2013 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Road Test Review
2013 Aston Martin V8 Vantage blends exotic performance with ultra luxury
Scores High: Pinpoint steering, palatial interior materials, overall balance of performance and luxury
Scores Low: Clutch engagement a tad soft, small primary display screen, road noise higher than expected
Total Car Score Analysis
Aston Martin occupies a rare position in the automotive world. The iconic British brand manages to straddle the line between exotic-car performance and ultra-premium luxury perhaps better than any other carmaker. This image springs from a long history of stunning exterior design, posh interior appointments and proven race heritage. Throw in Aston Martin’s association with James Bond and you’ve got an old-world nameplate generating intense 21st century appeal.
But design, heritage, and even Britain’s top secret agent will only take an automaker so far. Aston Martin knows this, which is why the company has accelerated product development in recent years. The 2013 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, benefitting from a string of improvements for the new model year, is an example of Aston Martin’s “new normal” in terms of aggressive vehicle enhancement. A faster steering ratio, an all-new automatic transmission, larger brakes and wider tires, along with upgraded exterior and interior components, heighten the 2013 V8 Vantage’s role as an ultra-premium luxury coupe with exotic car performance capabilities.
The trademark long hood, sweeping roofline and muscular stance seen on Aston Martins for the past 60-plus years continues on the 2013 V8 Vantage. Yet this latest Vantage’s exterior shell is even tidier than past models. The overall contours are clean and subdued, with appropriate fender flares at the wheel openings offset by rear panels that tightly wrap around the passenger cabin. Twin horizontal planes on the outside of the hood continue past the side windows before coming together on the rear deck, effectively tying the exterior shell together. A larger front grille, more pronounced side sills and an updated rear diffuser complete the exterior changes for 2013.
The V8 Vantage’s perpetual performance/luxury experience continues when you insert the jewel-like glass key into the dash and press it to bring the 4.7-liter V8 engine to life. A powerful (yet refined) exhaust note escapes the twin pipes in the rear diffuser, hinting at the 420 horsepower available at 7,300 rpm. This naturally aspirated engine has an 11.3 to 1 compression ratio and redlines at 8,000 rpm, while torque peaks at 346 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm. Fuel economy is rated at 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway.
Our test car was fitted with the standard, mid-mounted 6-speed manual transmission, but a new-for-2013 “Sportshift II” 7-speed automatic is also available. The manual transmission’s shifter was a joy to operate, with precise movement and short throws between each gear, as well as proper pedal placement for easy heel-and-toe activity. Clutch engagement felt a tad high in the pedal travel and didn’t grab quite as positively as we might have preferred during aggressive driving, but it was otherwise well matched to the V8 Vantage’s overall driving demeanor. It’s possible our test car had a slightly worn clutch.
A curb weight of 3,595 pounds, helped in part by an extruded aluminum chassis and body panels, let those 420 horses fling the Vantage around quite easily. With a zero-to-60 time around 4.7 seconds we found the engine liked to be shifted at approximately 6,500 for maximum acceleration, though it will easily spin past 7,000 rpm if desired (at which point Aston Martin’s racing heritage makes itself known through a piercing exhaust wail). Slowing the V8 Vantage is easily accomplished via the upgraded braking components, including new 15-inch front disc brakes and six piston calipers. This braking system also incorporates dynamic stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), emergency braking assist (EBA) and hill start assist (which keeps the car from rolling while the driver transitions from the brake pedal to the throttle pedal).
Perhaps the most appreciated upgrade for 2013 is the V8 Vantage’s enhanced rack-and-pinion steering system. Featuring a new steering column, re-valved steering pump and faster ratio (15:1, versus the previous car’s 17:1), the 2013 V8 Vantage feels both nimble and precise when driven along twisty back roads. Wider tires accompany the steering upgrades, with RE050 Bridgestone Potenza 245/40ZR rubber riding on 19x8.5-inch front wheels and 285/35ZR rubber wrapped around 19x10-inch rear wheels. Riding on a double wishbone suspension front and rear, the Vantage can be sports-car-savvy when driving conditions permit or remain coddling and subdued during the daily slog. We note a higher level of road noise emanating from below at highway speeds, but wind noise and overall sound insulation from outside sources (motorcycles, trucks, etc.) is excellent.
Interior Design and Function
A sumptuous cabin, trimmed in rich leather, brushed metal and supple suede, elevates the Vantage’s driving experience. Everything from the hand stitching on the steering wheel, dash and door panels, to the plush carpet and supportive seats imparts a feeling of uncompromised luxury. A brushed aluminum center stack with metal control knobs rises to meet a piano black central dash panel with a retractable navigation screen. A smaller display screen in the center stack provides audio information, but by 2013 standards it looks a little rudimentary and suggests the next area Aston Martin should focus on updating.
Steering wheel buttons for cruise control and hands-free phone operation are appreciated, as are the metal door pulls and well-placed leather armrests. A trunk capacity of 10.6 cubic feet surprised us, given the V8 Vantage’s tight exterior dimensions out back. As a weekend escape pod for two there’s ample luggage room, with enough space left over for trinkets picked up along the way.
Primary Features and Options
At a starting price of $118,400 every 2013 Aston Martin V8 Vantage includes a satellite navigation system, reverse camera, HID headlights, LED taillights, a 160-watt audio system with satellite radio and full iPod integration, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The option range is nearly limitless, including custom exterior and interior colors to match your heart’s desire.
Common options include sport suspension tuning, carbon fiber body panels, silver or black hood and side grilles, clear taillights and brake calipers finished in black, red, silver or yellow. Cabin upgrades include heated seats with memory settings, carbon fiber interior trim packages, a color-keyed steering wheel, a 700-watt premium audio system or 1000-watt Bang & Olafsen system, and personalized doorsill plates.
It’s Perfect For…
The 2013 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is one of many luxury sport coupes available in the $120,000 price range. It’s not necessarily the quickest or best performing model, but it possesses a combination of premium interior materials, stunning exterior design and highly-capable road manners that make it a standout among competitors. And because none of the alternatives offer the same level of old-world class and pop-culture charm afforded Aston Martin, it could be argued that none of them offer a comparable alternative.
After all, when 007 goes tearing across U.S. moving screens in the latest Bond flick he won’t be driving an Audi, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz or Porsche. And while his ride, a $300,000 Vanquish, sits at the top of the Aston Martin product line, you can have a solid chunk of the brand’s star power for a much lower price in the 2013 V8 Vantage.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $118,400
Options on Test Vehicle: Luxe Pack (includes premium audio, heated and memory seats, bright finish grill and Magnum Silver bonnet and side strake meshes - $3,785), 10-spoke diamond turned wheels ($2,700), destination charge ($2,115)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $127,000
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos courtesy of the manufacturer (with additional photography by Karl Brauer).