August 5, 2014 8:30 AM | By Richard Aucock for MSN Autos

2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT quick spin



2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
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  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
  • 2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT (© Photo: Aston Martin)
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2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT

An Aston for $105k? Sign us up

What is it?
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is not in its first flush of youth. Introduced back in 2005, it hasn’t really been facelifted throughout its life, meaning there’s little separating a brand-new model from one produced a decade ago. Aston has, instead, chosen to take the idealistic route to V8 development during its lifetime, honing the bits underneath rather than what you can see on the surface. We like this approach but the broader market, which values show as highly as go, doesn’t quite get it. And so, for the 2015 model year, Aston has a two-pronged solution to stimulate sales: introduce a low-cost $105,000 special edition called the Vantage GT and, for a few thousand dollars more, offer it with a retina-piercing range of race-inspired colour packs.

In doing so, Aston may just have made the V8 Vantage more relevant than it has been for years – particularly as those ongoing chassis changes mean it’s now one of the most well-honed cars it sells…

What’s new?
Mechanically, there’s not actually anything new, but the combination of what it does offer is fresh. The highly acclaimed Vantage S’ 430-hp, 361-lb.-ft., 4.7-litre V8 has been mated to, praise be, a six-speed manual gearbox for the first time (the alternative seven-speed automated manual is still available as an option). Although it’s the most affordable model in the Vantage lineup, it is more powerful than the “base” Vantage which makes 420 hp and 346 lb.-ft. of torque. The Vantage S’ sports-biased suspension, which led many to proclaim it one of the best-handling Aston Martins ever (well, until the V12 Vantage S was released), is also fitted: to split it from the pricier Vantage S, Aston fits lower body side GT graphics and, inside, embroiders the GT logo onto the seats. With dark-finish trim outside and, again, inside, it seems a neatly understated and well-crafted edition indeed.

Unless you’re the sort that likes to make a statement. Then, enter the GT Graphics Pack, which brings hand-painted contrast colours to the grille (so-called ‘lipstick’ in Aston-speak), side roof rails and door mirrors. Green can be highlighted with yellow, white with red, black with silver, silver with white and blue with red. Aston reckons that in Europe (where the colour pack is actually standard on the region’s Vantage N430 equivalent edition) green and yellow will sell best, with white and red being the preferred North American option. Do you agree?

What’s it like to drive?
One benefit of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT’s age is the fact it’s proudly old school in so many key areas. There’s not a turbocharger in sight, for example, and steering is hydraulic assist instead of electric. Factor in nine years of continuous development and you’ve a car that drives delightfully. Steering feel is laden with clarity, chattering in a way Porsche’s latest 911s do not, and the combination of a rear transaxle, perfectly judged limited-slip differential and that brilliant Vantage S suspension package means cornering is enormously satisfying. You feel like you’re driving one of the racer cars it pays homage to.

The wailing engine noise helps here, although this is partly through necessity. The 4.7-litre V8 lacks the low-down torque of modern engines, so you have to really rev it through to release its 430 horses. Thrilling, but hard work at times, particularly as the mechanical-feeling gearchange has an oddly-angled lever and heavy clutch. We suspect many will pay extra for the paddleshifter. The brakes have the feel of a racing car, the ride has the deep-down damping integrity of a track car (but isn’t as overtly stiff and uncompromising as one) and, when you’re on it, the Vantage GT provides thoroughbred ability for not much more than a hundred grand. If this is what you seek from a car, you’ll think it a steal, age-related warts and all.

Should you buy one?
Unfortunately, age-related issues do crop up elsewhere. Fuel economy, for example. No eyebrow-raising efficiency here. That lack of lazy-rev engine pull may grate for some, too. But, apart from the aforementioned familiarity, the biggest issue is the dated cabin. It feels old in there. It’s awkward to use. The navigation system will drive you nuts. The handbrake mounted to the left of the driver’s seat is archaic. It’s wonderfully crafted and feels very special… but compared to a Porsche 911, it’s from a bygone era in terms of usability.

Does the rest of the car make up for it? Why, at this price, absolutely. That’s the thing about the Aston Martin Vantage GT – it has the breeding of a genuine Aston but costs a mere snip of one. Even if the reality is that few will be sold for the base $105,000 price, the fact it’s offered at this price level should be enough to revive interest in the V8 Vantage. The V12 Vantage S is exceptional but costs a fortune; this one’s almost as good, and relatively, does not. Just as Porsche thought it had seen off Aston Martin, the Vantage GT is back to challenge the 911, especially given it undercuts the Carrera S by $7,800. You can’t keep a golden oldie down; all it takes is a spot of lipstick.

2014 Aston Martin Vantage GT
Base price / as-tested (est.): $105,000 / $108,100
Type of vehicle: RWD coupe
Engine: 4.7-litre, quad-cam 32-valve V8
Horsepower/Torque: 430 hp/ 361lb.-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed manual (optional seven-speed automated manual)
Fuel consumption (city/hwy/combined): TBA L/100 km
Competitors: Audi R8 4.2 FSI, BMW M6 Coupe, Porsche 911 Carrera S, Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

QUICK SPIN SUMMARY

PROS
Standout hand-finished paint pack
Still wonderful to drive
More feel than a modern Porsche

CONS
Age of car starkly apparent inside
Lacks torque so has to be ‘driven’
Not for shy and retiring types

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