2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe Review & Road Test
“Both a visual and sensory treat, Aston Martin’s new V8 Vantage has had a weapons upgrade which makes it even more desirable than ever”
Stunning looks, performance upgrade, interior upgrade, brilliant chassis
Manual gearbox is still hard work, some options should be standard
CarAdvice Rating: (4.5/5)
Believe it or not, New South Wales has some of the finest roads in the country, just head south towards Gundagai and Tumut and you’ll be rewarded with what looks awfully like a German autobahn.
But there is one huge difference, in Germany, you can safely sit on 200km/h in your diesel powered Mondeo, which is a vastly different story to the coma inducing 110km/h speed limit in Australia. But lets not go there, its too damn depressing.
Picture instead, a stunningly beautiful, onyx black Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe, low flying towards the Snowy Mountains and you’ll know how we felt when we got the call from Aston Martin to say that our scheduled first Australian test of the revised 2009 V8 Vantage, had been brought forward a week.
I have yet to meet a single soul on this planet who isn’t immediately seduced by an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, and that includes employees from the world’s best sports car brands.
This is a car, which embodies all that this top shelf English marque stands for.
The small and relatively discrete Aston Martin ‘wings’ badge oozes class, as does each and every panel.
Walk around the car with a discerning eye, and there isn’t a bad angle, its all good.
You won’t find four exhaust tips protruding from the back end of the Vantage either, that would be far too crass. Two large pipes are sufficient for any Aston, and even then, they sit almost flush and don’t protrude.
The 2009 revised V8 Vantage is identical in looks to the 2005 launched car it replaces. Well almost. The wheels are the only external differentiating factor.
Standard kit is 19-inch, 20-spoke alloys (go for the optional graphite finish) but tick the Sport Pack Option; and you’ll get some forged lightweight alloys with five twin-spokes.
In all honesty, I’m not exactly sold on any of the new wheels on offer. The Vantage is an aggressively styled car and needs a set of wheels similar to those found on the DBS to really set it off.
But what I am sold on is the 4.7-litres under the bonnet, up from the 4.3-litres in the previous car.
This is the Vantage that Aston Martin should have built in the first place. After all, it was supposedly bench marked against Porsche’s 911 Carrera, which can motor from zero to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
Well, that won’t be a problem any longer as this revised V8 Vantage now produces 313kW of power and 470Nm of torque and will run 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds.
Punch the throttle and leave your right foot planted, and the 15-percent lift in torque is immediately evident. There’s a lot more urgency in each and every forward gear, as the needle races towards the 7000rpm redline. Even when the car is in GT mode on the freeway, passing semi-trailers from 110km/h in sixth is stupidly easy.
“Always fast – but never flurried” was the promo line on a 1937 sales flyer for the Aston Martin 15/98. Nothing has changed.
Its not that the old car was any less capable in the get up and go department, its just that you needed to mistreat the right pedal if you wanted to move quickly from a dead stop.
But the real magic in the Vantage has always been at 4000 rpm when the bypass valves in the exhaust open up and produce a race car like roar that will literally stop traffic and frighten old ladies. It’s utterly addictive.
That said, engine noise inside the cabin has been suppressed somewhat – at least at low to moderate revs. It’s noticeably quieter than the previous car.
When we first drove the Vantage in 2007, I raved about the chassis. Beautifully balanced, superb feel on turn in, and meaty steering for confidence through tight corners at pace.
It’s pretty much the same story with the revised car although, only better.
All the good stuff, from the impossibly stiff Vantage Roadster has been carried over to the revised coupe.
That’s essentially, a new clutch and flywheel saving a half a kilogram, front and rear springs have been stiffened by 11 percent and five percent respectively, and Bilstein dampers are now standard.
But our test car was optioned with the Sports Pack and believe me, if you like to escape the gridlock once in a while and clear your head with some fast sweeping bends or a Mount Bulla sprint, you’ll want to tick that box.
Spring rates are further stiffened, the Bilstein dampers have been re-tuned, and there’s a revised rear anti-roll bar.
Despite the improvements though, I would have said there wasn’t much in it between the old and new car we tested (also with the Sports Pack).
That’s tantamount to the brilliant chassis dynamics of the original V8 Vantage.
The difference lies in the ride compliance. The new Vantage can soak up potholes and speed bumps, which previously would have been felt through the steering wheel. None of that shimmy now, and a much nicer drive around town to boot.
Aston says that the steering geometry has been modified to improve steering feel but again, after nearly 700 kilometres behind the wheel of the new Vantage, it’s hard to pick any improvement over what was already a near faultless set up.
If anything, even less power assistance would be my call, especially when you’re into some nicely cambered bends at considerable velocity and you’re thinking about whether to keep your right foot into it, or to back off a little.
I’ve got to be fair though, I’m comparing the steering of the V8 Vantage to Lamborghini’s Gallardo Superleggera (the benchmark in the luxury sports car category), which is close on twice the price of the Aston. If anything, it demonstrates how good this car really is.
Let’s not forget, the Vantage will push on to 290km/h, so extreme grip levels are essential. The Bridgestone Potenzas are competent on a variety of road surfaces and frankly, I can’t complain although, we didn’t get to drive the car in the wet on this trip.
What is noticeably different with the new car is the level of intrusion from its DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system, in short and thankfully, not much.
Powering out of a few corners on the twist-fest up to Mount Selwyn, I wondered if I had inadvertently turned the DSC off, such is the level of manageable oversteer allowed by the system, wonderful stuff.
Coming back down the mountain we encountered a rather over zealous utility driver who seemed in an awful rush to get to the bottom. Half way down we doubted whether he had any brakes left such was the smell of his on-fire pads. My point is, there was no brake fade during the rapid 20 minute descent from the four-pot calipers on ventilated, grooved rotors.
By the way, if anyone doubts the value of tyre pressure monitoring systems, we can surely testify to their usefulness. They can save you a packet!
Just on five minutes out of Gundagai, Alborz, who was piloting the Vantage at the time, pulled off to the side with hazard lights blazing, to our annoyance. Apparently, there was a tyre pressure warning light.
On inspection though, the big 275 ultra low profile Bridgestone looked fine, so we pressed on into the town made famous for its “dog on a tuckerbox”.
But while shooting the car under the historic wooden bridge across the Murrumbidgee, you could clearly see that we had a problem.
Panic stations. We needed to be in Tumut before dark to shoot some shots at the Blowering Dam. Thank heavens for the Bridgestone Tyre Centre in Gundagai, which not only repaired the puncture in record time, but also told us that my guess of 18 psi remaining was way off, more like zero, thanks to a dirty big nail.
Traditional manual gearboxes are quickly becoming a thing of the past with fast-shifting, dual-clutch and automated-manual boxes the overwhelming choice of buyers these days.
While Aston Martin is no different with their optional Sportshift transmission, the Vantage in particular, does have its share of traditionalists who opt for the six-speed manual, with which our test car was fitted.
Five years ago, I would have gone for the manual box every time, simply for the whole heel and toe experience. But these days I’m big fan of paddle shifts for the ease and speed of swapping ratios into and out of corners.
Its not that the shift in the Vantage is overly difficult but it does require a firm shove and can’t always be rushed.
You can also heel and toe, provided you give the throttle a decent prod. At the same time the gear ratios are well spaced to take full advantage of the increased power and torque.
Anyone who’s had a peep inside the DBS will immediately recognise the centre console in the new Vantage, which includes the controversial Emotional Control Unit or key replacement that I happen to like.
On the way back to Sydney with the car to myself, I hooked up my Nano to the integrated iPod connection that sits inside the centre console box, a welcome new addition (believe it or not), which runs through the optional Alpine 700W unit, wow!
Before I tell you how good this thing sounds, I have never met anyone from Alpine or exchanged brown paper bags or bank accounts.
The sheer power and clarity of this unit is mesmerising times ten. From Newton Falkner to Nelly and everything in between, this system is faultless at any volume.
I’m told the standard 160W unit does the job but please, ignore that advice and get the dealer to remove and replace it with extreme prejudice.
As with all Astons, the Vantage is essentially hand made using bespoke craftsmanship and materials. It shows, in the volume of hand-stitched leather throughout the cabin.
I had forgotten just how much luggage space there was in the Vantage.
While I can quote the specs at 300 litres boot capacity, practically, there was space for four soft bags, camera equipment and a small Esky, and that’s without utilizing the considerable shelf space behind the driver and passenger seats.
The factory specs quote a combined fuel consumption of 13.9-litres/100kms – that may be right but I don’t care, neither will anyone else putting down $258,737 (RRP).
“More power, more torque, this is the Vantage that will convert you”
CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:
• Engine: front-mid 4.7-litre, alloy V8, quad camshaft, 32-valve with dry sump lubrication
• Power: 313kW @ 7000 rpm
• Torque: 470Nm @ 5750 rpm
• Transmission: Six-speed manual
• Brakes: Four-pot ventilated grooved rotors with ABS, EBD & EBA
• Driven Wheels: Rear
• Weight: 1630kg
• 0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds (claimed)
• Top Speed: 290km/h
• Fuel Type: 98RON petrol
• Fuel Tank: 80-litres
• Fuel Consumption: 13.9-litres/100kms (Combined)
• Safety: DSC, TC, Dual stage driver and passenger airbags, side airbags, Tyre pressure monitoring
• Turning Circle: 11.1m
• CO2 Emissions: 328g/km
• Wheels/tyres: Front: 19-inch, 235/40ZR19
Rear: 19-inch, 275/35ZR19