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Test Drive Review of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage S

Part of the fun of going to Pebble Beach Car Week are the test drives.  If you read last week’s post, you already know this isn’t your local down the street test drive.   First off you have to get an invite or locate the manufacturer at a Car Week venue, fortunately we met them at the McCall Jet Center event plus at The Quail, so we were in to spend time at the Aston Martin House. Hmmm, if I could find a car which matched my dress this well…  It is only right that I take it for a drive.

Honestly, an Aston Martin is the one car I really wanted to test drive becasue I had yet to ever drive one.  Sitting in one doesn’t count.  Since I was on a V8 kick, my selection was the V8 Vantage Coupe S.  Yep, it either has to have a twin turbo or S to peak my driving interest.  Small world, turns out the guy taking me on a test drive used to be with Porsche in Ohio so we have some common ground.  I am in the passenger seat as he explains everything and drives me out to where I get to drive.   Why am pointing out the hand-brake in this nice interior shot?   I am not a purist in terms of let’s keep old technology in cars to fuel nostalgia.   Oh, no this is not just the little used parking brake found in most cars – no, no this is an integral part of driving the car.  You have to use this for getting into and out of park, daily.  Why am I being so glib?

I couldn’t get it to work!  Pull up and push the little button on the end… not happening.  As my workout trainer so kindly pointed out when I relayed this story to him,  “arm strength is not something you are lacking.”   Whaaaat?  Excuse me but I can’t drive this car.  **2014 Update: after speaking with a couple of dealers about this issue, it wasn’t me.  This is a problem for men and women.

When I finally did get things going, with assistance, it had some nice sound.  Okay I really want to like this car, it is gorgeous on the outside, not bad on the inside (a bit visually cumbersome – couldn’t close my eyes on this one), there is over 420 HP, the 0-60 is 4.7 seconds  – everything is in the good spec column.So how does it drive?  It was like getting all excited at the sight of a big present, unwrapping it to find a smaller box, a smaller box (oohh this is going to be good) opening the final box: “ha gott-cha!”  Sorry Aston Martin, but I did not like it.

Let’s ignore the fact that I couldn’t work the hand brake and talk about the Sportshift II Seven-Speed Automated Manual Transmission.  How can I describe it?  Lag.  Each time the car shifts, it waits a discernible second or two or three or four… and then catches up to itself.  Really, this is the best you can do?  A single clutch?  A bit antiquated, ya think?

I’ve driven all the competition.  Even Ferrari has gone to a double clutch which is basically eliminates this issue.  You’ve got to be kidding.  If I was spending my money this would not raise a blip on my radar.

There is lots of hoopla around on this car, massive amounts of descriptive verbiage but when one finally lands on a review which includes an actual (non-pandering) test drive of the car, not so glowy.  CNET describes the transmission as a negative: “The automated manual transmission option produces huge power dips at each gear change.”  Exactly, please tell me why this is acceptable.  The competition doesn’t meander its way through gear shifts.

Oh, I know I am picky, but if I’m going to drive it and for this kinda coin – I want a perfect car.  (Like the Bentley GT V8.) Maybe this should have offered a hint.  If you ever wondered who bought that odd, but cool-ish, aviation inspired metal furniture from Restoration Hardware, I think I found it… at the Aston Martin House.

Like I’ve said before, looks aren’t everything when it comes to cars.

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2 Responses to Test Drive Review of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage S

  1. Interesting… maybe I should have driven the same one just to compare. But alas, I put myself in the DB9 in which the parking brake moved from the left to the center console and if I recall correctly, had morphed into the push button parking brake becoming so popular in recent years.

    What I did find interesting is there was definitely a discernible lag time between shifts when using the paddles but when left to it’s own devices the lag seemed to vanish. Not horribly bothersome but my BMW has a better response time when changing gears – probably not the best review for a car with an MSRP of $204,000. The other piece of the transmission pie that I found annoying was the massive jump in ratio between gears. Not that I’m not a fan of that “push you back in your seat” type of feeling but it was almost to the point of being less “woohoo rush!” and more jumpy. Again, a smoother transition would be something a little more appreciated.

    And everyone thought I only talked about design.

  2. Oh the parking break was a bit shocking – it’s not like I haven’t a clue how to use one or don’t have the muscle (which one should not need). You are right, for the price the transmission needs to be better. I had the same feeling about the Maserati when it first came back into the universe in 2002-ish. Copy the tiptronic (Porsche) at least for a manual/auto shiftable trans. There are so many more drivable options that I can’t see choosing an Aston over a better driving car.


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