2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Review
When it comes to distinctive style and unsurpassed elegance, Aston Martin automobiles have no competition. Their early glory days and racing efforts have never totally faded, perpetuated by a certain mystique powered without a doubt by a few James Bond movies. Without 007’s promotion, this nearly extinct brand would have gone the way of the dinosaurs, even after being rescued by Ford in 1987, with 100-percent American ownership by 1994. Throughout it all, the ultra-rich who desired an ultra-exclusive ride found Xanadu in these thoroughbreds — cars like the controversial-looking Lagonda sedan from the late 1970s and 1980s, which in our minds is one of the most striking automobiles ever built, or the 1977 Vantage we caught a ride in down Sunset Boulevard.
Astons like these were hand-built and proudly signed by a single engineer, and they still are. But each was a low-volume car that remained ultra-expensive, which precluded any brand growth. The DB7 that debuted in 1994 changed all that, designed as a volume model that ultimately became Aston’s best-selling model of all time. The new V8 Vantage aims to reach even greater volume numbers by establishing a new, lower entry point for the iconic British brand. Seven hundred Vantages were sold in the United States during its first year of production with 5,000 slated to be made worldwide in 2007 (take a number, though, as interest remains high). Plus, the Vantage Roadster that debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show will go on sale in mid 2007, followed in 2008 by the jaw-dropping Rapide four-door sedan.
Like all Vantages, our special edition pearlescent white test car made for the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was born at Aston Martin’s new state-of-the-art factory at Gaydon, Warwickshire, England, which also builds the mechanically similar, albeit bigger, DB9. Unlike its big brother, the Vantage has only two seats and its smaller proportions lend a more sporty, athletic look that (like all Astons should be) is gorgeous from any angle. The front grille and side vents are obvious evolutions of those found on James Bond’s 1964 DB5, which appeared in “Goldfinger.” Everything else is ultra-modern, and there are no sharp angles to retard airflow. This racer wants to glide through the air like a purposeful white knight. Oh, you should hear it purr, growl and scream as it goes through the RPM gamut.
A note of caution: the Vantage is probably not suited for everyone and not the best choice for the daily commute, but it’s sure to turn anyone into a serious driver. It doesn’t get much more exhilarating than being attached to the input controls of something with four wheels. Just ask Fernando Alonso who had some fun with his R25 Renault on the F1 circuit this year, or perhaps any of you go-kart fanatics out there. Sure, there are a few negative things we could point out, but are you going to criticize a $47-million dollar Picasso? No, and the Aston Martin is a work of art too; so be it.
Entirely built with high-tech materials like extruded aluminum, magnesium and composites, the engineers at Gaydon have done all they could to keep the Vantage light and well-balanced. The VH (Vertical Horizontal) aluminum architecture shared with the DB9 provides a near-even weight distribution designed to create a balanced handling experience. This is achieved by placing the 380-horsepower, all-aluminum alloy V8 behind the front wheels, with the direct 6-speed manual transmission placed behind the driver and forward of the rear axle. The two are connected by a carbon fibre drive shaft. Expect the optional paddle-shift automatic found in the new Vantage Roadster to eventually show up in the coupe.
With the addition of this model, Aston Martin achieves two important goals: it ads an ultra-sexy contender in the $100,000 sportscar club that includes the Porsche 911, Mercedes SL-Class and BMW M6, and offers the rich and would-be Andrettis the ride of their dreams. Now, is the V8 Vantage the white knight that will rescue its legendary brand for years to come? We sure hope so.
Warranty/Service: 3-year/unlimited-mile basic warranty; 3-year/unlimited-mile powertrain warranty.