A few months ago, I met a man named Mike Roy who’s certainly as interested in cars as anyone I’ve ever met. After we had talked for a while, he told me that he owned a 2008 Aston Martin Vantage. He offered me the chance to test it and write about the experience. Given the nature of the car, it’s hard not to make a cliché James Bond reference, but I’ll try to refrain.
As the day of the test drive loomed nearer, so did forecasts of rain – not ideal conditions for driving or photographing such a fantastic car, but we lucked out, the sun appearing just ten minutes before I arrived at Mike’s house. As I pulled in, I spotted the sinister, muscular Vantage in the driveway, with just the slightest dusting of Maine’s rampant pollen on the glossy black paint. Mike showed me and my photographer around the car, then he handed me the keys.
I’ve tested plenty of fast cars, but fast alone isn’t enough for most drivers to be happy. Unless you’re a stoic, you’ll want comfort, practicality, and good looks, along with a long list of smaller (but still important) attributes. Let’s see how the Aston Martin Vantage covers the spectrum.
Firing up the Vantage feels exactly as it should. Insert and twist the key in the ignition, then press the etched crystal start button in the middle of the dash. The 4.3 liter hand-built V8 thunders into life, then settles down into a throaty, slightly pulsating burble. Though 4.3 liters is relatively small in the sports car world, Aston Martin massaged their V8 to make an impressive 380 horsepower and 302 lb-ft. of torque, so there’s a wave of power ready whenever you summon it. Of course, you’ll be lucky if you manage twenty miles per gallon, but this car isn’t all about fuel economy, and it’s certainly not the least efficient ride out there. The six-speed manual transmission is firm and precise, with short throws and a surprisingly forgiving and light clutch.
Performance-oriented cars often have stiff, unforgiving suspensions to help them handle better, and most Maine roads are frequently mangled by weather changes. These conditions are better suited to giving violent shiatsu massages than good road holding, but the Vantage soaks up all but the largest craters with impressive composure. To keep you from sliding around as the car hugs the road, the hand-stitched seats are firmly bolstered, but still quite comfortable. Sitting low in the driver’s seat makes putting your elbow on the windowsill an over-your-head affair, but that’s fine, because this isn’t the kind of car that demands just a little attention. Sure, it’s relatively easy to drive given its power and prestige, but the steering and brakes are quick (especially the dual caliper rear discs), and treating the controls like those of a lesser vehicle will likely get you rear-ended or veering off of the road at an alarming rate.
Looking out over the expansive, sculpted hood is necessary when driving, but if the Vantage is at a standstill, it’s the gorgeous interior that merits attention. As exquisite as the outside of the car is, the inside makes you feel just as spoiled and important. Swathed in light tan leather with black stitched accents, you’ll become keenly aware of all of the subtle amenities this car has to offer. The gauges are framed in a brushed light metal that is likely aluminum, and lit by a bluish light that bathes the dials. The center console is neatly arranged with a hidden navigation system that can swivel out toward the top. The elegant crystal start button leads into a metallic grey series of buttons that are accented by glossy silver climate control knobs toward the bottom. Of course, most of the interior is covered or accented by the aforementioned leather and stitching, ensuring that the car exudes class inside and out.
Words and even pictures struggle to do the Aston Martin Vantage justice, as it is arguably one of the most beautiful cars in the world. Whether parked or driving, you’re guaranteed to have onlookers gawking and twisting their necks for a better look. Another ad“Vantage” of the car’s styling is that the remarkably flowing and chiseled body will age very well, as curves generally have an advantage over angular designs in older cars. This helps ensure that the Vantage will become a timeless classic, and will always be aesthetically appealing.
The Aston Martin Vantage, now sold as a 2012 model year, has seen a few major updates in the past few years, most notably a larger 4.7 liter V8 that puts out 420 horsepower and 346 lb-ft. of torque. Though fast, the Vantage isn’t built primarily for speed. It’s just as much about “soul” and “passion,” although those terms might be overused. Still, it seems okay to use them when referencing a car that looks this stellar. You can get a Nissan GT-R for less money and it will go faster, but you won’t likely feel as connected to the experience, because there are so many computers in the GT-R. And though it’s striking, the GT-R won’t draw eyes like the Vantage does.
So, what is the Vantage? It’s a stunning all-around car for one or two people. It can carry a decent amount of luggage in the trunk, it looks incredible inside and out, and it performs as well as you’ll ever need on public roads. It’s also an investment in a high-class name brand, as well as a dive into relative exclusivity. The Aston Martin Vantage is a finely polished jewel that will retain its shine for decades to come, and will provide its owners with massive smiles, whether the Vantage is parked in the driveway or carving up a canyon road. This car shows you’ve made it.