New v used: BMW M2 v Aston Martin V8 Vantage

New v used: BMW M2 v Aston Martin V8 Vantage
New v used: BMW M2 v Aston Martin V8 Vantage

You have £45k. Which is best – a used Aston Martin or a new BMW M2?

Everyone dreams of owning an Aston Martin. One of the most rewarding modern-era models is the V8 Vantage – and keen classifieds spotters will have noted prices of these are down to below the £30,000 mark. Even the preferable 420bhp 4.7-litre, which replaced this original 380bhp 4.3-litre V8, can be bought for around £45,000. That’s a huge saving on the original list price – for, dammit, an Aston Martin!

BMW M2 M DCT

Price: £47,995
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Power: 365bhp
Torque: 343lb/ft
Gearbox: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight: 1595kg
0-62mph: 4.4sec (to 62mph)
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 35.8mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 185g/km, 36%

But even at this price point, there’s some stiff competition. Because you could also spend around £45,000 on one of the best modern-day driver’s cars of all – the best M car BMW makes, no less. Yes, the 365bhp BMW M2 is exceptional… but good enough to beat an Aston Martin? We decided to find out.

No two ways about it, the Aston is the beauty of the two, both outside and in. The cabin is a hand-crafted haven of leather, Alcantara and real metal, in which you sit low, feeling like you’re within a bona fide supercar. But look more closely and the Ford-era parts-sharing shows up, with flimsy column stalks, ugly mirror controls and the like. The sat nav is also archaic.

The M2 shares even more with a cut-price alternative, this time the £21k BMW 118i. But a decade’s progress, combined with BMW premium quality, means that although it’s sobre and less emotional, it’s also much more precise-feeling and laden with another-era tech.

You sit higher in the BMW, but the sculpted seats are firm and supportive, give a better view out and sit you in a more natural driving position. Behind them are the two (small) adult-sized lacking in the Aston, while the boot is around a third larger and much more practically-shaped.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage (2011)

Price new: £95,684
Price now: £55,995
Engine: 4.7-litre, V8, petrol
Power: 420bhp
Torque: 346lb/ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1630kg
0-60mph: 4.7sec
Top speed: 180mph
Fuel economy: 20.4mpg (combined)

But who buys cars like this for practicality? Start the Aston’s wonderful V8 engine for the real reason: it sounds gorgeous, with a rich burble and a short-throw gearshift equal of a muscle car. The surge above 4500rpm sounds metallic, crisp and glorious, and if you work it hard, the Vantage is a total joy. Alongside it, the BMW doesn’t sound as good, with its engine enveloped by a turbo whoosh, although its far broader spread of power gives genuinely brutal acceleration at 7000rpm.

They are both as fast as one another in the 0-60mph dash, but the BMW feels the quicker of the two, helped by its fast-shifting M DCT automatic gearbox. It’s also the one that’s more alert and incisive through corners, with ultra-quick turn-in, loads of stability and little delay. The steering is too light in normal mode and too heavy in Sport mode, though, while feel is wooden.

No such complaints with the Aston, which has wonderful steering, even with the odd trace of kickback. Surprisingly, it’s not as alert though, despite its more purist front-mid-engine layout. But equally surprisingly, the Aston has the wider repertoire over varying road surfaces. It is more fluid, more of the time, whereas the BMW can get choppy and skittish a little too often. It does ride better in town, mind, absorbing potholes the older Aston can shimmer over. There’s more wind noise in the Aston when cruising as well, again a consequence of its age.

You could say this is all part of its charm – appeal that includes its sheer character and that lusty non-turbo V8, wrapped up in a stylish, luxurious and headturning classic Aston shape. But at this price, the overall ability of BMW’s amazing M2 would still ultimately be where our money went. Yes, you can get a used Aston Martin for £45k. But you’d get a better all-round performance car if you spent it on a new BMW M2 instead.

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