It might get loud: is this Aston Martin one of the great drivers’ cars?
Few cars come close to the visceral sensations that the GT8 can provide in terms of engine noise and pure driving pleasure. So that begs the question, has it done enough to earn itself a place amongst the all-time great drivers’ cars?
If its rich motorsport heritage is any kind of indicator, then one could argue that the GT8’s credentials speak for themselves and place it firmly in the upper echelons of driver-focussed cars for the road.
The on-track counterpart of this Vantage became a mainstay in a six-year stretch of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) between 2012 and 2017. During that time, the 2014 LMGTE Am squad piloted the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE to victory, following it up with the overall championship title that season.
Two years later, the British marque’s LMGTE Pro team lifted the championship trophy coinciding perfectly with the reveal of the all-new Vantage GT8. The following year, Aston Martin celebrated its release with LMGTE Pro victory at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The amalgam of all that endurance racing expertise has been put to good use by the technicians at Aston, culminating with a 150 example-limited run that genuinely wouldn’t look out of place in a WEC garage.
Despite the motorsport DNA coursing through its veins, the GT8 isn’t the fastest thing on four wheels by a long shot. Its naturally aspirated 4.7-litre V8 outputs 440bhp and 361lb-ft of torque which by all accounts is sufficient, but it isn’t exactly headline-inducing when compared to the supercars and hypercars of today.
Instead, the GT8 focuses on forging an instinctual relationship between car and driver. One that provides a sense of complete integration, the road’s uneven surface seamlessly connected to the synapses operating your extremities.
Such an experience is achieved through an assemblage of sculpted bodywork comprised largely of carbon fibre, combined with an exquisitely progressive braking system and extra sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that grip the tarmac with utmost conviction.
Of course, the main event for this car is the raw, guttural note produced by its raucous, catalytic convertorless titanium exhaust system. With an unadulterated engine of this magnitude at your disposal, each application of the throttle, no matter the gear selected, is drenched in drama. Throw as many superlatives as you can at the GT8, it still won’t do that tantalizing V8 roar justice.
Originally slated for a 50/50 split between flappy paddle and traditional gear knob, the analogue nature of the GT8 effortlessly lent itself to the six-speed manual and there appears to be a strong bias towards that variant in the market five years on. That’s not to take anything away from the automatic Sportshift III gearbox, which would undeniably come into its own at the Nordschliefe (other race circuits are available).
The GT8 is in good company as far as race-derived Astons go. Its predecessor and older sibling, the GT12 similarly took inspiration from the GT3 equivalent and housed a monstrous V12 engine, although it has often been considered a little too excessive for road use, leaving the door open for the more nimble GT8 to step into the limelight.
A manufacturer-dedicated car club is a sign of huge popularity, but when an official, model-specific club is conceived, its true significance is brought to the fore. Naturally, that is the case for the GT8 so when we say their owners love this car, they really love this car. Regular meet-ups and road trips are organised on the group WhatsApp chat.
The Vantage GT8 also marked something of a milestone for Aston Martin, becoming ‘the last true Aston’ and the final production project for the British marque prior to Mercedes' engine involvement. This was one reason, amongst many, that it was touted as a superb investment opportunity on release, and still is to this day.
In the pantheon of the great drivers’ cars, the GT8 has undoubtedly earned its place. As always though, that judgement is a subjective one. Many would argue that the Mclaren F1 or the Ferrari F40 are more exhilarating, some might say that the Lotus Elan and Mini Cooper ‘S’ are the most stripped back a car can be and therefore are the purest.
What sets the GT8 apart from the other great drivers' cars is timing. Turbochargers, electronic assistance and generally less mechanical motoring are ineliminable in the world of modern-day supercars, and the GT8 serves as an endearing outlier from that status quo.
The racing pedigree that Aston Martin invoked for this car gave it all the tools it needed to become the contemporary supercar owner’s ultimate driving machine.