First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420

Celebrating the company’s success since 2006 with production-based V8 Vantage race cars, Aston Martin has launched a small run (limited to 420) of road cars aimed at the more focused driver: those looking for an even rarer Aston.

We’ve just driven the car, and for anyone considering a new V8 Vantage we strongly believe this is the one to go for. So what do you get?

An awful lot, actually, as the car comes as standard with a new sports exhaust system, sports suspension, the brilliant lightweight seats (not available in Federal markets, though) with the ‘racetrack stitch pattern’ of the V12 Vantage, 19in 10-spoke forged alloy wheels with gloss black and diamond turned finish, N400-type sills, much Alcantara and many items (front splitter, rear diffuser and side-strakes) in tasteful, semi-matt carbonfibre. See the full list at the foot of this page.

The V8 Vantage N420 is available as a coupé or roadster, with either a 6-speed manual or Sportshift, semi-automatic transmission. Alcantara is only available in the coupé, though.

The engine, the latest 4.7-litre, 420bhp V8, is unchanged – enough to give a 180mph capability with 0-100km/h (62mph) coming up in 4.8 seconds. With the extensive use of carbonfibre, the lightweight seats and lighter wheels, the N420’s weight is shaved by 27kg: a handy reduction.

As an option, buyers can choose from Aston Martin ‘Race Collection’ paint schemes, mostly called after the pet names given to works entries at the ‘Ring 24 Hours. So you could have ‘Rose’ Yellow, ‘Kermit’ Green or ‘Elwood’ Blue - or just play it safe and go for traditional Aston Martin Racing Green with yellow accents on the nose and cant rails. The contrasting colours are painted, by the way, not stickered, a process which adds considerable time to the regular hand-finishing of the cars.

The other alternative is ‘Asia Cup’, a classy white/black combination you see here on this car.

The combination of Obsidian Black-trimmed lightweight seats and the standard-for-N420 Iridium interior package (with graphite instruments) is a seductive one. It’s also a comfortable one and we can’t help feeling sorry for our American cousins denied the sexy lightweight seats. I like Alcantara-trimmed steering wheels; you get excellent grip with heightened feedback when pressing on. The interior has an air of purpose without in-your-face carbonfibre and ‘chrono’ dials.

It’s an Aston, after all.

First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420 First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420

This particular N420 was a Sportshift car. I haven’t driven one for a while (N400, I think, the last time?) but it combines nicely with the sports suspension and general tenor of the new car. Up- and down-changes are smooth (with ‘blipping’ under deceleration to flatter the driver), as long as you treat the system with respect.

A slight ‘lift’ when exploring the upper reaches of the rev-band is essential - but the change is pretty quick.

First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420 First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420 First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420

A useful feature of Aston’s take on the robotised manual is that it will ‘creep’ in first gear, too, like a torque converter automatic.

The suspension gets the most from the car and is well-complemented by a sports exhaust that is neither intrusive nor contrived. I covered some miles on a motorway and, at everyday, restricted speeds, there’s a nice, busy hum from the drivetrain. “Purposeful,” I suppose you could say.

Don’t think that this is a track-day special or hardcore racer – it’s definitely not. Just think of it as a way of letting someone else choose the best options from the catalogue, adding in a few normally unobtainable items and, if you get your calculator out, you might find it saves you a few bob, too.

Plus there’s the limited-edition aspect of it all – specify ‘Kermit’ Green and you could be in exclusive company, one of the very first V8 Vantage racers made by Aston Martin.

Like the cockpit of the new N420 - not a bad place to be.

First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420 First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420 First Drive: Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420

Production of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420 begins in July 2010, with deliveries commencing in August and prices starting from £96,995 in the UK.

Full Specification:

Exterior -

* Carbonfibre splitter and diffuser
* Carbonfibre side strakes
* Black bonnet and side strake meshes
* N400 sill design
* 19in 10-spoke forged alloy wheels with gloss black and diamond turned finish
* Front parking sensors
* Optional race car collection livery (painted, adding 22 man-hours on top of the original 50)
* Graphite sports exhaust tailpipe finishers

Powertrain and chassis features -

* Limited edition numbered engine bay plaque
* New sports exhaust system
* Sports suspension

Interior -

* Lightweight seats (not available in Federal markets)
* Sports steering wheel in Alcantara (not roadster)
* Carbonfibre N420 sill plaque
* Seat inserts in Alcantara (coupé) or leather (coupé and roadster) with racetrack stitch pattern
* Iridium interior with Piano Black or Double Apex Alloy fascia trim
* Alarm upgrade
* Cruise control
* Bluetooth telephone system
* Auto-dimming mirror

Text: Steve Wakefield
Photos: Classic Driver

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