Aston Martin V8 Vantage

FMSC Editor Greg G test drives this ‘baby’ Aston Martin

It was time for my Aston Martin DB9 to go in for it’s annual service. As usual I took the car to Aston Martin Chichester (Part of Hardwoods Group) as they have been looking after my Astons since 2015.

A warm reception awaited me on my arrival and was invited to hang out in their showroom whilst the work was completed. Due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, the car was going to take a little longer than expected so they offered me to take a brand new V8 Vantage for a spin. It didn’t take me long to decide if i wanted to do that!

Great, I’ve never driven Aston’s ‘baby’! Coochy coo, coochy coo, baby Aston…..

Brad, my service department adviser thrusted a rather fancy key into my hand and said “pop back in an hour”. Ok then……………..

I jumped in the car and my first impression was that the layout was somewhat familiar to my now aging DB9, albeit, a much more modern version of it.

Keyless start of course and no glass key to push in the dash, which I had now become used to and realised i’d miss that ceremony. Instead, the moment the brake pedal was depressed, the round glass Start button illuminated red, begging me to start the car!

The engine/exhaust note of an Aston Martin is legendary and there are not many other supercars out there that sound better, especially on start-up!

The button was pressed and I noticed how quickly the engine started, almost zero starter motor, just instant V8 rumble. OK, that’s not babyish…

This was a flappy-paddle car, which I was very pleased about as this is my preference. Not for everyone I understand, I fully realise that some people like to drive ‘vintage-style’ manual cars 😉

Ok, release the handbrake, oh wait, what? Where is that? Not on the right next to the seat, where mine is, not in the centre. Must be a button. After about a minute (which felt like 10 minutes) it was starting to get embarrassing as Brad was still waving goodbye to me and I could tell his arm was starting to ache………yet I hadn’t moved!

Eventually I found the button on the right of the steering wheel, under the headlamp switch of all places and pushed it in to release the handbrake, right? Wrong, you have to pull it to release the handbrake?!?!? That cant be right, can it? That just feels wrong, like asking someone “Do you have Coronavirus?”. Anyway, the handbrake is off and we are ready to crack on!

Pull both paddles together to go into neutral and then just the right paddle to put it into first. OK, we’re off, out of the showroom parking and onto the main road, into second gear and already I had a stupid smile on my face, as the engine/exhaust was not subtle, it was vivid. Noisy with every gear change…..like a barking rottweiler….perfect.

We were now on the open road and heading towards Goodwood Motor Circuit. Now another thing occurred to me, this car was solid. Not just on the road, but the build quality. Sounds dramatic, but this car felt like the build quality of a German car, not an English one.

Having had Aston Martin ‘s for years, I was used to forgiving them their hand-built, low volume build quality. But that wasn’t necessary for this car. Nice and tight, no rattle, no scuttle shake, no road noise.

This didn’t sound like an Aston Martin to me either. I am used to a V12 Aston, this was a V8 and sounded very different. The Vantage sounded and felt like I was driving a well-built American muscle car, not an Aston Martin at all.

I don’t mean it didn’t sound epic, it did sound epic! It sounded like thunder of the world’s end! But very different from what I expected. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know what I’d expected. Wait, this is no ‘Baby’, this is more ‘Monster’ in a sleek and compact body! Like me, you might be thinking….?

Now i’m just knocking on the door of becoming a middle-aged petrolhead but I was finding it difficult to take in all the excitement, noise, drive, smell, feel, I suddenly released something new. People in the street were looking at the car before, during and after I had driven past. Wait, that’s new. No one looks at my DB9 like that, well very rarely. This was attracting shed-loads of attention from all ages.

So this looked, sounded, drove and was received by others in a totally different way than I was used to. You buy an Aston Martin to be discreet, understated and stylish, like a Hugo Boss suit?

NO, not with this car, it’s none of that! More in-your-face, sledgehammer and a black hoodie.

But…….. on the other side of the coin, this car was noisy, exciting and making a statement! Actually, these things were quite addictive!

Before no time at all, I was turning into Goodwood Motor Circuit where clearly there was no mistaking which event was upcoming. It was a beautiful day, I decided to take a quick pic of the car for the Gram.

I rumbled in slowly and up to the tunnel entrance. Faced with the usual choice of driving through slowly and quietly (as Goodwood would have you do), or throwing caution to the wind and winding the V8 up as much as you dare with only a foot of room either side….

Faced with that choice, it was actually no choice at all. 2nd gear selected going into the tunnel, foot to the metal and up into 3rd gear!! Boom! Wow, I was deaf suddenly! Oops I’m gonna get into trouble here!

Back down to a slow rumble as I entered into the paddock area, more people staring as I found a space in one of the paddock garages. There was a lot going on in the paddock today, not just members meeting prep but a track day there too.

I got out of the car and immediately people came over and started walking round the car. Not interested in me of course, I might as well have been invisible. I’ve seen this happen with other members cars too but usually it has to be something super special to get this level of attention!

Now out of the car, its an opportunity to take a look at some of the external styling. Compared to Aston’s of old, this one looks like it’s taken a trip to Halfords. Lots of aero, spoilers, splitters and carbon fibre. But, this is what you expect from all modern supercars, right? This is no luxury sleek GT that I was used to, its a weekend excitement maker. A more driver excitement focused Aston Martin.

An Aston for the younger generation then, maybe? As I was contemplating this, John, one of the senior Goodwood driving instructors came over. “Oh I like that” he said!

John, Goodwood’s senior driving instructor

Now John won’t mind me saying he was no spring chicken and certainly not the ‘next generation’. So an exciting car for all ages? Definitely.

I won’t look at Aston Martin as a brand the same way again. No low expectations anymore, they are the real deal. Definitely worth considering if you’re looking for an exciting weekender mischief maker.

Well it was time to reluctantly take the car back to the dealer where I knew I would have to give the keys back. Maybe I should just drive it home? They won’t notice for a few days, will they…..?

Greg – editor of this feature

Gallery

Would you like to test drive this car?

Contact our friends at Aston Martin Chichester to arrange a no-obligation test drive of this ‘Little Monster’!

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