Since Aston Martin was founded in 1913 it has suffered some turbulent financial times, including bankruptcy on a couple of occasions. Despite this, the brand is strong and globally renowned. Currently in a stronger position than it has been for some years, it is a company with revitalised ambition.
Probably its most important new release, the latest Vantage, replaces Aston Martin’s most successful model after a production span of 12 years. It is aimed at the more focused luxury sports car market rather than the DB11’s Grand Touring market and will compete with Porsche’s latest 992 model 911.
What is it?
Like the DB11, the Vantage sits on a bonded aluminium structure that combines rigidity with lightness. Power comes from an AMG derived 510bhp 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 that has been subtly tuned by the Aston Martin engineers and produces 503bhp.
The engine sits at the front, but nicely behind the front axle-line to give a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. There is an 8- speed ZF automatic gearbox transmitting the power to the rear wheels with steering-wheel paddles when you fancy manual mode. There are three selectable driving modes: Sport, Sport + and Track. Each one alters the damper stiffness, gearbox responsiveness and exhaust sound.
There’s a clever new Electronic Rear Differential (E-Diff), which is linked to the car’s electronic stability control system and provides the driver with increased levels of confidence to explore and enjoy the car’s capabilities to the full.
The starting list price of £120,900 compares favourably to the sportier variants of the Porsche 911 like the Turbo or GT3. There’s a long list of standard features, while the potential for personalisation is huge with regard to exterior colour, leather type and wheel design etc. Options pushed my test car up to a price of £159,640.
It is always a thrill to slip behind the wheel of an Aston Martin and this new Vantage is no exception. Even approaching the car raises the pulse rate and the new bodywork looks great in both dark and light colours. My test car was finished in Hyper Red, a subtle metallic red that shows off the muscular predatory stance to maximum effect.
The Vantage is a strict two seater, but the boot is a really useful 350 litres and there is extra stowage room behind the seats. The compact dimensions, when compared to its DB11 sibling, give the cabin a really sporty, enclosing but comfortable feel. You sit low and the car feels purposeful even before it has turned a wheel. The cabin materials are top notch, the controls and dashboard are right up to date and visibility is excellent.
How does it drive?
Even starting the engine is, in itself, theatrical. The Start/stop button is clear-glass with a subtle glow of red which changes to green. The 4.0 litre V8 announces its presence vocally then settles to a subdued rumble.
Setting off in normal default Sport mode is easy and smooth and there are some initial impressions made obvious over the first 500 yards. The Vantage feels solid and taut. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable. The steering is perfectly weighted and has just the right amount of directness for easy urban negotiation.
Throttle response is instant but not over-sensitive and the brakes are wholly progressive. The automatic gearbox changes are very smooth. So much for the town cruising, now for the open road…
My test routes around the Cotswolds included A-roads, B-roads and dual-carriageways and light traffic – perfect opportunities to explore the Vantage’s performance envelope.
Selecting Sport + mode is like loosening the leash of a powerful muscular dog and selecting Track is like letting it off the leash completely. Adequate power is never a problem; 503hp feels just right and when the V8 is extended a glorious exhaust note accompanies it.
Formidable acceleration is just a thought away and overtaking becomes a normal swift and safe manoeuvre. There were a couple of occasions on a wet road when the clever E-Diff came into its own and, by stopping any wayward deviations, gave me a great sense of security.
Open corners can be tackled with a real confidence and the chassis feels superbly balanced every time you try to hit an apex with the scalpel sharp steering.
The 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox behaved better than I anticipated. Paddle-shifting in Sport + and Track modes feels almost instantaneous and certainly, in my humble opinion, performs as well as Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK. If you are into regular track-day entertainment, I don’t think it would disappoint.
Verdict: This is a true modern sport car that can hold its head high against serious competition from the likes of Porsche and McLaren. It is a different beast to the DB11; it is more focused and always has the driver in mind. Impressively, it can also play the daily-driver role too. If you are not in the mood, it can be a comfortable refined and even luxurious companion. Best of all, it feels Special. That’s what an Aston Martin should be and the new Vantage fits the bill perfectly.
Aston Martin Vantage factfile
Body: Two seater coupe
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin turbo
Torque: 685 Nm
Top Speed: 195mph
Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds
Economy: 27.4mpg combined cycle
CO2 emissions: 230g/km
On the road price: from £ 120,900