2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe

Aston Martin has made one of its smartest moves yet. In revising and refocusing its entry-level two-seat sports car V8 Vantage, it is providing an immediate answer to those who are questioning the direction taken by this sector's all-conquering giant, the Porsche 911 991. And how.

Aston Martin has also honed the styling, in typically understated but well-judged form. There's a cleaner and more defined front end, inspired by the deep aero-tuned splitter, while the sides gain definition from more sculpted side sills. There's a rear diffuser and a bigger ducktail-style rear wing too.

The 4.7-litre V8 engine is unchanged, so still produces 309kW, 7kW down on the more potent Vantage S. As suggested by a peak power point of 7,300rpm (and a so-so torque figure of 470Nm), it's an engine that loves to rev: the bite above 4,000rpm is in real contrast to the relative lethargy below it, something accentuated by a long-travel (but beautifully weighted) accelerator pedal.

And the noise is to die for. Mechanical and pure, it trades the brutish exhaust bellow of some OTT rivals (Jaguar XKR-S and Mercedes AMG) for a smoother, more satin-laced howl. You hear the engine work rather than the exhausts roar. It's sophisticated and very engineering-led.

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