Aston Martin’s first use of the “Vantage” name was on an upgraded version of the DB2 back in the 1950s, and the name has stuck ever since with various six, eight, and 12-cylinder Astons over the years wearing a Vantage badge. In 2005 at the Geneva Motor Show, a new Aston Martin Vantage debuted as a separate model series and as the effective successor to the 1989-2000 Virage. A 2006 model, it was initially fitted with a 4.3-liter V-8 engine developing 380 bhp at 7000 rpm.
At the time the Aston Martin Vantage was the company’s entry-level model at $120,850, but it bore a serious family resemblance to the $185,000 V-12 DB9 and top-line $265,000 DBS. If anything, it was better-looking with short overhangs and an absence of scoops and fins. The V8 Vantage is also more compact than the DB9. The shape is often credited to Henrik Fisker, but Ian Callum claims to have done most of the early design work.
The Vantage was also the lightest and most nimble Aston Martin at the time, built on a shortened version of the aluminum vertical-horizontal VH platform. It was a combination of aluminum extrusions castings and pressings bonded together not unlike the Lotus Elise. Even so, Astons are typically hefty cars and a standard V8 Vantage tips the scales at nearly 3600 pounds.
The engine was loosely based on the fuel-injected aluminum DOHC 32-valve Jaguar V-8 engine which appeared in the mid-1990s, fitted to cars like the XK8. Aston Martin tweaked the engine, fitting variable inlet valve timing and a dry sump for hard cornering. A 6-speed manual was available and today carries a premium price on the collector market, but continually improved versions of Aston’s “Sportshift” automated manual were popular choices.
Bumping displacement to 4.7 liters in 2009 boosted power to 420 bhp at 7300 rpm and the 6-speed manual version could deliver 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Car and Driver tested the new V8 Vantage and managed 0-60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds and a quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds, easily better than the original 4.3-liter model’s 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds and quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds. Road testers praised the Vantage’s interior, with comfortable leather seats and useful 10.5 cubic feet storage for luggage under the aluminum roll bars and accessible through the useful hatchback. They didn’t like the steering wheel or the factory stereo but praised the gearshift and pedal placement.
Overall, the Vantage received high praise for core strengths, excellent finish, high speed stability, effective brakes and unforgettable exhaust note during spirited driving.
Almost reluctantly, road testers mentioned the comparative advantages of a Porsche 911 but concluded that the V8 Vantage offered “a luxury GT for two that makes you feel like a million dollars every time you drive it.”