Thursday, June 5, 2008

2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

By David Gluckman

Since its introduction in 2006, Aston's V8 Vantage has always ranked highly with our staff. Indeed, in 2007 we named it an Automobile Magazine All-Star. A great car, but there's always room for improvement, right?

And our biggest gripe was a lack of power. For 2009, the V8 Vantage will finally get the guts it deserves and attempt to shut us up once and for all - well, once would be a start.

As you might have guessed from the name, the V8 Vantage still sports an eight-cylinder. It also remains front mid-mounted but sees its displacement grow from 4.3 to 4.7 liters - made possible by a switch from cast-in to pressed-in cylinder liners. Horsepower is now up to 420 from 380, while torque climbs 15 percent to 347 lb-ft. That should do nicely.

The transmissions have been altered for that increased output, with both the standard manual and Sportshift automated manual getting a modified clutch and flywheel, respectively. That translates to improved responsiveness from a reduction in rotating mass and, for models with a third pedal, should mean reduced clutch effort. Sportshift models also get new programming that allows you to choose from Comfort or Sports mode, depending on your intentions for the car on any particular journey.

And that journey will start in a decidedly more high-tech way. Aston has chosen to fit the ECU (that's 'emotional control unit') first seen on the DBS, in place of a more traditional, this-century key. Our recent test of a DBS (Running Scared, July 2008) revealed that the ECU is more gimmick than convenience. The Vantage's cockpit gets a bit of a makeover as well, borrowing the look of its die-cast zinc alloy center console from big brother DBS, which we found to be a bit busy looking. (These changes will soon migrate to the DB9 as well). We will, however, welcome the new hard disk-based navigation system and standard iPod integration.

Standard suspension also gets an update with revised geometry and standard Bilstein dampers, as well as changes that were first introduced on the Roadster now moving to the Coupe as well. A new optional Sports Pack includes different Bilsteins, 19-inch lightweight five-spoke alloy wheels, and stiffer springs. Non-Sports Pack cars also get a new 20-spoke, 19-inch wheel design.

The 2009 V8 Vantage will be available toward the end of the year. Oh, and aside from the wheels, exterior styling is unchanged. No complaints here.

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