Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Although it is at the bottom of Aston Martin's current model line, the V8 Vantage still possesses classic good looks. With its long hood, short rear deck, muscular haunches, and steeply raked windshield, there is virtually nothing Aston could do to improve upon its shape. But under that hood resides a bigger V-8 that bumps output to a respectable 420 hp. For the roadster, Aston chose a traditional, power-retracting fabric roof that hides under a body-colored lid rather than a folding hardtop, which would have added weight and compromised the car’s handsome rear profile. Aston offers a 6-speed manual as well as a 6-speed paddle-shift transmission called Sportshift, which provides quick gear changes that automatically blip the throttle on downshifts. As the entry-level Aston, the muscular V8 Vantage in either coupe or roadster form is a welcome addition to the marque and offers a legitimate riposte to the ultramodern Audi R8 and always-chic but sometimes ubiquitous Porsche 911. Pros: The smallest Aston is also the most fun to drive. Cons: Does not have the performance pedigree of a Porsche.