2013 Aston Martin V-8 Vantage S

2013 Aston Martin V-8 Vantage S Convertible Review

What's British for awesome?

By: Ken Glassman

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: August 12th, 2013

Whenever you read a review of an Aston Martin, you will usually get a reference (or six) to the Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bond Goldfinger movie. But not here. The truth is that comparing the 2013 Aston Martin Vantage to that DB5 is like comparing the DB5 to a model T. Nothing against the Model T or DB5, it's just that this modern supercar is in a class of its own.

Driving this new Vantage did, however, transport me back in time to the early 1950's. You see, I drove the Aston around the rural roads of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on some of the very roads that used to serve as the track for the sports car races at Road America, before the modern track was built. That's when racing Astons, Jaguars, Allards, ACs, Ferraris, Maseratis, and other famous marques blasted through the countryside on the long, high-speed, and dangerous road course. While I couldn't reach the top speed that the new Vantage S is capable of, fearing jail time, I occasionally did come near to the speeds that those race cars of yesteryear could achieve. And I'm sure that doing it in this modern day sports car was a much less drama-filled experience.

  • Performance

    The Vantage S model adds a bit more performance over the base Roadster by adding less restrictive mufflers, some electronic tweaks to keep the exhaust system's bypass valves open longer, and enhanced intake airflow. Aston also shaved about 100 lbs. off this model. All of those modifications produce 10 more horsepower, up to 430, and the torque rises from 346 to 361 lb-ft. What that all means is that tromping on the go pedal will push your shoulders back into the nicely bolstered seats and spool up the speedo to 60 mph in just four seconds. That's quick enough to hear yourself mutter, "WOW" under your breath. And under hard acceleration, the V-8's aural soundtrack from the dual exhaust tips is delightful.

    Not that it matters to Aston owners, but all this power still produces respectable gas mileage of 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. That isn't quite good enough to eliminate the $1,700 gas guzzler tax, but when you're spending over $150,000 for a car, what's another $1,700?

  • On the Road

    The Vantage S that I drove came with a 7-speed, single-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters (a manual just became available). Most other cars in this class now use a dual-clutch set-up, but tapping through the gears with the paddle shifters is rewarding, as each up- or downshift is quick and immediate. Power gets to the rear wheels via a limited slip rear differential, and the large Bridgestones (245/40 front and 285/35 rear) riding on 19-inch wheels provide plenty of grip.

    The independent double-wishbone suspension, with firm anti-roll bars and anti-dive and anti-squat geometry, does its job quite nicely. Cornering is flat with little body lean, and the S model gets stiffer springs and dampers. The chassis feels solid, although damp British-like weather prevented driving with the top down. All the requisite electronics will help the overzealous driver keep the Vantage S on course without worrying about the back end stepping out of line if the accelerator is pushed too hard exiting a corner. The huge ventilated disc brakes do a great job hauling the heavy roadster down from speed quickly with excellent feel. And speaking of feel, the steering rack on the S has a revised ratio of 15:1 so it reacts quicker to steering inputs, and still offers excellent feedback to the driver.

  • Exterior

    Styling is always a subjective call. I found the sensual lines of this roadster to be handsome with the top down or with the soft convertible top fixed. The long, low bonnet line (that's Brit-speak for hood) and muscular rear haunches sporting a subtle lip spoiler, with minimal overhangs, suggest power and aggression. Except for the classic fender ports, the profile is free of unnecessary adornments. The car offers a clean, sleek look with a simple character line spanning the upper wheel wells, providing the visual appeal. And of course, the iconic trapezoidal front grill is pure Aston Martin.

    I'm glad Aston keeps this car as a true ragtop, as it offers sleeker styling lines than most hard convertible tops and also allows for more boot (translation from the British: trunk) space when the top is lowered. And with the luxurious, acoustically layered headliner, this rag top is nearly as quiet as a coupe.

  • Interior

    Slip into the cozy, yet roomy cockpit of the Vantage S, and you enter a world of luxury that can only be matched by a handful of automobiles. The finest supple leather hides cover the sumptuous supportive seats, dashboard, and door panels. Labor-intensive, hand-stitched accents throughout the cabin provide the perfect color contrast to set off the interior as special. Optional Piano Black fascia and fascia trim on the handsome center stack make the brushed aluminum dials and switches stand out. The S-model seats and floor mats are embroidered with "Vantage S" logos, and the machined black tread plates follow the S theme, as well. Even the Alcantara-suede-trimmed steering wheel stands out as a work of art. The electroluminescent gauges and round analogue clock in the middle of the center stack give the cockpit a jewel-like quality. The whole interior exudes a timeless elegance and grace like a bespoke Saville Row suit. And kudos to Aston Martin for keeping the Vantage a proper two-seater, and not a 2+2 with a totally unusable back seat, as so many other sports cars have.

  • Final Thoughts

    There has always been something special about a low volume British, crafted luxury sport touring car, that can't be matched by American, German, or even Italian manufacturers. This Aston Martin provides a driving experience with all the visceral excitement one expects from this storied marque. While this is Aston Martin's "entry level" model, it certainly doesn't look, drive, or feel like it.

  • Specs, Features, and Prices

    Engine: 4.7-liter V-8

    Power: 430 horsepower, 361 lb-ft. of torque

    Transmission: 7-speed Sport Shift II single-clutch automatic with paddle shifters

    Drive Wheels: Rear

    Wheelbase: 102"

    Overall Length: 172.5"

    Overall Width: 73.5"

    Curb Weight: 3726 lbs.

    Fuel Economy: 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway

    Base Price: $145,200

    As-Tested Price: $157,230

    Available features: A 510-horsepower, V-12 version of the Vantage is available. A variety of wheel options are offered, as well as carbon-fiber interior and exterior trim bits, and a chrome grill and other exterior-accent pieces. A 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system is available for audiophiles, along with a nav system.

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