Test Drive: 2015 Aston Martin Vantage N430 Q – Brutal image

Unveiled just last year during the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the Aston Martin N430 is, according to the British automaker the most dramatic expression of the V8 Vantage ever built. True or not, what I know is that the V8 Vantage has already 10 years of life.

However, even so, this is such a beautiful car, sounds incredible when you push hard the acceleration, and smells superb inside.  You will see heads turn and eyes following you almost everywhere.

But again my head is telling me this doesn’t have a double cluck gearbox, there is no torque vectoring, no start-stop and that I need almost 2 minutes to insert a new address into the navigation … true, but you know what ? I really don’t care, because all of those systems are failing to do one extremely important thing – they don’t make the car more entertaining to drive. And here is where the Aston excels; this is an analog machine that knows to deliver excitement to the driver, and I believe that at the end of the day this is one of the most important factors of the equation, if not the most important of all.

So what exactly is with this N430, what’s new?

The N430 is built on the legacy of the highly acclaimed N400 and N420 special editions. It is inspired by the GT4 cars, elements such as the mirror caps, rear diffuser blade roofline are adorned with contrasting colors based on a chosen exterior color scheme. It has 10 more bhp over the regular V8 Vantage (thanks to a valved air box and some changes to the fuel strategy), it is 20 kg lighter thanks to some carbon fiber and Kevlar sports seats and forged alloy wheels and can accelerate to 100 km/h in about 4.6 seconds according to our tests.

The suspension is also a little bit different to offer more track performance.

Engine, Sportshift II transmission
Under the bonnet Aston installs the all-alloy, quad overhead camshaft, 32-valve 4.7 liter V8, the same engine that is in the normal Vantage, but this time the British automaker tuned the engine to deliver 430 bhp and 490 Nm of torque.

This is an old school engine so as expected, no turbo here. As any other naturally aspirated powerplant it offers instant response; it does but the unit is little light on torque compared to the competition (the BMW M4 has for example 550 Nm.)

To feel the engine you need to push it over 3000 rpm and really starts to loosen up above 4300 rpm, at which point you start smiling mostly because of the sound it makes. It is fast yes, but will not beat the 911 or the M4 on a straight line. It will also eat a lot of fuel compared to a 911; the lowest figure I was able to achieve was approx. 10.5 liters / 100 km while traveling on highway at normal speeds ( and about 16% combined during more than 1500 km with this car ).

All in all the engine starts to show its age but is still capable of delivering a lot of emotions to the driver.

There is a Sport button that will make the exhaust sound even louder, even more delicious and will also sharpen the rear mid-mounted Sportshift II Seven-Speed Automated Manual Transmission.

But the Sportshift II is something that confuses me. What is this Aston Martin?

This is a single-clutch automated manual transmission that Aston says it operates automatically in Drive mode or you can change the gears via some magnesium shift paddles. Nothing unusual, but the gearbox is just too slow compared to Porsche’s PDK for example.  In Drive mode you can actually change gears from the acceleration pedal – all you have to do is to push the acceleration and if you will release the pedal just a little bit, the car will change from 3rd to 4rth gear for example.  Sounds interesting I know, but the ride is quite clunky, because – again, the gearbox is too slow compared to what we have today.

However there is something good in this gearbox (besides the fact that is lighter than a dual cluck). It makes the driver feel very connected to the machine; it makes you feel you are driving somehow a racecar witch by definition is a very brutal machine. But again I have to repeat myself; even with the Sport button pushed, this is still too slow.

Suspension, handling, breaking
It has the “S” suspension, so nothing special here – no buttons to change anything like in the V12 Vantage.  The suspension feels firm, maybe a little bit aggressive at low speeds, but just perfect at high speeds.  The car is perfectly connected to the road while cornering at high speeds – it really makes you feel in control and that you are not losing any grip.

Being old-fashioned does have some advantages, though – particularly when it comes to steering wheel. That’s because while the majority of modern cars have fully electric racks, the Aston’s is still powered by hydraulics, which helps give a better sense of what’s happening on the road. The feel is first rate, maybe a little heavy at low speeds – but just perfect as you start to accelerate. Yes, you will miss the electric while parking for sure, but trust me – this is a delight at high speeds.

To keep prices down the N430 doesn’t come with carbon-ceramic brakes. However there is sufficient braking power because of a simple combination: 15-inch front two-piece rotors clamped by six-piston calipers and 13-inch rear rotors with four-piston calipers.

Interior and gadgets
This feels like a very expensive car – feels clearly more expensive than other competitors. Leather and Alcantara is everywhere. I analyzed the interior of this car in detail, looking for the smallest defect, imperfection if you want – but I wasn’t able to find anything.  Every Aston Martin Vantage N430 is hand-assembled and hand-finished and I guess that only craftsmen can deliver the design details and level of finish that Aston Martin engineers and designers demand, creating a quality that is simply not possible in high-volume manufacture. Today’s robots can of course do almost everything, can stitch leather, but a machine cannot achieve the same degree of care as experienced craftsmen.

It’s clearly a sports car so you’ll only be sharing the pleasure of this Aston Martin with only one other person. Our car was equipped with the lightweight Kevlar-composite seats witch are made by a supplier to the motorsport and aviation industries. Extremely slim ( the structure of the seat has between 2.5 and 3mm) this is a fixed structure so you cannot recline your back only; but they can be adjusted for rake as well as sliding fore and aft. What’s interesting is that these seats are still electrically adjustable – I thought Aston wanted to reduce some weight … hmm

The central console remains the same as in the standard Vantage – it is actually almost the same as in every Aston Martin I’ve seen. Of course there are some cosmetic differences, but overall is the same. The navigation looks old even if the screen offers great resolution.

Operating / browsing the menu is difficult – it took me almost 2 minutes to insert a new address.  Also I was very confused at the beginning about the steering controls. You have some buttons behind the steering that operate what is selected – so first you need to select for example navigation and then the buttons will operate that device.

Space for you and your passenger is reasonable but not exceptional; the roof is low and the transmission tunnel is relatively wide.

The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound is just fantastic. I know … I know the “music” of the engine is better. But boy – this sound system really makes a difference – and I can tell you that I’ve listened a lot of great sound systems, but Bang & Olufsen was always in the top of my list.

Like / Dislike:
This is a car that makes you travel thousands and thousands of km just to find the right road. And I have to admit that I’ve driven this car more than usual in our 10 days of test drive. It’s just a wonderful old school car that knows very well how to make the driver feel wonderful, a genuine drivers car – from the sound the V8, the suspension, the way it dances its back under heavy acceleration … a very rewarding, satisfying driver’s car – it’s somehow a street car that pretends to be a racing machine. That’s cool.

And there is something else. Aston Martin was always a rare bird, and that’s something that I always enjoyed – exclusivity.

I guess the only think that created some confusion was the gearbox. I tried to understand that gearbox in every aspect, but still create confusion. I guess there are only two options here – you like it or heat it, and unfortunately I can’t say I fell in love of Aston’s Sport Shift II. With Sport pushed this will change gear a little bit better specially when hits the red line, but even then the responses …

I will always wonder: How would this machine be, in this configuration, with a gearbox like the Porsche’s PDK?

Plus for: steering wheel, suspension, joy of drive, quality in general

Minus for: Gearbox, especially at low speeds in normal mode.

 Tested vehicle
Aston Martin Vantage N430
Engine: 4735 cc V8 All-alloy, quad overhead camshaft, 32-valve
Power: 321 kW (436 PS/430 bhp) at 7300 rpm
Torque: 490 Nm (361 lb ft) at 5000 rpm
Transmission: Rear mid-mounted ‘Sportshift II’ seven-speed automated manual
Weight: 1610kg
Acceleration: 0 – 100 km/h: 4.6s
Top Speed: 306 km/h

Verdict:

4.5 / 5

February 22, 2015

inautonews