|Transmission||8 speed automatic transmission|
|Engine||4.0l Twin Turbo V8|
|Power||503bhp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||685Nm from 2000 – 5000rpm|
|Construction||255/40 front, 295/30 rear|
|Top Speed||313km/h / 195mph|
Replacing your bestselling model is never easy, regardless of the industry in which you work. This is especially true for a relatively small, luxury car manufacturer like Aston Martin, which is probably why it took them well over a decade and, ultimately, a collaboration with Mercedes, to replace the ‘baby’ in the range; the Vantage.
When released in 2004 it was universally appreciated as a beautiful, compact sportscar. Muscular yet feline, aesthetically it struck a great balance and, such is the testament to its design, the old Vantage still looks great today.
At the time it was billed as, finally, the car that would take the fight to the Porsche 911. But, for anyone who drove one, it was nothing of the sort. Its hydraulic steering was delightful but even though it was hyped as the more focussed car in the Aston Martin range, it was still too much of a GT car to hold a candle against Weissach’s 50 year old icon on a track. Having said that, it had one trump card; its engine. Indeed perhaps more specifically, the noise the engine produced. Initially as a 4.3L V8 the musicality and sheer volume of exhaust noise that car produced will live with me forever; it was one of the truly great sounding cars. A third of the way through its lifespan the power plant’s displacement was increased to 4.7L which, although improving the car’s performance figures, had the opposite effect on the sound. Having said that, it still made all the right noises and, perhaps more importantly, felt faster doing it.
Why am I saying all of this? Because these are the two main areas of contention I have with the new Vantage. The exterior design is bold, certainly, and very unlike Aston Martin in that way. In dark colours, especially in black and mated with yellow brake callipers it looks brutally elegant, sinewy and powerful. But in lighter colours, especially the launch green / yellow / mucus shade, to my eyes it just doesn’t work; the design is too colour dependent and that’s not what being an Aston is all about – they should always be beautiful.
Then there’s the noise. Anyone who knows anything about the motor industry understands why Aston Martin paired with Mercedes; to not only secure that behemoth’s engines and electronics, but also the British marque’s future. So out went the naturally aspirated unit and in came the same 4.0L twin turbo V8 found in the Mercedes AMG GT. Now, before we get any further, this is a fabulous powertrain, delivering huge amounts of torque from rest. It feels elastic in its delivery too and, albeit there is a tiny amount of turbo lag, it’s nearly imperceptible.
But what about the noise, I hear you ask. Does it sound like an Aston Martin should? As part of their press release, they state “Our dedicated engineers have tuned the induction, exhaust and engine management system to retain the truly intoxicating sound and immersive character of a naturally aspirated V8 – that unforgettable quality synonymous with an Aston Martin”…
So, did they succeed? No. Not for me. It sounds obvious but it retains that typical AMG muscle car raspy warble and, on top of that, it just doesn’t sound or feel real, which is probably because it’s not… Aston Martin admitting themselves as to all the engineering they have had to employ to try and make it sound like something the engine is not. Even Ferrari haven’t managed it with the 488, so how could the British marque?
Lastly on this topic, it may be a small point but a valid one nonetheless. The one area of the car that is undeniably stunning is the rear; especially the way the LED lights flow with the contour of the integrated spoiler. But whoever at Aston Martin thought it appropriate to install pea shooters as exhaust tips should take a long hard look at themselves. It really does not work and compromises the aesthetic.
The interior is a lovely cockpit to spend your time, as long as you enjoy feeling encased. It certainly feels like a focussed driver’s car, of that there is no doubt, and the leather work and seats are outstanding as always from the British manufacturer but, I suppose, it is here once more the Vantage falls down. I thought that, when they agreed to collaborate with Mercedes, they would use their technologies but augment them with Aston Martin loveliness. Disappointingly however, other than retaining the drive buttons on the centre console, it feels very much Mercedes in both feel and layout; definitely not what you want to feel when spending over £120,000 on a Aston Martin sports car.
In terms of driveability, it is nothing short of excellent however. It feels solid, responsive and the acceleration is brutal. The old car’s chassis often felt a little overwhelmed by the power on offer but not in this car and, in that respect, it is a big step on. The steering does not have a huge amount of feel but is direct and confidence inspiring. Once again, comparisons will be made between this and the current generation 911. But the same differences remain; despite the Porsche having grown between the 991 and the 992 versions, it is still the more focussed driver’s car. This means the Vantage has the greater GT credentials.
For those of you that care about these things, the added bonus of driving this car at the moment is that, months on from launch, there are still not that many on the road. I suspect the public are testing the waters with this model, unlike the DB11 which has sold extremely well. Whatever the reason however, this means, especially in a dark colour, it gets plenty of attention and admiring glances.
It sounds like I have been overly critical of the new Aston Martin Vantage. Maybe even a little unfair. Perhaps I have, but that is a mark of just how high my hopes were for the British marque’s new ‘baby’. By any stretch of imagination it is an excellent sportscar, be in no doubt. But excellent is not the word I want to be using… An Aston Martin should stir emotions such as engaging, enthralling and passionate… but it doesn’t. Excellent will have to do.
The new Aston Martin Vantage is currently on sale with a starting price of £123,000. They tend to suffer from depreciation however, so watch out on the secondary market.