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Vantage is enough to stir Bond himself
The Aston Martin brand, in particular its BD9 and DBS models, will undoubtedly be forever linked to James Bond in the minds of most people. Yet there is another Aston Martin, smaller, lighter, more agile, less expensive and with a race-track proven pedigree: The Vantage.
I picked up my test (soft-top) Roadster version (it also comes as a coupe) at B.C.'s one and only Aston Martin dealership on Burrard Street. Luckily, it was one of the few really clear sunny days this month, so the top went down as I headed out to Ladner to meet up with an old pal, a fellow car buff, for lunch.
I parked the Vantage beside a Porsche 911 Turbo and we got a table by the window to spy on any parking-lot action. Sure enough, as the lunchtime crowd started leaving a group gathered round the Vantage -- ignoring the 911.
Such is the pull of this sumptuously designed sports car that some will buy it on looks alone. But there is credence to its sporty styling. The Vantage started life as the Aston Martin N24 race car and its recent track record includes a first, second and third sweep in its class at last year's 24-hour endurance race at the Nürburgring in Germany.
Exclusivity is another important factor for buyers, according to Bill Murtland, the Aston Martin sales manager at the MCL dealership. His total allotment of Aston Martins for the year is 37, half of those Vantage models split between coupes and roadsters. So that's just nine, maybe ten, new Vantage Roadsters in B.C. this year -- and Murtland makes sure that every one is different.
The Vantage comes in a single base-trim level and there's a grocery list of options. My test Roadster had silver stitching on its leather upholstery that matched its optional silver colour brake callipers (red and black are the other colour choices). Aston Martin can also paint the car or dye its leather interior to a buyer's favourite colour: You provide a sample and your name goes on a unique colour.
The Vantage has a gorgeously pure sports car design with a long hood and low-slung profile. It gets you close to the road and has minimal body overhangs and a shortened glass area.
An all-alloy under-body structure, derived from aerospace manufacturing, incorporates bonded aluminum castings that form a light-weight and rigid chassis.
The Vantage is the shortest Aston Martin at 4,380 millimetres, and its front/rear weight distribution is an almost perfect 49/51. The exterior body panels are hand-finished and it's a very clean design with a minimal amount of shut lines.
Up front it has the traditional Aston Martin-shape air opening, and a "bright finish" grille (as in photo) is optional. Another option is a body-kit package, which improves high-speed control.
High-tech meets and blends with old-world hand-craftsmanship.
Driver space was adequate, but headroom might be tight for those above six-feet tall. Cabin storage space also is limited, but there is some behind the seats and a pocket between the seats. The Roadster's trunk is not huge, only 144 litres, yet, according to Murtland, a golf bag will fit in if you put the longer clubs in separately. The Coupe trunk has over twice as much cargo room.
The Roadster's soft top can go up or down in 18 seconds in a single switch operation, and can be opened at speeds up to 50 km/hr.
Occupants are protected by crumples zones front and rear, extra-strong door sills and impact beams inside the doors, as well as front and side air bags.
The Vantage has a mid-body mounted gas tank housed in an aluminum case, and roll hoops deploy behind the driver and passenger if a potential roll-over is detected.
In addition to anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control, the Vantage also has a Positive Torque Control system that helps stop the rear wheels.
A new and bigger hand-assembled 4.7-litre V8 engine can propel the Vantage to 100km/hr. in 4.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 290 km/hr.
The peak torque is 346 lb.-ft., but 77 per cent of that is available at just 1,500 r.p.m. That allows you to lazily cruise around town without having to worry too much about always being in the right gear.
Not only is the Vantage surprisingly easy to drive, but the throaty roar of its dual exhausts makes an inspiring roar that will send quivers down your spine.
The Vantage just loves to be driven around a bend: Its independent double-wishbone front and rear suspensions keep the tires planted on the pavement and steering feedback is excellent.
On the down side, fuel economy is not great and a combination of chunky pillars, those low windows and a low seating position restrict both side and rear vision. Its six-speed manual transmission is not the slickest and its drivetrain isn't the quietest on the market.
Would this put me off having a Vantage in my driveway? Not in a heartbeat!
A memorable, too-short drive for me. This is a one-of-a-kind sports car that an owner will treasure for a long, long time.
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