Is the Most Thrilling Aston Also the Least Expensive One?
Entire automotive generations of other cars have come and gone in the time the Aston Martin V8 Vantage has been around, yet the British automaker’s entry-level car is still going strong. Introduced in the 2006 model year, the V8 Vantage might be dismissed as too old to compete, but spend some time in the 2016 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT convertible, and you’ll form a different impression. Except we didn’t just drive the 2016 V8 Vantage GT drop-top; we also spent time in the V12 Vantage S, DB9 GT, and Vanquish on the same day and on the same roads. Each has its own appeal, but when you want a thrilling driving experience with more exclusivity than a certain rear-engine German sports car, add the 2016 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT to your list.
With a short-throw six-speed manual, the 2016 V8 Vantage GT costs $107,825 USD including $2,825 USD for destination, and the Roadster model starts at $122,325 USD. A seven-speed automated manual is offered, too, but we’d avoid it. Before we got behind the wheel of any car, Aston Martin chief program engineer John Caress stressed that it’s an automated manual and not a conventional automatic, and it shows. Aston pitches the transmission as a way to connect to its motorsports efforts, but buyers would be better off eschewing the Sportshift II transmission and using the $5,300 USD it costs on other options. The automated manual in auto mode is a bit jerky, and if what you really want is a traditional and pure driving experience for your weekend ride, get the V8 Vantage GT with the clutch pedal until the car’s replacement has a smoother or quicker clutchless solution.
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Unless you regularly track your fancy weekend rides, it’s difficult to extract the potential of most exotics without accidentally driving into a tree, off a cliff, or into a jail cell. Unlike the quicker 565-hp V12 Vantage S, however, you don’t feel like you’re wasting as much capability with the V8 Vantage GT. And after you lower the Roadster’s soft-top at speeds of up to about 30 mph (48 km/h), that entry-level Aston’s naturally aspirated, 430-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 with its sports exhaust sounds wonderful reverberating against tunnel walls.
Like the 2011 V8 Vantage S we drove years ago, the V8 Vantage GT’s ride is as firm as you’d expect but doesn’t beat you up over every bump. The steering is communicative and combined with the GT model’s non-adaptive sports suspension makes winding roads that much more fun.
Once you’re done or need a break, step out of the swan-wing doors that open at a slight upward angle, and admire the V8 Vantage’s beautiful sheetmetal. The car has been on sale since the 2006 model year, and you can save money by getting a gently used car, but who thinks logically about the purchase of cars with six-figure price tags?
Those used Astons might not benefit from the V8 Vantage GT’s extra equipment. Aside from a sport suspension and exhaust system, the V8 Vantage GT’s 430 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque are 10 hp and 15 lb-ft more than the regular V8 Vantage with the same 190-mph top speed. Aston estimates 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds; in Motor Trend testing, we clocked an eight-cylinder, manual-transmission 2009 coupe hitting 60 in 4.1 seconds.
The V8 Vantage GT offers a choice of five exterior colors with controversial, contrasting colors. (A fuller palette is available on the regular V8 Vantage model.) Appreciating one of those color combinations and a willingness or enthusiasm for manual transmissions will go a long way toward justifying an emotional purchase such as this. The Aston doesn’t offer blind-spot monitoring or adaptive cruise control, and Porsche is likely to offer just as many ways to customize a 911 as you can with the Vantage lineup.
But what we said about a 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage and 2005 Porsche 911 is still true 10 years later:
“The choice here is Savile Row bespoke tailoring versus Hugo Boss off the rack. If style matters enough for you to have tried them both on, and if you can afford either, you’ll be happier in the Aston Martin.”
Although more relaxed and stylish cross-country cruisers exist in Aston Martin’s lineup, when the more practical, slightly quicker, and more efficient 911 lineup no longer holds its appeal, a low-volume, fun-to-drive V8 Vantage GT might be a good addition to a multicar garage if you haven’t bought an Aston before—and if the GT model intrigues, consider the manual.