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DOUBLE-O HEAVEN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jan 17, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

DOUBLE-O HEAVEN By John Grafman

You can put a price tag on many things. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage certainly has one, about 120k just for stepping in without extras. But flying down the 405 freeway in the dark early morning hours in the Vantage as it sweeps along one bend after another provides a sensory overload that one just can't put a dollar value on. This is driving as the automotive gods intended it to be. The Vantage is an It car. Even those who know little about automobiles love this car. That reminds me of the appeal the legendary Porsche 911 had several decades ago. The 911's brilliance seemed to tarnish as the car became more and more popular, and too frequently, mere mortals found themselves in the driver's seat. Fortunately, Aston Martin isn't producing these in enough numbers where that will become an issue, or at least not for now. In even a brief amount of time, it's easy to discern what makes this car special. Right from the get-go the resemblance between this and the other cars in the Aston Martin family is obvious. But, by no means does this play second fiddle to its siblings, or any other sports car for that matter. Getting straight to the heart of the matter, the 4.7-liter motor effectively puts out 420 horsepower. The four-valve per cylinder, all alloy 8-cylinder, quad overhead cam, creates 346 lb. feet of torque. Even more amazing is that 77 percent of that power is available at only 1500 rpm. The weight of the coupe comes in at just a few pounds shy of 3,600 lbs. One would expect just a bit less tonnage given the use of alloys and composites.

Having this much power underfoot is what one lives for. Having performance on par with the styling and throaty sounds emitting from the tailpipe is more than just satisfying, it's enlightening. The problem with this much power in a vehicle is having the self-control necessary to drive it in an over-populated city such as Los Angeles. An over-abundance of power, and an underwhelming amount of space to exercise it in, is not the ideal combination. On top of that, the deep growl coming from the engine even at idle provokes one to do things they really ought not to. But isn't that what a sports car is all about? Coming a close second to the maintaining of self-control issue is the ability to launch from a dead stop as smoothly as one would like. With a heavy clutch and so much power, the transition from stop to a slow roll can be botched without a little practice and a strong left leg. The manual transmission requires an even higher level of skill on an incline. Aston Martin does use a manual hand parking brake, yet it isn't a normal parking brake. With most parking brakes, you can feel it progressively engaging or disengaging. This is not the case with Aston Martin's parking brake. The bottom line: Stop signs on hills don't mix well with the Vantage. All is forgiven once you get the car rolling. From that point on it does no wrong. Smooth and progressive is what one expects, and the Vantage delivers in spades. It can handle crawling at 20 mph through the jungles of Westwood with as much aplomb as it can handle triple digit speeds. This Aston Martin requires no effort to go ballistic, and 0-60 miles per hour comes in a scant 4.7 seconds. But, there is no sacrifice on top speed, as this will max out at an honest 180 (or so we're told). This Aston Martin certainly hits the right numbers. Even more thrilling is how a quick stab at the throttle produces the desired results regardless of the speed you're traveling. The mid-mounted, six-speed manual gearbox proves this precisely every shift, and it does so feeling perfect to the touch. The shift points seem perfectly placed, so bringing out every last ounce of power is effortless. While the torque peaks at 5,000 rpm, it's hard to resist pushing this closer to redline, so as not to miss any of the available notes in the expansive register that is the Vantage's exhaust 'song'. Not only is the coupe's layout so well balanced with the placement of the motor and transmission in between the front and rear axles, but there's also balance between the car's ability to accelerate and handle, as well as brake.

The massive rotors of the disc brakes offer much appreciated feedback and stopping power. Squeeze down on the brake and it feels like the world has reversed its rotation. The 19-inch wheels barely swallow the huge 355 mm vented and grooved disks in front, and the slightly smaller 330 mm set in the rear. Standard equipment also includes an antilock braking system, dynamic stability control, electronic brake forced distribution, emergency brake assist, and positive torque control. The radial mounted four-piston monoblock calipers govern all those systems, plus traction control. The independent double-wishbone suspension incorporating anti-dive geometry up front (anti-squat in the rear), coil springs, anti-roll bars, and monotube dampers, soak up road deformations and provide just enough driver feedback to be useful, but not overbearing. Complementing the set-up are the grippy Bridgestone Potenzas with huge 275/35/ZR19s in the rear. None of this is lost through the rack and pinion steering or the wide rimmed hand-stitched leather steering wheel. The end result is one very well sorted-out machine. One of the most impressive aspects is how flat the Vantage takes a corner. While the vehicle is very capable of high performance handling, comfort suffers only moderately, and the overall chassis feels well screwed together, or should I say bonded given how this is constructed. No unexpected noises are heard in the cabin, or at least not above the melodic roar of the motor, and those are the sounds we like to hear. All the mechanical and electronic tidbits make this one very fast car. Of course, there are those that point to other less expensive cars that are in the same ballpark when it comes to specs. And while those individuals might be right, they seemed to miss the point. The Vantage provides handcrafted perfection and uniqueness that you won't find in production cars such as the Corvette, or the Lotus Exige S. Both of those cars are fantastic in their own right, however the Vantage is in a different league.

Not many sports cars can boast a full grain hand-stitched leather interior, or Alcantara headlining. The leather surrounds a beautiful gunmetal alloy fascia trim, a center console with graphite finish, and the unique Organic Electro Luminescent (OEL) displays. The seats are supportive without being confining like you'd find in a true racecar. And like all of the interior components and details, this is as attractive to gaze upon as it is to touch. Of course, this is filled with other requisite goodies such as dual stage driver and passenger front air bags, side airbags, automatic temperature control, tire pressure monitoring, and the ever popular and sadly all to necessary alarm and immobilizer. The interior is very comfortable and for the most part finished without the use of extraneous plastic pieces that cover areas that are difficult for most manufacturers to finish off cleanly. A few carryover Ford influences are found, but those aren't readily apparent. Similarly, the cup holders are cool in layout, but lack in depth. So, while it does hold a drink, it doesn't have a GI Joe kung-fu grip on it. A few buttons seem to be located in odd places but none of these are big issues, so the cabin gets 99 points out of 100. Extra bonus points are accumulated for the inclusion of exposed structural elements and finishes in both the interior and the decent size trunk offering up 10.6 cubic feet of storage. This is the perfect machine for a weekend getaway, and the storage in the rear makes this possible as long as a golf bag isn't included. Numerically, this ponies up over twice the trunk room provided in the Vantage Roadster. Standard equipment includes a 160-watt audio six CD changer. This also benefits from an integrated Apple iPod connector. The manufacturer is also clever as to use a USB connector with Waveform Audio Format (WAF), the Windows Media Player (WMA), and MPEG (MP3) audio file compatibility.

This particular model is equipped with the optional 700 watt Aston Martin Premium Audio System with Dolby Pro Logic II. A few minutes listening to this ground pounding stereo justifies the nearly $1,500 price tag. On the subject of electronics, a nice radar detector should be considered given the nature of this car. With regards to that, if the cigarette lighter plug-in resided forward of the six-speed shifter instead of aft the detector power cord wouldn't get tangled during each and every shift. It's a small peeve, but it is certainly a nuisance. When throwing some additional dollars around on optional equipment, one cannot forget such basics as heated seats, front parking sensors, or satellite radio. Of course, a buyer can choose more esoteric picks such as the ashtray and cigar lighter, or perhaps the alternative brake caliper finishes that come in colors such as black, red, or silver. One of the choices that separate Aston Martins from the pack is the potential to match the body to a particular exterior color of your desire. Hey, it's only money. Just one of the many little details that make it this car special is the ECU. No, not the electronic control unit, but rather the emotion control unit. This odd, perhaps cheesy name is given to the starter key, which in fact is actually a stainless steel and glass device that's inserted into the center of the dash and then pressed in order to start the motor. This is not very different from BMW's starter system, but Aston Martin has added a dramatic flourish to the operation. The Aston Martin Vantage V8 offers nearly everything, except a dull moment. Ever. If you can't be over the top once in a while, you might as well stay at home. So if anyone ever asks, the answer is yes - a little drama is okay. With the Vantage, it's just another standard feature. SUMMARY JUDGMENT Big buck fun for big bucks. A true example of the phrase "You get what you pay for." Find out more at www.astonmartin.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2008 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Price: Base $117,400, as tested $136,630 Engine type: All alloy quad overhead camshaft 32-valve, 4735cc 4.7-litre V8. Variable inlet camshaft timing. EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 12/19 Horsepower: 420 @ 7,000 rpm Torque: 346 lb.-ft @ 5,750 rpm Drive configuration: 
Front-mid mounted engine /
Rear wheel drive. Transmission type: Rear mid-mounted six-speed manual gearbox with optional Sportshift*4 automated manual transmission. Suspension: Front: Independent double aluminum wishbones incorporating anti-dive geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube dampers. Rear: Independent double aluminium wishbones incorporating anti-squat and anti-lift geometry, coil springs, anti-roll bar and monotube dampers. Wheels and tires: Front: 19'' alloy wheels - 20 spoke design - 8.5J x 19'', Bridgestone Potenza tyres - 235/40 ZR19 Rear: 19'' alloy wheels - 20 spoke design - Rear: 9.5J x 19'', Bridgestone Potenza tyres - 275/35 ZR19 Brakes: Front: Ventilated grooved steel discs 355mm diameter Rear: Rear: Ventilated and grooved steel discs 330mm diameter Radial-mounted four-piston monobloc calipers. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Traction Control. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). Emergency Brake Assist (EBA). Positive Torque Control. Overall length: 4380mm (172.5'') Overall width: 1865mm (73.5'') w/o mirrors, 2025mm (80'') w/ mirrors Overall height: 1255mm (49.5'') Curb weight: 1630kg (3595lb) 0-60 mph: 4.7 Top Speed, mph: 180

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