Sunday, March 05, 2006

Aston Martin V8


The NYT lauds the new Aston Martin:

While there is little to distinguish Aston Martin's more expensive 12-cylinder models, the viciously fast $234,000 V-12 Vanquish and the kinder, gentler $155,000 DB9, the two-seat V-8 Vantage is a bit easier to differentiate. For one thing, it is a foot shorter than the DB9 with which it shares its basic structure. The space saver is an engine with four fewer cylinders.

The car may look narrow and sleek, but that's an optical illusion; the Vantage is 6.7 inches wider than a Porsche 911 Carrera S. The radically flared wheel wells, which easily accommodate 19-inch wheels and tires, have a lot to do with that wide track.

That impossibly handsome body is not the only illusion. The Vantage may look like a technological tour de force, worthy of the wiliest secret agent. But there is neither an ejection seat nor hidden machine guns.

There is also not much in the way of luxury-car gadgetry, like backup cameras, satellite radio, iDrive-style computer interfaces, layers of on-screen menus or ultraexpensive ceramic brakes. While German rivals are laden with the latest electronic gizmos, their instruction manuals as thick as the Manhattan Yellow Pages, the V-8 Vantage just invites you to sit down, shut up and drive.


Performance specs are up to snuff:

"With a punch of the crystal "start" button, the Jaguar-sourced engine — adapted from the block of the 4.2-liter V-8 in the XK — roars to life. For chassis balance, the engine is positioned "mid front" with the six-speed manual gearbox in the rear; a huge tunnel, which cramps passenger space in the cabin, connects them. Poseurs beware: There is currently no automatic transmission, though a six-speed manumatic from ZF of Germany is coming.

Like a tumbler of 20-year-old single malt, shifting is better savored than rushed. The clutch is heavy, like the steering, especially around town. The Vantage longs for the open road, although of course there are precious few places where its top speed (175 m.p.h.) can be explored. From zero to 60 m.p.h., the Carrera S needs 4.6 seconds; the Vantage takes 0.2 second longer. A rumored supercharged version with 50 more horsepower would close that gap. (A convertible is also promised.)

Straight-line acceleration suffers in comparison with rivals like the Carrera S because the Vantage is more than 300 pounds heavier. Still, at 3,462 pounds, it is a quarter-ton lighter than the DB9. Though the Vantage is far from light on its feet, a racing-derived double wishbone suspension keeps it absolutely bonded (pun intended) to the road.

There are shortcomings: an excessive turning radius, sedan-swallowing blind spots, profligate thirst (officially 13 m.p.g. city/19 highway) and a claustrophobic cockpit. Still, the package looks like a million bucks but costs barely one-tenth of that. For an image implant, it's a bargain.



Aston Martin V-8 Vantage: Polish for Your Persona: $120,000
NYT, March 5, 2006

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