Much ado about not very much? Don’t be fooled by the modest spec sheet
by Andrew Frankel
Understandably the motoring press has lately been awash with words and images of the Aston Martin DB11: it is, after all, the first car in Aston’s brave new future. But what about the last from its quaint and charming past?
That car is the Vantage GT8, believed to be absolutely the last model to be developed on the platform first rolled out for the DB9 back in 2003; and while it may boast a suitably stirring title, it is a run-out special as much as any other. Just 150 are to be made, each retailing for £165,000, some £70,000 more than the V8 Vantage upon which it is based.
But don’t expect it to be 200bhp stronger or half a tonne lighter. The GT8 offers a mere 10 additional bhp and, at 1510kg, a weight saving of around one large-ish passenger.
It costs that much primarily because it will be rare so people will pay, but also because it has been extensively modified to ensure this is by some margin the finest-driving V8-powered Aston Martin there has been. Under the bonnet a new inlet manifold and new titanium exhausts work together to make the car breathe a little more easily. The bumpers, sills, front wings and splitter are all carbon fibre as standard, but if you want a carbon rear wing, hatch and roof, magnesium centre-lock wheels or polycarbonate rear screen, you’ll need to pay more, a lot more: about £40,000, in fact. Perhaps more valuable in terms of how they affect the way the car drives are the wider track, bespoke spring and damper rates, revised geometry and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber.
Depending on where you are at the time, it is either hilariously or catastrophically loud. Wherever you go, smiles and glares will follow in equal measure until you leave civilisation behind. Then it is simply superb.
There’s nothing you can measure here – it’s not very quick in a straight line and its roadholding is unremarkable in this era of 911 GT3s and their type.
But the GT8 offers a driving experience that’s increasingly rare in its purity these days. No turbos, no front driveshafts, no flappy paddles, no hybrid system: it’s just you wrapped up in that gorgeous shape, powered by a thundering V8 and having the time of your life.
Cars just don’t steer like this any more, not even GT3s, and very few chassis are as communicative, either. The Vantage is so effortlessly easy to drive quickly because it is viceless, yet so involving in its every action, too.
Given its name and specification I’d hoped it would be even better on the track but for some reason, I expect because someone else had already had the best of the front tyres, it understeered more than I wished.
For myself I’d prefer the V12 Vantage S because it’s cheaper, faster, sounds even better and is more usable, but as a theatrically thrilling note upon which to retire from the stage, the GT8 has ensured the Vantage will go out with the bang it so richly deserves.