What the road testers said at the time
was built on the classic V8 platform, specifically a shortened version of the ’80s Lagonda. ‘The triangulated chassis sections under the sill pods tend to trap water,’ says Tim. ‘Water also gets in the B-pillar, so you get rust inside the doorshuts. You can also find it bubbling up on the leading edge of the front wing.
‘Pay particular attention to the chin spoiler because if it needs to come off it means removing the intercoolers and oil coolers and all the pipes that go with them, so it’s a really big job.
‘We see quite a few cars where the spoiler has been bashed because the front springs sag and the car is very nose-down. Even if the miles are very low – and that applies to most of them – springs, dampers and bushes degrade over time and need replacing. With all the weight, bushes get a hard time generally, as do the gearbox and differential mountings with all the torque.
‘Look for oil weeping from the head gaskets and also the oil supply pipe at the back of the engine; it’s enormously difficult to get to because it’s right up against bulkhead, so it’s probably something you’d live with until you needed to pull the engine forward or remove a cylinder head for other work.’
The good news is that the engine itself and both manual gearboxes are generally robust and give few problems. The rare auto is less suited to the massive torque. ‘ We have had a couple disintegrate,’ says Tim. He’s never personally seen any issues with the superchargers, though belts and pullies do wear – a whistling sound is the clue here. The water pump is a weakpoint, as it takes the strain of all the auxiliary belts. Tim uses a stethoscope to detect a worn bearing.
And make sure all the electrics work. Some of the little black boxes are fiendishly difficult to get hold of. ‘The last time I checked, a wiper delay unit was about £3500,’ he cautions.
Servicing requirements are essentially the same as any other V8-engined Aston of the ’80s and ’90s. Tim reckons on budgeting £1800-2000 for routine servicing, with another £1500 a year for non-service items that will inevitably need replacing. Tyres, for example, are £500 a corner.
Fuel thirst is almost comically extreme: when Autocar tested a V550, they recorded anaverage of 11.6mpg. But then no-one buys a Vantage for its fuel economy. It’s the last of the old-school handbuilt Astons, a dinosaur in some ways, but definitely T Rex. With twin superchargers. ‘THE VANTAGE IS ONE OF the fastest, most flexible road cars we have ever tested. Get both the getaway and the first-to-second gearchange (just before 50mph) spot on and the Vantage thunders to 60mph in a Ferrari 512Tr-destroying 4.6sec and from 30-70mph in an equally profound 3.6sec. It devours the ton in a pulverising 10.1sec and takes the standing kilometre tape just 13sec later with the speedometer reading close to 150mph. By that time even a Viper is history, while rivals such as the Ferrari 456GT, Mercedes 600SL and Porsche 928 GTS are already beginning to resemble dots in the rear-view mirror.
Assume the Aston handles like an ordinary car and you’re in for a shock at the first serious corner. It needs respect – perhaps more than any other big, rear-wheel-drive car before it. But employ the age-old ‘slow in, very fast out’ method and it can be persuaded through bends at astonishing speeds. Its traction out of dry second- and third-gear corners is, in fact, extremely good, the rear end squatting dramatically. In the wet it’s very different. More than mere circumspection is required to keep that beautiful nose pointing down the road. Having said that, when the rear Goodyears do lose their grip, it happens progressively.
Let’s get one thing straight, though: the Vantage is no nimble, agile sports car that can be flicked delicately from one direction to another. It’s a big bruiser in traditional Aston style, with heavy pedals, meaty power steering and lots of inertia that builds up rapidly if you get things wrong. Make use of its attributes – the huge torque, immense grip, friendly (if a touch vague) power steering and that extraordinarily well-located rear end – and few cars flow through a series of bends with more style or grace than the Aston, even if there are others that, ultimately, will corner faster.
It’s a real Aston Martin: a big, very beautiful, very fast, albeit expensive GT with so much appeal and purpose behind it that it is more an experience than it is mere transport; a supercar not without faults but one with sufficient flashes of genius to make those faults seem secondary in any overall reckoning’ – Autocar, August 25, 1993