By Matt Degen
The 2015 Aston Martin Vantage coupe and convertible represent the entry model in the British brand's stable of supercars. Like its bigger grand-touring siblings, the 2-seat Vantage has jaw-dropping design and the cachet inherent with the brand most associated with Bond, James Bond. The Vantage, however, is more performance-oriented and has a lower starting price that just got lower. With the new Vantage GT, this exotic can now be had for under $103,000, about $17,000 less than the previous base model. That money buys a lot of performance and serious badge appeal, but in light of newer and more advanced rivals such as the Jaguar F-Type, Porsche 911 and Audi R8, the Vantage's sparkle has started to dim.
If there's such a thing as a "budget exotic," the Aston Martin Vantage is it. Owning an Aston also grants immediate access to a rather exclusive club, and all but guarantees front-row status at the valet line.
Exclusivity's flip side is a smaller dealer and service network when your Aston needs maintenance. In addition to offering a broader support community, rival vehicles from Jaguar, Porsche and Audi offer newer technology and far more refined automatic transmissions than what's found on the Vantage.
On the heels of the powerful, range-topping V12 Aston Martin Vantage S comes the 2015 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT, with a lower base price that starts just over $100,000. Also new this year is the V12 Vantage S Roadster, with a starting price near $200,000.
The Aston Martin Vantage isn't the quickest car in its class, but your heart will think otherwise. That's because the emotional side of the Aston begins as soon as you...
... insert its slab-sided glass key into the center console and this British sports car roars to life. The Vantage's initial growl at idle and subsequent howl at speed is about as far from ordinary transportation as you can get. The Aston Martin Vantage grabs your attention and, for better or worse, continues to demand it. Driver engagement is obvious in the recommendable 6-speed manual transmission that's now available only on V8 models, and unfortunately just as obvious in the not-recommendable 7-speed single-clutch automatic, a jarring contraption in everyday driving that's the only choice in the V12 Vantage S coupe and convertible. That automated-manual remains the Achilles heel in a sports car that otherwise rewards with excellent acceleration, braking and grip.
SIGHT AND SOUND
The Vantage's exterior design is so sublime that even busy passersby will stop to gawk. But only the driver and one lucky passenger can experience its symphony from inside. In its own way, the Vantage's exhaust note sounds just as good as the available Bang & Olufsen audiophile system.
The 2015 Aston Martin Vantage retains hydraulic steering assist, albeit with an upgraded system. This is good news for enthusiasts, who generally prefer the more natural feel of hydraulic assist to the electric assist that's becoming increasingly widespread.
While not abounding in space, the 2015 Aston Martin is well-crafted. It doesn't offer the tech wizardry of rivals such as Audi, but still coddles drivers in leather seating. There are fine accents such as piano black or carbon-fiber trim, and the seats are supportive. Knobs to control audio and climate functions seem dated, and surrounding buttons are small and can be confusing. In the center is an elegant orifice that swallows the glass key, and above that, a pop-up nav display. In automatic models, buttons substitute for a gear selector. Cargo space is limited to 10.6 cubic feet in coupes, half that in convertibles.
Few will argue that one of the Vantage's best assets is its skin. That long, low hood and swollen rear fenders define power and grace. V8 and the V12 Vantage S models add a carbon-fiber lower air splitter, along with other accents. The V12 Vantage S also gets numerous hood vents, which look aggressive, but mar the otherwise clean lines. Roadsters get a power-operated soft-top, and additional structural reinforcements to compensate for the lack of a roof. The top deploys and retracts in 18 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph.
As expected in a luxury car, the 2015 Vantage offers a host of amenities to complement its powerful and very tangible engine, as well as its not-so-tangible badge appeal. But as we've mentioned, you won't find the latest tech and safety goodies, and with the base Vantage GT's lower sticker price comes even less. In that version your $100,000-plus nets a leather interior, automatic climate control, navigation, a rearview camera, and a 160-watt AM/FM/CD/USB audio system. No cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror or heated seats. V12 Vantage S comes with the larger engine, carbon-ceramic brakes, and a driver-adjustable suspension.
Unlike other luxury sports cars, Aston's list of options is on the small side. Along with several wheel styles and exterior bits, a sport suspension is available on coupe models. Available inside are heated front seats and, for 2015 Vantage GT models, a Technology Package that includes cruise control and Bluetooth telephone preparation, items that are usually standard on economy cars. Among the most desirable features is a 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system that is a thrill ride for the ears. Buyers who crave ultimate personalization can use Aston Martin's "Q" bespoke service.
The 2015 Aston Martin Vantage is available with two naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) engines and three power outputs. The V8 Vantage, V8 Vantage S and new Vantage GT come with a 4.7-liter V8 tuned to make 420 horsepower in regular models or 430 in the S and GT. The V12 Vantage S comes with, no surprise, a V12. This 6.0-liter monster makes 565 horsepower and enables the V12 Vantage S to hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and reach 205 mph. (With 0-60 mph times of under five seconds, the V8 models are hardly slouches.) All Vantages are rear-wheel drive. V8 models use a 6-speed manual transmission or the unrefined 7-speed automatic, which is the only choice in V12 versions.
420 horsepower @ 7,300 rpm
346 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/19 mpg (manual), 14/21 mpg (automatic)
430 horsepower @ 7,300 rpm
361 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/19 mpg (manual), 14/21 mpg (automatic)
565 horsepower @ 6,500
457 lb-ft of torque @ 5,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/18 mpg
The cost of a new Aston Martin Vantage has been reduced significantly, but it will still set you back six figures. With the introduction of the 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT, the price of admission is now just under $103,000, nearly a $17,000 decrease vs. the standard V8 Vantage. Roadster versions of the Vantage have traditionally come at a roughly $15,000 premium. The top-dog in the 2015 Vantage range is the V12 model, which starts around $188,000 for the coupe and $200,000 for the Roadster, including gas guzzler tax. With its lower starting price, the 2015 Vantage undercuts the Audi R8 and Maserati GranTurismo, but it's still more than the new Jaguar F-Type and a comparable Porsche 911. At this point, we would usually direct your attention to the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying, but we doubt there will be much quibbling among Aston clients.