Aston Martin V8 Vantage N430: Love & Roar
With its pout, its crazy bodywork, hardcore tuning and wicked sound, the V8 Vantage N430 still appeals to the base instincts. A test of love, lust and honesty.
Anglophilia is an illness. Not that serious an illness perhaps, but one that causes concern. And one that brings unwavering sympathy. From friends, relatives and even fellow sufferers. MIt generally begins subtly: with a certain indifference towards drizzling rain, mint sauce or gaps, for example Put frankly: the author is also one of these English patients. And even when the now perhaps deep consternation within you is triggered, please refrain from get-well cards. For now and then it can actually be helpful. For example when trying to understand sports cars. In particular for those who do not define themselves primarily by apexes and G-forces.
No doubt you already suspect where all this beating around the bush is heading. The tragic thing: you're right. Once again. For no, the Vantage was and is no 'at all costs' performer, no – as the English so nicely put it – thoroughbred, and by no means a 911. Not in the form of the V12 S, and nor the GT3, which will once again heat things up at the Geneva Motor Show. What its critics like to overlook, however, is this: it never wanted to be anyway.
And even when – as in this specific case – it tries a little, it isn't successful. This comes down to the fact that, in spite f its aluminium and magnesium bodywork components, its weighs in at 1,625 kilos at not even 4.40 metres in length – so around 150 more than a similarly powerful, but muh more spacious Carrera GTS. On the other hand, its age stands in its way, plain and simple. It was around ten years ago that Aston Martin added the Vantage to the DB family. To refresh your memory: at that time, the 911 could still be found here and there in the 996 generation.
A car made of flesh and blood
Of course, since then a few things have happened: in 2008 the model was extensively spruced up and the initially 4.3-litre V* naturally aspirated engine was redesigned from the ground up, but when it comes to the basic details it's still its usual old self – with all of the advantages and disadvantages that this brings with it. Gimmicks such as anti-roll compensation or torque vectoring systems, which nowadays render even the toughest journeys simple, are in any case completely foreign to it. In short: it is a thoroughly honest shell with minimal power steering support, minimal spring deflection, minimal noise damping and is thus one of the last sports cars – it should be noted – to be made of flesh and blood. And to be drawn to it in such a way requires no pathological inclination towards the Kingdom whatsoever.
It's just a shame that the Special Edition N430, which views itself as the club athlete of the Vantage series, with its stitching, Alcantara upholstery and bodypaint, remains highly superficial when it comes to the majority of the details – more superficial, in particular, than the 400 and 420 N-models before it. The N, incidentally, stands for Aston's test centre at the Nürburgring, which is responsible for the development work, while the 430 represents the power in bhp – corresponding exactly to the value of the V8 Vantage S, which forms the basis of the N430. However, the only things that are really new are the single-part Kevlar carbon fibre sears and the forged 19-inch rims. Both of these together should save 20 kilos, although, in the end the reading on the scales only drops by four. Contrary to the conventional S-Mode, the N430 can also be ordered with manual transmission. This does reduce the sprinting performance, but should – although one might malign its bulkiness – be more in keeping with its overall analogue character than the automated seven-speed transmission in the test car. Although even with the automatic, there is no need to worry about being perceived as being digital. In the partial load range, its extended gear changes stick like chewing gum between the rev ranges. Only when you open up the robust 4.7-litre engine, and take hold of this tiny moment between the switching lamp and the limiter, does it shift gears as racily as it should. With regard to things being as they should: the engine and transmission sit transaxially to one another, whereby the axial loads are almost perfectly distributed.
Art, kitsch, junk, sound
Otherwise the signs are positive: the seating position is nice and low, and thanks tot he narrow cockpit have no side supports, and are positioned in front of instrument panel bursting with art, a touch of kitsch and a little junk: counter-rotating dials, steeply angled steering wheel; gearshift paddle on the steering wheel; a crystal glass block as the ignition key; metal buttons - which prove their authenticity in that your fingers freeze to them in the Winter - and, the crowning glory so to speak, the antiquated navigation system, the best feature of which is still the fact that it and the accompanying screed can be lowered into the central console.
The acoustic hurricane soon simply blows any such concerns away. In the N430, the Vantage V8 sounds like Braveheart after a boozy night on the tiles: hoarse, smoke-filled, rutting and bronchial during a cold start, and then for a moment, in the lower revs, mechanical and civilised, before the exhaust system opens its lid at 3000 rpm and the whole setting, together with the rev speed, blows up and descends into racing drama. Gentleman's sports car? Nothing of the sort: this is the automotive translation of the Never Walka Alone chorus that Liverpool fans bawl out around the Anfield Stadium week-in, week-out.
Everything about the N430 seems tense
And the best thing about it: the N430 feels just as fervent. In spite of the brisk 4.6 seconds that it takes to reach 100, our turbo-obscured senses perhaps miss the kick, but on the lap, the 490 Nm seem (almost) as well proportioned as the rest of the vehicle: everything is tense and doesn't shy away, even when you really dig in and put up a strong resistance. The grooved surfaces of the curbs rattle right into your spinal cord, you can accurately feel the transition to sliding friction in your hands, and even the transmission seems to know when it when it has to pull itself together. Applying some gas allows you to transform its gentle tendency towards understeer into subtle drifts, which, thanks to the terrific traction of its mechanically locking rear axle and the smooth power delivery, you can increase or hold back as desired. Only the brakes are quite so in keeping with the sturdiness of the N430. The deceleration is infamous, with the brakes focussing their power too much on the front wheels. The effect: the front dips deep onto the suspensions struts before every corner, meaning it first has to rise up again before steering into the turn. In the end it records a fairly average time of 1:13 in Hockenheim. Respectable, but – in spite of all of the love described at the beginning – not quite as solid as the driving experience
Date25 April 2015