There was a time when Aston Martin could barely manage to launch a new car every few years. It wasn’t that long ago, yet the British brand has turned a big corner under the stewardship of Brit boss Andy Palmer.
Priced from £120,900 before you plunder the tempting and deep options roster, this new Vantage has a tough adversary in the Porsche 911 Turbo. But while there are plenty of price, power and performance similarities, the Aston goes about things in a different way; a typically British way.
Let’s start with the design. It looks stunning from behind, with a majestically rising rear spoiler and delightfully detailed lights. It’s a little plainer at the shark-nosed (and slightly Lightning McQueen-esque) front, but proportionally it’s absolutely perfect. With its nose to the floor, Aston describes this car as a hunter. That’s opposed to the more graceful DB11, which sits with its nose more skyward. It’s certainly mean and muscular, with clever aerodynamics; some you can see and some you can’t.
Under the skin, the Vantage shares much with the DB11. That includes the fabulous, Mercedes-sourced 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8; tweaked and tuned in-house for what Aston feels are the right power characteristics. The noise is a little less shouty than in an AMG, too.
Under your right foot you’ll find 503bhp and 685Nm of torque. For now, the Vantage is only available with a ZF eight-speed automatic – a manual is due later, we’re told. The final drive ratio of the torque converter auto is slightly shorter in the Vantage than the DB11.
Along with double-wishbone suspension at the front, the Vantage uses a solid subframe and multi-link set-up at the rear, offering more of a connection to the road. There’s also an electronic differential, which – according to Aston’s chief engineer Matt Becker – enabled him to tune the characteristics of the car to make it feel longer or shorter. Or in this case more playful and rewarding.
Swing open the driver’s door and you’re invited to slip into the low-set sports seat and become cocooned in a cabin that answers many of the quality criticisms we had of early DB11s. While a 911’s interior is like a super-cool hi-tech kitchen, the Vantage is like stepping into the library: more cosseting, comfortable but no less exciting or intriguing.
There are no token back seats in the Aston, but there is room for a couple of sets of golf clubs underneath the tailgate. Other storage inside is limited, too – there’s not even a glovebox.
The Mercedes-sourced switchgear is nicely integrated this time around, although the tech is a step behind the German brand’s latest offerings. The driving position is spot on, though, with plenty of adjustment to make you feel totally connected to the controls.
Prodding the winged starter button in the middle of the centre stack fires up the V8 with its burbling baritone. It’s a great sound, especially with the optional quad-pipe sports exhaust fitted. Pulling away in Sport mode (the most comfort-orientated of the three options) and letting the gearbox shift cogs itself reveals a slick change that’s matched to a surprisingly compliant ride.
This is a sports car, however – it’s not meant to cosset – so the Vantage will constantly inform you of the quality of the road surface, while taking the edge off the worst bumps. Up at cruising speeds, the exhaust note is still present, reminding you of what will happen if you flex your right ankle. There’s also a bit of road noise. But if you want peace and quiet, buy a DB11 – the Vantage is its brasher, more boisterous brother.
Cycle through Sport+ and Track modes, and the engine, gearbox, steering and damping will increasingly jump to attention, changing the car’s character to make it feel sharper, faster and louder. Whichever you choose, this is a seriously capable car. And fun, too.
On the road, it provides confidence-inspiring handling with instant responses. The steering isn’t 911 sharp, but that’s no bad thing – it reacts how you expect, with a directness and weighting that makes you feel at home behind the wheel. The bespoke Pirelli P Zero rubber provides a huge amount of grip, too, helping you to explore the car’s extraordinary ability to change direction swiftly and flow from bend to bend.
The standard steel brakes do a great job of scrubbing speed when you need to, while an optional carbon ceramic set-up is available – and advisable if you plan to take your Vantage on track.
We tried the car on Portugal’s twisty Portimao circuit, and the Vantage excelled. In Track mode with the traction control relaxed and the e-diff doing its finest, you can build up to a speed that you would previously have thought beyond your limits. Switch things off and the Vantage’s playful character comes to the fore, letting you drift the car gently with enough lock in the steering to bring you back from frankly stupid angles.