across the range for 2014, however, which may quiet the cabin somewhat.
Materials and finishes are generally excellent, though as with any hand-built car, you may find individual variations in some panels. Leather, Alcantara, and metallic trim are the main staples of the Vantage cabin, with tasteful use of high-end plastics to fill the gaps. Aston's trademark crystalline key fob is also found here, plugging into the dash to become the push-button starter.
As you'd expect with a high-performance two-door, there's not a lot of room for luggage or other gear. The trunk is adequate for a weekend getaway at most, and there's very little storage in the main passenger compartment. Given the Vantage's objective--high-speed touring and sporty weekend driving--that's probably not an issue for most buyers.
V8 Vantage models come with plenty of standard features, including a 160-watt Aston Martin audio system with six-CD changer; Bluetooth; integrated iPod and USB connectivity; and a 3.5-mm auxiliary input jack. Electrically adjustable sport seats, a full-grain leather interior, organic electroluminescent displays, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, and power-folding heated exterior mirrors are also standard. Stepping up to the V12 Vantage S brings all of those features plus standard navigation, auto-dimming mirrors, three-position memory seats, and various carbon fiber and titanium interior and exterior accents.
In addition to the strong base feature set, there are many available upgrades, plus Aston Martin's ability to personally configure your car with nearly any feature you might want--provided a large enough bank account.
As is common with low-volume, exclusive sports cars, the 2014 Aston Martin Vantage range hasn't undergone crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). All models come standard with stability and traction control, a full complement of driver and passenger airbags, and rear parking sensors.
If you're after high-horsepower V-8s and V-12s, you shouldn't expect great gas mileage--and you won't find it with the Vantage range even if you do. The V8 Vantage and V8 Vantage S rate 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined with the manual transmission, and 14/21/16 mpg with the automated manual. The V12 Vantage S hasn't been rated for the 2014 model year, .