When Aston Martin unveiled the AMV8 Vantage back in 2003, we all gasped at the beauty of the car, Henrik Fisker’s penmanship doing a fine job of raising desirability levels through the roof. This was a car that promised a bullish attack on the likes of Porsche’s 911 but with a lot more style.
The reality didn’t quite live up to the promise in terms of performance, frustratingly so, as it failed to topple the 911 for dynamics and pace. Yet it certainly won the heart and for those not chasing lap times, it was plenty fast enough.
While the Aston Martin DB9 and Vanquish set the styling direction for years to come, the smaller V8 brought it to life in such a way that it still turns heads today. Perfect proportions and with no styling gimmicks the design stands the test of time and has weathered the current trend of ever increasing slats and gaps cut into every piece of bodywork in the name of aerodynamics that most modern cars seem to play to. There’s a certain timelessness about the V8 Vantage that will surely be recognised well into the future.
Powering the V8 Vantage is…well, a V8! And boy is it a glorious sounding thing. The first generation came with a 4.3 L (4,280 cc) quad-cam 32-valve V8 which pumped out 380 bhp (283 kW) at 7,300 rpm and 409 Nm (302 lbft) at 5,000 rpm. Weighing in at 1570kg, it wasn’t the lightest thing on the market but given how heavy cars have become today, it seems light in comparison. Crucially, it weighed 165kg more than the Porsche 911 no doubt impacting its agility somewhat.
Performance figures quoted a 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) time of 4.8 seconds and maxing out at 175 mph (282 kph), comparable to the 911. Today, hot hatches will run rings around it and probably those mega expensive SUVs as well but you don’t buy an older Aston Martin for pure performance anyway.
It wasn’t until 2008 that Aston Martin recognised the car needed a bit more power to at least keep competition in sight, resulting in a 4.7-litre V8 producing 420 bhp (313 kW) and 470 Nm (347 lbft) of torque. There were a host of other changes as well which means these cars command a premium over the earlier 4.3 L versions still today.
Importantly it was the new VH architecture which the V8 Vantage was built upon and with the engines mounted in a mid-front layout with a rear-mounted transaxle it resulted in a 49/51 front/rear weight distribution.
If you’re going to buy one of these second hand it simply has to be one that has been paired with a manual transmission. Opportunities to drive a manual car matched to a beautiful V8 engine are diminishing and a manual Aston has to be one of life’s great automotive joys.
Inside there’s plenty of leather and stitching and few screens to distract you feeling very much on the cusp of the large infotainment screen revolution. There are conflicting reports on quality however most of the complaints these days are around how dated the car feels inside which is strange given it’s a used car designed and built 15 years ago. How well these interiors hold up is really down to the owner/s.
With 300 litres of storage space the V8 Vantage tends to play more to the tune of rapid GT and if you can accept the car fulfilling that role then it’s very much in its sweet spot.
Maintenance on any Aston is going to be critical. These cars were over $250,000 AUD when new and that’s before options which means parts are not going to be cheap and make sure you get an insurance quote on one of these before you fall in love too quickly because you may get a fright.
Prices are going down for these cars which means they are falling into that grey zone of $60-80k. It also means there are potential buyers who fall for the dream of owning an Aston Martin but may not be able to, or stretch to buying one but are unwilling to service it correctly and regularly.
Find a much loved Aston Martin V8 Vantage and you’ve got a car that could be a keeper, that will give you joy whenever you prod the accelerator, and make you feel a bit special (thanks James). If you’re prepared to invest money into the car to keep it running in perfect condition, you’ve got a wonderful piece of Aston Martin’s motoring history.