Entry Level Exotics

Entry Level Exotics: Aston Martin Vantage

It's not as fast as the Porsche 911, but the Aston Martin Vantage looks absolutely gorgeous and its engine note is pure gearhead harmony.

The most important thing to remember about the Aston Martin Vantage is that every bit of it is done right. It looks great, it sounds great, its price fits neatly into Aston's lineup, it is sufficiently different from its other cars and it's fun to drive. One has to explain the difference between the DBS supercar and the DB9 GT car, but the difference in purpose is clear when it comes to the Vantage; it's a sports car. It's actually a sports car up against some serious odds, but it manages to hold its own.

The Vantage has been a clear success for Aston Martin, but it hasn't been quite the runaway success that some of the other cars in this series have been. This is not because there is anything wrong with it, but rather an indication of just how fierce the competition is when compared to the segments which the other cars occupy. With its sporty nature and $120,000 base price, the Vantage falls into that unfortunate category of 911 fighters. To give you an idea of the competition, Porsche sold six times the number of cars that Aston did last year, and they will frequently sell more 911s in one year than Aston has sold of the Vantage since its introduction.

The 911 is king of the $100,000-ish sports cars and despite twelve appearances in Bond movies, Aston just doesn't have the name recognition. So Aston had its work cut out for it when it introduced the current Vantage in 2006. The name had been used before, most notably in the 1977 to 1989 V8 Vantage. It is the V8 Vantage which is today's big seller for Aston as well. There is a V12 Vantage as well, but this is much more of a niche vehicle for crazy people than a proper mainstream model. It is very, very cool though and one of our favorites. The V8 started out as a 4.3-liter unit which produced 380 horsepower.

This was bumped up to 4.7 liters and 420 horsepower in 2008, with the S model getting 430 horsepower. It can hit 60mph in 4.3 seconds (4.0 for the S) and has a top speed of 180mph. So the speed numbers are good, but a car which competes with the 911 and the Audi R8 needs to be able to handle well too. On paper, the .93g on the skidpad figure doesn't quite hold to the others, but what's important is that the Vantage is much more forgiving when you push it a bit too much. Do something stupid in a Vantage and you'll generally have a chance to correct it, whereas if you try that in a 911, you die.

But the Vantage really does handle nicely, and also very importantly, it communicates what's happening to you quite well, meaning that it's also less likely that you'll even have to find out what happens when you overdo it. Price is where things start to get a little iffy. The base price is about $10,000 less than the 911 Turbo, which sounds good, but just hold on a sec. Things like caliper paint and a navigation system are standard on the 911, but Aston will charge you $450 and $2,655 for these options respectively. Satellite radio costs $1,250 on the Vantage, almost double Porsche's already fairly steep price.

So things are actually pretty close when it comes to price, you'll just end up feeling more cheated when you buy the Aston. The Vantage does offer some pretty important features though. It looks better than nearly everything on the road which isn't also an Aston Martin, and it sounds spectacular as well. The same speed in a Vantage feels and sounds much more exciting than it does in a 911. Then there is the question of exclusivity. The Vantage is far rarer than the standard 911 as well as the 911 Turbo, even if the Audi R8 still trumps its exoticism.

The Vantage also serves racing duty for Aston, complete with track-ready customer race cars like the V8 Vantage N24, which predictably was positioned to compete with the 911 GT3 Cup. This has been replaced by the Vantage GT4, complete with the new 4.7-liter version of the V8 engine. An FIA GT2 version of the V8 has also been sold since 2008 and is popular with privateer teams for endurance racing. The most recent racing Vantage is actually a V12 Vantage designed for FIA GT1 competition, unveiled earlier this year. There was even a racing version of the V12 Zagato, a car which is somehow even prettier than the regular Vantage.

So the Vantage is an excellent car. Of course, that's what it needs to be, but many other manufacturers have tried to take on the 911 without anywhere near as much success. It is a car which has thrived under the most difficult of conditions, and that's something that couldn't be done if it wasn't exceptional.

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Starting MSRP
$160,000

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Aston Martin Vantage
Starting MSRP
$160,000
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