Bloody hell, the Vantage is impressive, a real leap forward for Aston Martin. Yes, they’ve always looked good while the drive has lagged behind, but this absolutely blows you away with its thrilling and exciting performance. It looks magnificent too, the new bonnet that has so many people crying in their pistons is taken from the track only Vulcan and is proof that the new designers are on brand. The Aston Martin front has been so copied that they had to upgrade and this is a superb evolution of Aston Martin’s history, a lithe sleek sports front with elongated eyes that captures and modernises the brand perfectly.
The Vantage was designed by Marek Reichman (from Sheffield) who also created, amongst others, the Vulcan and the Rolls Royce Phantom, and he clearly gets the Aston Martin brand, I look forward to seeing what he does next.
The Aston Martin Vantage is a leap forward into the present, employing all the latest technology to make this car a confident performer worthy on any race track.
The Vantage is a sportier two seater version of the DB11, 28 cm shorter with the Aston Martin tweaked AMG 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 engine that pumps out 503 bhp with a maximum speed of 195 mph blasting from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. It’s the first Aston to have electronic rear differential so that when you corner the inner and outer wheels will turn independently at just the right speed for perfect traction, and the dynamic torque maintains just the right power for the best grip in slippery road conditions. Dynamic stability control and adaptive damping also play a big part in making this incredibly powerful car so easy to drive.
The engine on the Vantage has been lowered and set further back which is why the dashboard bulges at you menacingly, so it now has a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and this really shows in the handling. It is rear wheel drive so you can slide to your hearts content around corners, or simply spin the wheels as you take off on your favourite track.
A front splitter channels the air both to cool the engine and to create low pressure under the car, increasing the downforce, as does the minimalist spoiler at the back. The boot access is one big piece of metal and glass, hinging at the roof, with a reasonable boot space, just enough for two medium sized cases.
The body is made out of extruded aluminium with a stainless steel exhaust system, somewhat like the body of a guitar fused with a saxophone, helping to amplify the incredible engine sound.
The balance and stability are poised, firm and confident, there is little sway on dilapidated old roads as you accelerate with extreme prejudice from 0-62 in 3.5 seconds, but by jove, the handling brings a gentle tear of emotional pleasure as the engine growls (much overused word, but absolutely correct here) rapidly up the rev counter in track mode. The Vantage is Goldilocks, just the right size, not too big or too small which gives you a lot of confidence.
The V8 sound is spine tinglingly joyful, all car manufacturers are competing to find that sweet spot, but Aston Martin have distilled the classic engine roar to its sublime apotheosis. If you looked up perfect engine sound in Google this is what you should hear. Yes, I have recorded it and it is now my ring tone (sad old petrolhead). In track mode, it coughs, cracks and backfires so it is monumentally hard to keep it in simple sport mode (the lowest setting) as you just want to keep hearing that sublime background concerto.
Push the start button quickly and it starts up loudly for maximum effect, push it slowly and it starts up quietly, maintaining good relations with the neighbours. Bless em for thinking of that.
There are three driving modes starting with Sport, no time for normal drive mode in this car. S is sport, S+ is.., well more sport, or dynamic if you like and T is track mode. The dampening system is a little bouncy in Sport mode, but this tightens up nicely in Sport + and Track. Already punchy in Sport , the throttle response in Sport + is exciting and in Track it’s electric, even brutal, with a noticeable difference between each mode. I would advise keeping the suspension in Sport + and then just varying the engine response to suit your mood and road conditions.
The new rear ZF eight speed automatic transmission is lightening fast, only a real racing pro is ever going to get more out of it in manual, but it’s terrific fun doing it yourself even if you know deep down the auto does it better. The dashboard even has a helpful advisory display for the gears when you’re in manual, suggesting you reign in the thuggery for the sake of the engine and your mpg. The power builds up nicely rather than swamping you the moment you hit the throttle, developing torque in a smooth linear fashion as the speedometer jerks from left to right.
The electric steering is taut, responsive and precise with a 13.09:1 ratio and glides tightly into the apex of every corner with little effort, almost finding the lines itself with the camber of the road.
The exterior is low key, but a closer look reveals a sensuous waist with large hips conveying a forward motion, a car that seems to be racing even standing still. The sinuous soft lines are both attractive and aerodynamic whilst the door handles are recessed to flip out when needed so nothing disturbs the airflow.
With its large titanium front grill and the sleek headlamps it most resembles a whale shark, particularly with the graphite exterior body paint, though I love the lime green that the Vantage also comes in, for those that want to stand out.
The windscreen and roof stay low and swoop gracefully backwards, and the whole body flows about the beefy 20” Pirelli P-Zero tyres, suggesting that this car may have been designed by airflow dynamics more than anything else. It exudes class and style and I must admit I can’t wait to see what the Volante version looks like.
The rear of the Vantage is a masterpiece, the slight rise of the tail, the 4 exhausts and the lower vents channeling the airflow are well proportioned and quite striking.
As you lower yourself down into the comfortable sports seats you immediately get a sense of luxury, the cabin is sporty and reassuring, with silver tones, black leather and red leather key lines. The door handles are anchor shaped in silver with retro red leather door straps. The 8” screen sits in a contoured gap in the middle of the dashboard which is all angles and geometric shapes. The passenger front dash could do with a few additions as it’s a little bare, but that’s a niggle, as the interior nails understated quality. The seats are genuinely comfortable and hold you well in a corner, I drove it around 500 miles in 24 hours up to the Lake District and felt in tip top condition each way.
The media screen is not touch sensitive, borrowed from the Mercedes, but once you get used to the control dial which sits half covered by a soft leather hand support, it is surprisingly fast and convenient. No leaning over to poke the screen and taking your eyes off the road, which is good right? The control panel forms a pleasing triangle and reminds me of a fighter jet dash and the octagonal black leather steering wheel is absolutely gorgeous to the touch and can be adjusted for your ideal height.
The superb 503 bhp engine is impulsive and agile, its 50/50 weight ratio and low setting maintains rock solid stability and guarantees a thrilling ride. Take a look at the Aston Martin Vantage side on and you realise that it’s not just perfectly balanced mechanically, but also visually. The shape evokes Leonardo Da Vinci’s golden ratio, the proportions are so magically pleasing to the eye. You may have been paying a little more for the badge before, but not anymore, this is a fascinating and enthralling car with terrific performance to match.
£120,900 in the UK, €154,000 in Germany and $149,995 in the USA