The biggest problem with the 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is that it brings on near uncontrollable bouts of flowery poetics as you struggle to describe the rapture of driving the stunningly powerful supercar. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage isn't a perfect car, but once you leave the congestion of the city and let it loose on the open highway, it seems beyond improvement. The V8 Vantage is made for driving, and when driven, it is a marvelous piece of automotive engineering.
The 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage parked, seen from the side.
The hand-built V8 Vantage is a striking beauty. Like Van Gogh, you'll never mistake it for something else. Its styling is aggressive and sharp, and it looks like it wants to move and fast. The LED headlights give it the look of a ghostly shark chewing up the highway in the dark of the night. Yet the Aston Martin V8 Vantage also communicates a level of sophistication not seen in flashier supercars from manufacturers like Lamborghini or Ferrari. There's a reason why James Bond drives this car: It's a fighter jet in a tux.
The massive front mid-mounted 4.7 liter V8 engine produces 420 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque and gives the Vantage a top speed of 175 mph and a blistering 0-60 miles per hour time of 4.7 seconds. Practically speaking, there's no reason anyone should ever pass you on the highway. All of that power is controlled quite handily by a six-speed manual, rear limited-slip differential supported by the bonded aluminum chassis, sport suspension and Brembo brakes. The mid-mounted engine means the V8 Vantage has a 49/51 front-back weight distribution, and the whole car weighs in at a fit 3,413 pounds. All that is to say, the handling is superb.
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The V8 Vantage communicates a sense of power and invincibility to the driver even when accelerating during aggressive cornering. Driving the V8 Vantage, it is not unusual to feel like the car is more capable than your nerves. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is capable of driving faster, cornering sharper and stopping quicker than you probably are willing to. The car does encourage you to cross boundaries whenever possible, and it can seem like an almost super-human task to keep it in the bounds of the speed limit. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage leaves the driver wishing for a speedway.
The interior does nothing to dampen the ambitions of any would-be racing driver. Where the outside styling of the car is sophisticated and sleek, the interior is the platonic ideal of the "race car" you wanted when you were five. Our particular vehicle was trimmed in red leather with a gray suede roof. The car has polished steel dials and clocks. The ignition, in particular, is a conversation piece; the V8 Vantage's key is a glass and steel rectangle which glows blue when inserted into the ignition and red when the engine revs. It's very cool.
The thing about the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is that it is very, very cool. There are more comfortable cars in the world -- the seats in the Vantage can feel a little wooden. The handbrake is irritatingly difficult to operating for a car that costs $122,310 MSRP. The clutch is heavy and can make your knee hurt after a few hours of driving. But it doesn't matter. When the left lane clears and you are able to unleash the rumbling, howling glory of 420 high-octane horses on the highway, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is undeniably one of the most captivating cars in the world.
The best part about the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is that it is a high-power two-seater that is actually highly drivable. Any relatively competent driver can handle the car, and it will do everything in its power to make you feel like a Le Mans driver. Where it is lacking, obviously, is carrying capacity. It's a supercar, not a minivan. You're limited to one passenger and not a whole lot of luggage. But that cuts both ways -- what is a limitation to a suburban mom is an upside to adventurous auto lover and road-tripper.
Two seats mean only one passenger -- no one is ever going to ask you to pick up your in-laws at the airport. There's just enough room for you and one lucky person. Likewise, there is enough truck space and other storage for two or three modest suitcases and some smaller bags, which means any travel will be unencumbered. When you drive the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, it's just you, the car, the roar of the engine and the road.