JUL 24th 2014

Aston Martin N430: it has charm, but is that enough?

It’d be easy to overlook the Aston Martin V8 Vantage in the sub-£100,000 sports coupé market, especially with the likes of the Porsche 911 and Audi R8 to grab your attention – never mind the seductive new Jaguar F-Type Coupé. The Aston is dating, after all, and it’ll be a few more years yet before the company’s tie-up with AMG results in a worthy replacement. Which makes it a good time to launch a new version.

Being cynical, the aesthetic makeover that defines the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage N430 could be seen as nothing more than an excuse to get the world’s automotive media back behind the wheel of the company’s ‘entry-level’ car and garner some much-needed column inches. Job done. But after spending the best part of a day testing the N430 on some staggeringly challenging back roads in Germany, we’re not complaining one little bit.

The V8 Vantage has, like a good cheesy cliché, matured with age. This launch served to remind us how good it is to drive on a core level. The N430 does, in fairness, get a few mechanical tweaks, such as a 20kg weight reduction, the V8 Vantage S’s suspension and steering and of course a little more power to make it all worthwhile, but the basics are good anyway. First up, the steering: it offers plenty of feedback and is satisfyingly direct. The chassis feels almost square in its layout so planted is it and so biddable through a sequence of fast sweepers. Direction changes are fun, yet it’s just as comfortable at high velocity on gentle curves. Pile into a tighter corner at an ‘optimistic’ entry pace and the front tyres safely scrub off speed in mild understeer, so it’s more enjoyable to attack a twisty road with a ‘slow in, fast out’ approach. Then it’s a real hoot.

The stability/traction control system has three settings, but in the dry there’s no fear in turning it off completely, as mechanical traction is immense, aided somewhat by the standard limited slip differential. I’m sure that decent power slides are there for the taking, but not on the tight and twisty roads we negotiated.

Good honest natural aspiration

Instead we revelled in the sublime brakes and composure. Germany is known for its glass-smooth tarmac, but there was little of that on our route, and despite doing without adaptive damping, the N430 coped admirably. It’s a firm set-up, for sure, but wheel and body control are exemplary, giving you the confidence to push on regardless of how bumpy it is. And that sonorous V8 engine goads you into constantly pushing on. It’s simply magnificent, more so as we’ve become so accustomed to turbocharging that we’ve almost forgotten how enjoyable a good naturally aspirated engine can be. It’s recommended to keep the car in Sport mode all the time (once you’ve left the neighbourhood perhaps), as this opens the exhaust bypass valve for the full effect.

Now, during all this lyrical waxing we’re not oblivious to the shortfalls of this car. The position of the gear lever makes for sometimes awkward shifts in the manual version, for a start, the satnav interface is hopeless and the operation of some of the switchgear is mystifying. Saying that, an owner has plenty of time to get to grips with its idiosyncrasies and there’s no doubt that it’s still simply gorgeous, whilst brimming with character. That charm is now its biggest selling point.

Along those lines, the garish two-tone paint finishes that mark out the N430 make more sense. Two of the themes are a nod to great Aston Martin racing liveries, and though there are (slightly) more subtle options in the palette, they’re not the ones to have. If you really want an N430 Roadster you can have that too, though it’s less obvious and even easier to overlook. And what would be the point of that?

Power to weight: 267bhp/ton
0-62mph: 4.5sec
Top speed: 190mph
Engine: Eight-cylinder 4.7-litre petrol
Power: 430bhp at 7300rpm
Torque: 361lb ft at 5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Wheels: 8.5J x 19-inch alloy /10J x 19-inch alloy
Tyres: Bridgestone Potenza Front: 245/40 ZR19. Rear: 285/35 ZR19
Economy: 20.5mpg
CO2: 321g/km
Price: £89,995
On sale date: Now

Aston Martin N430

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