What is it?
Aston Martin has changed massively in recent times and of the brand’s three main production models, the Vantage is the acknowledged sports car, and also the entry-level to the range – mind you that is a six-figure entry point…
The Vantage name goes back to 1951, but the modern iteration was launched as long ago as 2005, so we were long overdue a new one. And the latest Vantage, arriving with its first buyers in summer 2018, is all-new – in fact, the first completely new car to be designed under the brand’s ‘Second Century Plan’.
The car benefits from all the latest technology Aston Martin can pour into it, together with several of the innovations, such as the multiple but separate chassis and drivetrain modes, launched on the DB11 grand tourer of 2016. And this Vantage is a very different beast to its predecessor.
Basically just about everything – this is a ground-up new design. Yes, it’s still a two-seater sports car, and its structure is still a combination of mostly aluminium and exotic composites. Beyond that, all change…
The Vantage is bigger in all respects than its predecessor – 8cm longer, 8cm wider and with a wheelbase extended by 10cm. And while its mechanicals share much with the DB11, notable differences include a bespoke, more handling-friendly rear suspension – a multi-link setup hung on a rear subframe solidly mounted to the shell.
Then there are the electronic advances – an active differential on the rear axle, and those driving modes. They are activated by two buttons, one of either side of the steering wheel, the left changing the damper settings, the right the powertrain throttle response, gear shift and such like.
There are three modes – most compliant being ‘Sport’ (well this is a sports car). Select ‘Sport+’ and things become a little more exciting, while the final mode is for what its name suggests – ‘Track’.
How does it look?
The old Vantage was a curvy, cuddly sports car – not the new one. A much more aggressive design – sharper angles and more muscular proportions – clearly differentiates this car from its sister DB11, which is what its designers intended.
The looks divide opinions and the front end, with its enormous grille, comes in for the most criticism from some. But this is a nose that announces the Vantage, leaving those you drive up to from behind with no doubt as to what is looming in their rear-view mirror. And it is also very low, almost sniffing the tarmac, adding to the aggression.
Probably the best angle to view the Vantage from is the three-quarter rear, finely sculpted and with the aerodynamic diffuser hugging the bodywork as it emerges from under the car.
What’s the spec like?
Retail prices for an Aston Martin Vantage start at £120,900. But dipping into the desirable options list will soon inflate that cost.
Our test car had almost £40,000 of extras on it, including 20-inch forged gloss black wheels, a host of delicate trim and detailing add-ons such as carbon fibre twill inlays and the Vantage logo stitched into the headrests, and a premium Aston Martin branded audio system.
Options also include such basics as keyless entry, a perimeter camera (a good idea, as despite being the smallest Aston with its long bonnet and low driving position this feels like a big car, especially in the narrow streets of Cotswold towns) and parking and blind spot assistance technology.
You will not worry that much about standard kit when choosing one of these, but it does come with satnav and Apple CarPlay integration through an eight-inch LCD screen, parking sensors and lots of leather applied to the interior. And the standard safety kit includes emergency braking assistance.
What’s it like inside?
Aston Martin interiors have been criticised in the past, particularly during the period of Ford ownership when it appeared the Blue Oval parts bin was raided for fitments. And while the early DB11s attracted some concerns over interior quality, the Vantage ticks all the boxes.
You slip down into a low driving position, as it should be in a sports car, though emphasised by the high dash – short testers like this one will need those parking aids as there is no chance of seeing the end of the bonnet.
However the way the interior cossets, with its excellent quality leather and detailing, immediately gives the impression of sitting in a car that is special. Yes, it feels like a thoroughly British sports car, but also more evocative than its major rival, the Porsche 911.
There are a lot of buttons, both on the steering wheel and the centre console. But they are beautifully laid out, particularly in a symmetrical arrowhead style in the centre. Said buttons include the quartet for the auto transmission – there is no lever. And in the centre is the engine start, an Aston Martin wing behind a glass cover. It’s all rather wonderful.
One criticism Aston Martin regularly receives is that its engines are sourced from Mercedes-Benz. Well, Mercedes’ parent Daimler does own 5% of Aston, and the Mercedes-AMG V8 engine is a potent but impressive unit.
This is a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8, in contrast to the naturally aspirated 4.7-litre unit of the previous Vantage. And it has been significantly retuned for its new application, both in terms of the way it delivers its power and the tone and quality of sound that it makes – an important consideration in the Aston Martin definition book. In a Vantage, you won’t feel like you’re driving a Mercedes…
The important figures are 510hp and 685Nm of torque, good enough to send the Vantage through 62mph from rest in a mere 3.6 seconds and onto a terminal speed of 195mph – if you have a German autobahn or preferably an airport runway or track available.
Your road tax bill will be expensive, as the Vantage puts out 230g/km of CO2, and with combined cycle fuel economy of under 28mpg you will be regularly visiting your local filling station – but such aspects matter little to buyers in this market.
What’s it like to drive?
In a word, enthralling – and even at 30mph. Yes, this is the sports car, and yes its more performance-pitched suspension does let you know all about the quality of the road surface that you appear to be sitting very close to.
But the Vantage is a very well-behaved car. Crawling along in urban traffic it behaves impeccably, that big V8 purring at what feels like little more than tickover.
Once out on the open road and opened up the car’s abilities soon make themselves felt. Even in the default Sport mode, the pickup for swift acceleration is seriously impressive, cars ahead dispatched in swift overtaking moves accompanied by that V8 growl.
Choose Sport+ (in both powertrain and chassis) and the car becomes more urgent in its response, but not outlandishly so, as it does in the Track mode which really should be kept, well for the track.
Changes to the new Vantage included siting the engine far back in its bay, almost under the front bulkhead, and we are told the car boasts an almost perfect 50:50 weight distribution. Combine this with electric power steering (replacing the previous hydraulic unit) and all the various aero aids and the handling is a delight.
The Vantage changes direction precisely and swiftly, and grips way beyond the capabilities of the typical driver or the UK road system, while equally swiftly adding to the grin factor.
With the chassis set to the standard Sport mode the car tackles all the twisty bits with confidence, but this tester found leaving the settings in Sport+ as the best combination of control and aggression. This is a seriously fun car to drive – whether enthusiastically or in relaxed mode.
In the latest Vantage, Aston Martin has a sports car to be proud of. It performs as such a beast should, behaves itself when the need arises and oozes quality outside and in.
It’s remarkable to think that this is the ‘entry-level’ Aston Martin. With cars such as the Vantage, this is a British brand going places.
Model as tested: Aston Martin Vantage Hyper Red
Price: £120,900 (159,650 with fitted options)
Engine: 4-litre V8 twin turbo petrol
Power: 510 hp
Torque: 685 Nm
Max speed: 195 mph
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Fuel economy: 27.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 230 g/km