Fun chassis, sharper powertrain reflexes than DB11, there's a manual
Interior is fiddly, and it’s not quite the fastest piece of kit for £120k. If that matters
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.
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 (for now), 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.
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.
The engine develops the same 503bhp and 505lb ft you’d get in a Mercedes-AMG C63 (though torque's down a smidge in the manual), which is enough to get the 1.5-ton 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.
A soft-top Volante will follow, but we have to wait and see – and hope – for lighter versions inspired by Aston’s GT3 racing programme, and possibly a V12 range-topper. Aston says the 5.2-litre twin-turbo unit from the DB11 will fit…
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 different. Slightly dead steering and lazy automatic gearbox aside – and those are minor gripes, we promise – this thing feels properly sorted first time, fresh out of the box. It sounds epic, looks fabulous, goes like stink and has one of those rare chassis that could entertain a pro driver and give the rank amateur the time of their life without endangering it.
Is the Vantage special enough for £120,000 and up? Look, it ain’t as dramatic as the mid-engined Audi and McLaren you can get for similar money, and in raw performance terms, yeah, a C63 will keep it honest. For half the money. There is an Aston tax going on here. That ought to keep the internet message boards busy. Thing is, everything’s so bloody quick these days, there’ll always be exotic giant killers, and folks who live in the internet moaning about raw speed data. The Vantage is so much more than a numbers car.
And what’s more, this is effectively the base model. Where Aston takes the Vantage next will be fascinating. The scary thing for its rivals ought to be how much potential there is left to tap.