After one has attended enough automotive press drive events, certain strategies tend to develop - like when to get behind the wheel. A brief conference with our co-driver yielded an amicable agreement - the second leg of the drive route would be ours, not only putting us in the driver's seat for the twistiest portion, but allowing Mother Nature some time to dry out the pavement for us as well. Bully.
What is it?
Aston Martin has never been a company that prides themselves on proletariat accessibility, but the Vantage GT now represents the most attainable sports coupe they've ever offered, with a starting price of a Benjamin under six figures (before destination). That's still quite a chunk of change to us common folk, but the Vantage - Aston's smallest and lightest platform - makes a compelling case for itself in GT guise regardless, despite the fact that the current generation car debuted at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show and there's no shortage of serious high performance hardware to choose from at that price point.
Available as either a coupe or a roadster, the Vantage GT gets motivation from Aston's 4.7-liter naturally-aspirated V8, which makes 430 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque, putting the GT's output on par with the V8 Vantage S. In the GT, that grunt is sent to the rear wheels through either the standard six-speed manual gearbox - the only Aston Martin model to still offer one - or the seven-speed, single clutch Sportshift II automated manual transmission with paddle shifters.
Aston Martin is clearly aiming for enthusiasts with the Vantage GT, so a rorty sport exhaust system, taut suspension tuning, a quick-ratio steering rack and paint treatments inspired by the company's motorsport heritage are all part of the deal here, giving the GT unique appeal among the current brand lineup.
Dressed to impress
While this is the least expensive Aston Martin on sale today, the Vantage GT is far from austere. Instead, the GT sports its own uniquely appointed interior, which includes leather and Alcantara throughout the cabin with real wood and carbon fiber accents, and the seats which are direct transplants from the V12 Vantage S.
All of the hallmarks of modern Aston Martins are here, from the contrast stitching and the placement of the Emotion Control Unit (also known as a key fob) slot at the top of the center stack, to the thick-rimmed three spoke steering wheel and the gauge cluster that includes a tachometer which counts the revs in a counter-clockwise direction. Ten years on, some of the interior elements are indeed starting to show their age, but there also isn't a surface inside the Vantage GT that you'll make contact with regularly that feels anything less than top shelf.
Externally, our test car sported one of the optional livery packages, designed to recall Aston Martin's success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans by way of motorsport-inspired paint schemes applied to the grille, mirrors, A-pillar (available on the coupe only) and rear diffuser blade to compliment the available Alloro Green, Jet Black, Skyfall Silver, Mariana Blue and Speedway White paint hues. These contrasting shades might be a little too much for some, but it's important to remember that despite being one of the defining characteristics of the Vantage GT touted by Aston Martin, opting into this visual treatment is completely up to the buyer.
A number of subtle exterior touches further separate the GT from the rest of the Vantage offerings, including headlight bezels, side window surrounds and exhaust pipes coated in a graphite hue, while clear rear lamps with black surrounds give the car some additional flash.
It all comes to together as a cohesive aesthetic package here in the GT, and while it does not revolutionize the look of the Vantage's familiar shape, it does give the new model a visual shot in the arm that is well paired with its manners when in motion.
On the road
In an era of 700+ horsepower family sedans, the Vantage GT's modest 430 ponies might not be enough to strike fear into the hearts of bench racers at your local cruise night. Truth be told, at 3600 pounds, you're looking at power to weight ratio that's only slightly better than that of a new Mustang GT. It gets the Vantage GT from zero to sixty miles per hour in 4.6 seconds on its way to a 190 mph top speed, which is more than enough grunt to keep things interesting, but also well outside what's currently considered supercar pull.
However, what the 4.7-liter V8 lacks in sheer brutality it makes up for in spades elsewhere. The sound, for instance: paired with the GT's new set of pipes, this may well be the greatest sounding V8 currently available in a production car. It barks and spits with authority, and it loves to rev - peak horsepower comes on at 7300 rpm, meaning that this naturally aspirated power plant offers you an excuse to wind things out whenever possible. Paired with the satisfying throws of the six speed shifter and progressive clutch uptake, the Vantage GT feels like a well-sorted throwback in the best way possible.
Continuing the theme is the GT's specially tuned, hydraulically-assisted steering rack, which provides the sort of weightiness that we love in sports cars but rarely see. It compliments the GT's firm damping perfectly, which allowed for flat cornering and confidence-inspiring stability when hammering on the throttle coming out of corners. It may not have jaw dropping performance metrics, but you simply won't care when driving the Vantage GT because everything works in harmony so effectively. It's a genuinely engaging experience to point this car down your favorite stretch of road and explore its abilities which - as many supercar owners end up learning the hard way - are much easier to exploit outside the confines of a race track than they are for cars boasting astronomical specifications.
Leftlane's bottom line
The Aston Martin Vantage GT is a solid example of a car that really is more than the sum of its parts. Further, while the age of the platform might have a perceived negative effect with the V12 Vantage S, in the context of the GT it's refreshingly defiant to the march of time when compared to the other members of its peer group.
As the automotive world continues to push toward technologies like turbocharging, hybrid drivetrains, and dual-clutch transmissions, the Vantage GT effectively champions the core elements of what many enthusiasts hold dear - displacement over forced induction, communicative handling, a riveting soundtrack, and three pedals on the floor. Those attributes might not translate very effectively to a specification sheet in 2015, but the most gripping aspects of motoring rarely do.
Photos courtesy of Aston Martin.