2009 Aston Martin Vantage Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 3, 2009

2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage carves a distinct niche in the ultra-luxury sports car class with panache and power.

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.

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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.

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2009 Aston Martin Vantage

Styling

The 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is the embodiment of automotive sex appeal.

If your mouth waters at the sight of an Aston Martin Vantage, you’re not alone. Whether in coupe or convertible iterations, the styling of the Vantage is touted among all reviewers. Even though the only change in the 2009 model is the addition of 19-inch forged alloy wheels, the Vantage is, unquestionably, one the sexiest modes of modern-day transit.

“It's a good thing that for 2009, the baby Aston's exterior retains the fluid yet muscular look,” says Road & Track. “Aston really didn't need to change a thing as the V8 Vantage already was blessed with near-perfect proportions and amazing road presence. Inside, there is change but the additions are far better in theory than execution,” comments Automobile Magazine.

“I state unapologetically that the new V8 Vantage is the most beautiful car currently being made,” gushes a reviewer at Automobile.com. “And funny thing, I know so many people who have never driven this car, yet still want it on looks alone.” Motor Trend quips, “There's no denying the Vantage's rarity and beauty (lined up with the 911, it looks like a leopard next to an ostrich egg).”

It's the inside, especially the center armrest, that draws criticism. “We feel that it's a case of the styling department leading the show and not the engineers,” says Automobile Magazine. “Chief designer Marek Reichman told us that anyone who is bothered by armrest should just order the improved but still slightly clunky paddle-shift sequential manual transmission. We don't like that answer.”

Otherwise, the interior of the 2009 Vantage is just as intoxicating as its exterior. “Stepping into the driver's seat of the Vantage, you are greeted with hand-stitched leather and suede,” notes NADA Guides. “The dash finishes range from bamboo, ash wood and mahogany to glossy piano black. Unusual details include Aston’s signature counterclockwise tachometer, a crystal capped key fob (so drivers can carry a small piece of automotive jewelry when they’re not behind the wheel) and a spring-loaded Lamy pen that tucks into the dash. Good show,” reports Popular Mechanics.

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2009 Aston Martin Vantage

Performance

The 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage can’t match its own coupe’s speed and handling, but it’s fast and capable on its own terms.

With increased displacement and improved suspension, the performance of the 2009 Aston Martin Vantage matches its handsome good looks. Enthusiastic driving accompaniment is provided by the Vantage’s symphonic V-8.

“There [aren’t] many engines on the planet whose exhaust note alone can convince you that $136,630 is an entirely reasonable sum to pay for an automobile,” says Motor Trend.

“The engine has grown from 4.3 to 4.8 liters, and output has leapt by 40 ponies to 420 hp, just as torque has climbed by 44 lb.-ft. to 346,” reports Popular Mechanics, adding, “those larger pistons are also lighter, and the effect is magnified when they’re spun to 7000 rpm. The engine mods result in an improved zero-to-60 times of 4.7 seconds, plus a top speed of 180 mph.”

Automobile Magazine says, “Aston engineers added power exactly where it was missing. Midrange punch is vastly improved and the pull up to the 7200 rpm rev limiter is strong. We pushed the new V8 Vantage past 160 mph on the Autobahn with little effort, making Aston's claim of a 180 mph top speed seem accurate.” “Amazingly, the engine is able to deliver 77 percent of its power at just 1500 rpm which means you are in for tire squealing, tachometer thumping, driver crying levels of excitement while behind the wheel,” remarks a NADA Guides reviewer.

“The transmission’s clutch and flywheel have been upgraded to cope with the increased power,” notes Popular Mechanics. “The Sportshift gearbox benefits from a revised control strategy, which enables the transmission—not the engine—to determine torque delivery during cog swaps. New software offers finessed off-the-line acceleration and shifts that happen in 200 milliseconds.”

Not all was rosy with the Vantage’s new transmission. Motor Trend reports, “Around town and in spirited driving, the auto-clutch transmission was no match for the full manual, proving both sluggish and clunky. And now the really bad news: The auto-clutch car wouldn't allow an aggressive track launch. Instead, it simply attempted to roast its clutch. Opting to spare the car from self-flagellation, we recorded no additional timed runs.”

When it comes to handling, Automobile Magazine finds that, “where the old car always felt outshined in outright handling by a Porsche 911 and in ride quality by the Jaguar XKR, the new car is an improvement in both areas. It still has a stiff low-speed ride, especially with the sport suspension fitted, but it's perfectly in line with the character of the car. All these revisions turn the Aston into a real back-roads weapon.”

“The V8 Vantage Roadster managed each corner with controlled poise and each straight with unbridled enthusiasm, its engine revs kept high and response to throttle input immediate and thoroughly enjoyable,” observes Automobile.com.

In the braking department, Popular Mechanics says, “strong stops require firm pedal pressure, and though the ventilated four-piston Brembos offer potent deceleration, a more aggressive setup (or perhaps optional carbon ceramics) would feel better suited to this car’s abilities.”

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2009 Aston Martin Vantage

Comfort & Quality

As beautiful as the 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is on the outside, there’s room for improvement inside the cabin.

The quality of materials in the 2009 Aston Martin Vantage is on par with its price tag, but there’s a question about the comfort level not matching the car’s upgraded performance.

“The moment you sweep open the V8 Vantage’s ‘swan wing’ doors, you know you’re about to climb into something special. The Vantage’s interior, generously swathed with soft leather and buttery Alcantara, was put together with great care. It’s sumptuous,” declares Popular Mechanics.

About the convertible, Automobile.com reports that, “with the top down the wind can be felt, but the V8 Vantage Roadster is very well isolated compared to some of its premium rivals.” Popular Mechanics says "there’s a bit of road noise that makes it into the cabin at highway velocities” of the coupe, “but never enough to make the Vantage feel noisy, or worse, uncivilized.”

It’s the Vantage’s seats that leave some reviewers in discomfort. “One improvement we'd like to see is more supportive seats to match the upgraded performance,” suggests Automobile.com. “Aston offers aggressive yet cosseting one-piece carbon-fiber sports seat in the DBS in Europe but they aren't available in the USA due to the lack of side airbags.” Motor Trend agrees, saying, “the sport seats are so spine-unfriendly they should come with free massage coupons.” However, NADA Guides finds the seats to be “supportive under hard-driving yet still comfortable.”

Automobile.com reports the cockpit is much nicer than the 2007 model “with leather just about everywhere that aluminum and high-quality matte-finish plastics aren’t.” “The center console is easily within reach and thus affords quick access to the radio, optional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) Satellite Navigation and Bluetooth phone system,” asserts NADA Guides.

Motor Trend has issues with the column-mounted shift paddles, saying they “are so small that with the wheel turned only slightly you have to move your hands to reach them.”

NADA Guides contends “the ride of the 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is stiff like you would expect a proper sports car to be; however, it was never jarring or uncomfortable.”

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2009 Aston Martin Vantage

Safety

Despite the lack of crash-test ratings, the 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage scores well due to its excellent safety features.

The 2009 Aston Martin Vantage has not been tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)—and most likely never will be. Safety is not the primary concern of those purchasing this car.

However, Aston Martin doesn’t disregard safety. The Vantage comes equipped with anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, side airbags, and rear parking assist.

Visibility might be the biggest safety issue, even with front and rear parking sensors. “Its thick pillars and low-profile windows hamper visibility and tend to make occupants feel hunkered down,” says Edmunds.

Another safety-related complaint comes from Automobile Magazine: “The stability control system is slightly over eager to come into play when driving the V-8-powered Aston quickly. The DBS offers a sportier, more tolerant stability control mode and this feature would be a welcome addition to the V8 Vantage as well.”

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2009 Aston Martin Vantage

Features

A long list of features accompanies the 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, allowing owners to upgrade and personalize as they choose.

The base price of the 2009 Aston Martin Vantage coupe is $119,000 with these included standard features: power leather seating; a 160-watt audio system with a six-CD/MP3 player and integrated iPod connector and USB; and automatic climate control. Those familiar with BMW’s iDrive system will understand Automobile Magazine’s statement: “Switching between the integrated iPod interface, the navigation system, and Bluetooth makes BMW's iDrive look impressive.”

Vantage options include Bluetooth, a navigation system that’s not easy to use with the controls provided; satellite radio; and memory and heated seats. “The flip-up nav screen shows only nav info; audio functions are relegated to a small LED display,” says Motor Trend, adding “a new Hard Disk Drive Navigation System allows for faster route processing, improved graphics, and additional features.”

A 700-watt audio system is available, though steering-wheel controls for it are not and would be a useful upgrade. “The radio features an in-dash 6-disc changer and when matched with the optional 700 watt Aston Martin Premium Audio System, the sound is amazing,” says NADA Guides.

“Interesting touches like a crystal ashtray complement what might be the most coveted key fob in history, an electronic device also made of crystal that lights up in its center-dash-mounted slot,” notes Automobile.com. “The ignition key—er, 'Emotion Control Unit'—looks impressive but it's no 'smart key' (it can't open the doors automatically or start the engine from your pocket), and it's tricky to insert into the dash for a proper engine start,” retorts Motor Trend.

According to one reviewer, Aston Martin has been astute in addressing some faults from the past. Untactful switchgear that was difficult to use has “been revised in the new car with a completely restyled center stack—constructed from die-cast zinc alloy and finished in graphite silver—containing new controls designed to be easier to operate than their predecessors,” says Motor Trend.

Autoblog is impressed with the “delightfully simple button on the dash allows the driver to choose from either ‘Sport’ or ‘Comfort’ gearbox maps.” The reviewer explains that “the computer remembers what transmission setting you were in last, so you can hop in and head out without having to navigate through endless menus.

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Styling 9
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