Sunday, February 13, 2011

Aston Martin Vantage N420 driven

�99,995 Driven February 2011
Rated 16 out of 20

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No car company on earth exploits collectors with limited editions as cravenly as Aston Martin. The latest, the V8 Vantage N420, is a paint job, some carbon peripherals and a plunder through the options list. On paper then, not earth-shaking. But wait a minute...
N420 stands for the 420bhp, 4.7-litre V8 engine, which all V8 Vantages have these days. But here it gets a new sports exhaust, and once you hit 4,000rpm, there's a proper rock-gig V8 bellow, and with it all the power the noise promises.
Aston's optional �sports pack' chassis is standard on the N420 - it's stiffer and tauter than normal. Going slowly, it crumps at every little lump in the road, but put some speed through it, and the springs really start to work with just the right suppleness.
On a straight back-road, the steering wheel twists and wriggles in your hands, as the tyres are deflected by bumps. The test car had the optional flappy-paddle transmission. It hits you with an old-school pause-clunk as it changes, but because the steering needs such a firm grasp, it's handy to keep both hands on the wheel as you brake and turn into a corner.
At that point, you're aboard a properly alive sports car. Aston has developed the Vantage steadily over the years, and it's now fluent and beautifully balanced, giving you the confidence you need as you load it up through a series of bends and project your way out and down the straight. When the Vantage was new - and every time I drove it for the first few years - I couldn't get on with it. This car has converted me. And luckily, you can order the same chassis on the normal Vantage edition.
A pair of lightweight one-piece semi-race seats are optional, and the main reason the N420 is 27kg lighter than a normal V8 Vantage. It's enough to give you fantasies about the race series that go with the paint. The - optional, luckily - colour schemes celebrate various racing Astons, and they're two-tone liveries with a contrast band around the radiator grille, and an equally non-matching screen pillar and roof rail. Why you'd want to disrupt the gorgeous lines of the Vantage in this way, I've no idea. My test car was in �Asia Cup' livery - white with black bands. People I passed are probably still seeing zigzag flashes in their vision. The others are luminous green, yellow and a shockingly strident blue.
No doubt, there are collectors who've bought one of each.

We like: Engine and handling
We don't like: Paint, jerky Sportshift
TopGear ?verdict: Aston makes a Vantage that's as good as it looks. And then mucks up the looks
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.8secs, max 180mph, 21.4mpg
Tech: 4735cc, V8, RWD, 420bhp, 346lb ft, 1630kg, 312g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: Bang & Olufsen stereo, �4,750
And avoid this: Duo-tone paint, �4,750
Aston Martin V12 Vantage
Aston Martin V12 Vantage
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