Aston’s least expensive Vantage may also be its best
“Inexpensive, not cheap”
“The GT is hardly plumbing the same depths of economy as a Hyundai Accent or a Renault Twingo,” said David
“It comes with a (semi) reasonable price tag”
“The Vantage GT isn’t the fastest sports coupe on the road but it will be among the most manageable”
Angeles Crest Highway. Aston Martin Vantage. Tight hairpins. Precise steering. Incredible grip. A little whimpering from protesting Bridgestones, even more from the passenger seat. 4.7 liter, double overhead cam V8 screaming above it all. In other words, business as usual in Aston Martin land.
Or maybe not.
This is the new for 2015 GT and, along with the Vantage’s traditional sultry shape and 430 horsepower, it comes with something that Aston’s haven’t seen for quite some time: a (semi) reasonable price tag.
Of course, reasonable is a relative term; the GT is hardly plumbing the same depths of economy as a Hyundai Accent or a Renault Twingo. But US$99,900 isn’t an MSRP seen on a Gaydon product for more than three decades. It is, for those looking for perspective, about the same that some billionaire-on-a-budget might pay for the R version of Jaguar’s iconic XK and just a smidge more than an entry level 911 Carrera.
Nor is the GT so stripped to the bone as to be unrecognizable as an Aston. Oh, it does offer limited color choices (the five two-tone color options are decidedly comely; the Alloro green with yellow trim version is nothing short of inspired). Unlike the base Vantage and the S upgrade which offer both “Sport” and “Comfort” suspension options (not adjustable mind you, they must be specified when you order the car), the GT is only available with the firmer option. Other than that, most of the niceties one comes to expect – leather-clothed seats, the glass key and a (slightly wonky) navigation system – make the grade. Most importantly, the 4.7 liter V8 is not detuned as is so often the case for budget-baiting entry-level luxury models. Indeed, the GT gets the S’s slightly upgraded version – 430 horsepower and 490 Nm of torque versus 420-hp and 470 Nm – of Aston’s high-revving V8. In other words, the GT may be cheaper but it is not diluted.
Indeed, atop LA’s famed Angeles Crest Highway, chasing some seriously fast sport bikes – amongst them, Ducati’s potent 1198 – there’s absolutely nothing lesser about the GT. The standard sweet-shifting six speed manual is the choice of the two available trannies (there’s a seven speed single-clutch manumatic available but its shifts are anything but sweet) but so broad is the 4.7L’s range of power that shifting, especially with Angeles’ shortish straights, is seldom needed. Anything above 3,000 rpm makes prodigious power and the festivities don’t stop until over 7,000 revs; third gear works marvelously for most of the Crest.
As does the steering. Aston’s VH architecture is now ten years old – albeit with numerous upgrades and improvements – which, in automotive terms, is pre-Mesozoic. And yet, charging into the switchbacks high above Los Angeles, the GT feels anything but archaic. The old-timey hydraulic steering may be heavier than today’s Fancy Dan electric power steering systems, but it communicates every camber and crease on the Crest’s aging pavement. Critics may disparage the age of the Vantage platform, but all that I know is that I am charging into Californian switchbacks – way deep on the brakes – with very much the same élan as I would in a 911. Grip from the Bridgestone Potenza RE050’s – 245/40ZR19 front/285/35ZR19 rear – is prodigious and, more importantly, there’s a healthy balance of it between front and rear. In other words, even if the Vantage GT isn’t the fastest sports coupe on the road, it will be among the most manageable, and for anyone short of a licensed racecar driver, that’s far more important.
Concessions to price are few. The aforementioned non-adjustable suspension can be more than a little firmish over broken pavement. Those looking to do nothing more than impress dental hygienists with their wealth might be well advised to shop the Vantage S and order that Comfort suspension. The GT’s navigation system (and, yes, it is standard equipment) is a little wonky, smacking of a last minute add-on. But then, that’s true of some of the more expensive Astons as well. And lastly, there’s just something odd about Aton Martin clutches. Either every manually-equipped Aston I have tested of late has been abused by Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney just before my road test or they are remarkably unhappy about anything but the smoothest of launches. Accompanying even the slightest of abuse is the familiar smell of burnt clutch, albeit with a specific scent all Aston’s own. It’s as if the product planners mandated that even the tranny’s friction material had to be rendered exotic.
The GT, despite those shortcomings, turns out to be very much a real Aston. I’ll go even further and proclaim it my favorite Vantage. More singularly focused than the standard model, more attractive than the S (again, that green and yellow livery is quite fetching) and more balanced than the V12, that bargain basement price tag is not the reason to buy the GT, just the excuse.
Pros: Extremely cost effective, powerful V8 engine, superior handling
Cons: Ride comfort, previous generation GPS system, VH-platform not long for this world
Rivals: Porsche 911 Carrera, Audi R8, Jaguar F-Type
Engine: 4.7L naturally-aspirated V8, 430 hp, 490 Nm
Transmission: Six speed manual, RWD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 4.7 sec, 11.2 L/100 km Top speed: 305 kph
Chassis: 1,785 kg