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2012 Aston Martin Vantage review: Cheap for the brand

We all revere the Aston Martin marque as the classically English car of James Bond, and now the company takes a stab at making its models more affordable.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The new Vantage V8 is not the first Aston Martin with only eight cylinders, just the newest. While other models from this hallowed company boast V-12s exclusively, Aston Martin decided to let the Vantage go downmarket a little, equipping it with a smaller engine and dropping the price to within view of $100,000.

But even at $150,000, what do you get for your money? The white, winged badge looks cool and the body boasts head-turning style. The V-8 under the hood delivers plenty of power with an enjoyable exhaust note, while the rigid body lends itself to sharp cornering. And the coachwork certainly speaks luxury.

However, cars at a quarter of the price feature much better cabin tech. Aston Martin embedded what is essentially a portable navigation device into the dashboard, identifiable as a Garmin from the screen design, but not quite the latest Garmin. Controlling what was designed to be a touch-screen device with console buttons becomes very tedious. And despite having a perfectly useful color LCD in the car, Aston Martin places all the phone and stereo system information on a much smaller monochrome radio display. This pricey status symbol is not quite up with the times.

One fixable problem with the Vantage V8 is the single-clutch automated manual transmission, the fix being not to option it. The transmission takes so long with its shifts that it renders the car nearly undrivable, at least in day-to-day traffic. The base transmission is a six-speed manual, which should solve the problem and be much more enjoyable to use.

Check out CNET's full review of the 2012 Aston Martin Vantage V8 Roadster.