We take the Aston Martin V8 Vantage S for a spin in the Hatta mountains, and discover how a GT4 racing car built for the road handles life away from the track.
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V8, 4735cc||430bhp @ 7300rpm||361lb ft @ 5000rpm||4.6sec||305kph||1610kg||$134,920|
To the casual observer, this appears to be a $138,000 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Said observer would be wrong, since this is actually the $156,000 V8 S. From the outside, there’s little to tell them apart. Peel back the bodywork though and you’ll find that the Vantage’s Sportier, more dynamic accompaniment (Aston Martin have carefully avoided using the word ‘replacement’) is pretty much the same GT4 racing car developed by Aston Martin Racing.
Nope. No joke. Lift the V8 Vantage S lid and you’ll find the same double-wishbone suspension, gearbox and stiffened chassis as its track-going counterpart in an effort to make the S the sportiest Vantage around, minus perhaps the new V12 edition. Gone also is the six-speed gearbox, replaced by a seven-speed Sportshift II transmission that offers closer gear ratios for improved acceleration and shifts up to 20 percent quicker than the outgoing system. Even the rear tyres are wider in an effort to deliver 430bhp and 361lb ft of torque from the 4.7-litre V8 to the road quicker. Said tweaks have clearly had an impact, given the model’s 305kph top speed.
What we have here then is racing car for the road. The big question then: does a racing car for the road actually work?
From the outside, you’d be forgiven for missing this point entirely, tweaks to the exterior proving subtler than the track-hewn accessories might suggest. The Vantage is still a beautiful car, all sweeps, swoops and sleek body contours about the roofline, elongated headlights, and rear spoiler ‘flick’. But with the S comes a lower front bumper and splitter for improved aerodynamics as well as a larger air intake. Tweaks have also been made to the rear diffuser for greater downforce, and our striking red test model stands on pretty slick 19-inch alloys, though 10-spoke lightweight alternatives are also available. Subtle but effective.
In the cabin, you’d be hard pressed to find any track-inspired features at all, the carefully embroidered ‘Vantage S’ monikers on the headrests and floor mats the only giveaways. There’s still sat-nav, cruise control, Bluetooth, beautiful leather upholstery and the various creature comforts expected from an Aston Martin sports coupe. But there are also a few issues. Compared with the beautiful modern looks on the outside, the centre cluster looks and feels a tad dated, despite our test model being a 2013MY model (the indicator and windscreen wiper spindles are a particularly notable culprit, and come dangerously close to feeling cheap). Reach and rake options on the newly installed steering column – another addition to help improve handling – mean finding a comfortable driving position is relatively straightforward, but limited head and legroom make for a very claustrophobic ride. And depending on how thoroughly you’re looking to rag the V8 under the bonnet, you at some point will need to choose between honing and air conditioning, since cool air can turn to warm quite quickly when you push the accelerator hard enough.
Creating wet spots on your shirt though is only one of the V8’s capabilities. The noise is breath-taking. Insert the glass key fob into the dash, and the deep boom that emanates from the exhausts will set the hairs on your neck on edge. And that’s just at idle. Hit 3500rpm, and a new, higher pitch bursts forth and ricochets around the cabin. The nifty Bang and Olufsen speakers rising out of the dashboard may as well not bother. They’re completely pummelled by this infectious sound, which just gets better the closer you get to the 7300rpm horsepower peak.
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