Settled road manners, sharper powertrain reflexes than DB11, there's a manual
Only comes alive when going fast, interior is fiddly, more compromised than a 911
What is it?
The first all-new Aston Martin sports car since the Vantage rejoined the ranks in 2005 is not – we repeat, not – merely a Mercedes-AMG GT in a Savile Row dinner jacket. Yes, the new baby Aston Martin shares its 4.0-litre, twin-turbo engine with AMG’s finest – and some of its interior technology – but beyond that, this is all Aston. And it’s a very fine piece of work.
How much does it have in common with the DB11?
And don’t think that just because the Vantage sits on a shortened version of the DB11’s aluminium platform, and shares its eight-speed automatic gearbox, that it’s more Aston reheated leftovers. Aston kept the DB11 deliberately soft and gentlemanly so the shorter, lighter Vantage could be punchier, angrier and more of a sports car. Finally, some clear daylight between Aston Martin’s products.
What’s it like to drive?
The gearbox is sharper. The electronic rear differential is lightning-fast in its reactions, to maximise traction (or yobbery, depending on your mood). There’s no longer a Comfort mode for the powertrain and chassis – this time everything’s gone up a notch, with Sport, Sport + and Track modes to choose from. Heck, there's even a seven-speed manual gearbox available. You won't find that in any of Aston's other models.
Let’s have the lowdown on the engine.
There’s more than one now. The regular engine develops the same 503bhp and 505lb ft as in the Mercedes-AMG C63 (though torque's down a smidge in the manual), which is enough to get the 1.5-tonne Vantage from 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 195mph. Those figures climb to 4.0secs and 200mph with the stick-shift transmission. That’s huge performance from an entry-level model, but necessary now the Vantage has an options-free entry price of £120,000 and has to compete with the likes of the Audi R8 V10 Plus, McLaren 540C and Porsche 911 Turbo.
What about other versions?
There’s a soft-top Volante but the coupe gets other power options. There’s an uprated F1 Edition that’s £18,000 more and boosts the V8 to 527bhp. That car, although not as attack-orientated as a Porsche 911 GT3 is the more track-focused machine, the one that leads the F1 circus around as the safety car. Then there’s the V12 Vantage. It’s so different we’ve given it a whole review to itself, but it’s worth running through the basics here: 690bhp and a 200mph top end. That ought to do it. It somehow conspires to be less than the sum of its parts, though.
What's the verdict?
Aston Martin struggles at new cars, traditionally. Oh, it gets them right eventually. But take the DB9, the last Vantage, even the DB11 – we tend to remember them most fondly for what they morphed into throughout their lives, not how they first emerged.
The new Vantage is, mostly, different. Slightly dead steering and lazy automatic gearbox aside – and those are minor gripes, we promise – this thing feels far better sorted than the car it replaces. It sounds wonderful, looks fabulous, goes like stink and has an extremely capable, if slightly inert unless you’re going ballistic, chassis.
Is the Vantage special enough for £120,000 and up? Look, it ain’t as dramatic as the mid-engined Audi R8, but now McLaren (540/570) and Mercedes (AMG GT) have withdrawn from this sector, the Vantage has less direct competition. Of course they’ve left because the competition from Porsche is so hot. The 911 is a phenomenal sports car, and Aston has deliberately priced the Vantage high to add distance. But the badge, the image, the desirability allow Aston to add this brand tax and get away with it.