► New Vantage driven in the UK
► Powered by V8 Mercedes-AMG block
► Cheapest, most nimble Aston
You’re looking at the all-new 2018 Aston Martin Vantage, the cheapest, most nimble car the brand currently sells. We’ve spent a lot of time with this car, we’ve driven it in prototype form in Finland, on an international launch in Portugal – and now we’ve had a go of the new Vantage on UK roads, too.
So, what’s the first Aston Martin Vantage production car in 13 years like, and is it worth buying? That’s £120,900 question we’re about to answer for you. Keep reading for the full CAR review of the new Aston Martin Vantage.
New Aston Martin Vantage: design
Valkyrie and Vulcan aside, Aston Martin’s have followed a fixed - albeit classic - styling formula, but the new Aston Martin Vantage moves away from it completely. Where you’d usually find a chromed-grille, the new Vantage has an aggressive, angled snout, framed with unfussy, compact lights.
Some say the front-end looks MX-5-ish, but it still strikes a rare balance been muscly aggression and whiskey-and-diet-coke-dropping beauty. Shame about the numberplate.
Around the back, a shimmering line of rear-lights echoes the same Aston Martin signature line as the grille, and jutting shoulders make it poised and muscular – even at a standstill.
The interior however, is a little less refined. It’s far less elegant and classic than the rest of the car, with endless rows of switches and shapes which don’t seem to me designed with ease of use in mind. When you first sit in the car, it can be a little overwhelming. Throw in the odd bit Mercedes switchgear, and rather old – but functional infotainment system – and the interior isn’t up to the same level as the exterior.
New Aston Martin Vantage: what’s the specs?
Underneath that gorgeous steel bodyshell you’ll find a bonded aluminium chassis adapted from the DB11’s. You get the same double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, but unlike the DB11 there’s a solidly mounted rear subframe and an electronically controlled rear differential. Weight distribution is said to put 49.5% of the mass over the front wheels, with a total kerbweight of 1630kg with fluids.
The bonnet seems to go on forever, but the good news is that the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with 503bhp/505lb ft inside the Vantage is mid-front mounted, so you it won’t feel like a nose-heavy GT car. The new powerplant is mated to an eight-speed auto arranged as a transaxle. 0-62mph takes 3.6sec, and there’s a 195mph top end. That all puts the Vantage closer to Porsche 911 Turbo than the Carrera GTS, although it’s only £8k less than a Turbo anyway – the previous model was closer to Carrera S territory.
New Aston Martin Vantage: DB11 V8 in disguise
Basically yes, but the new Aston Martin Vantage feels and sounds much different than the DB11 V8. Different exhaust tuning and a final-drive ratio lowered from 2.7:1 to 2.9:1 is key to this, along with a 129kg weight reduction versus the DB11. This is a truly impressive engine, one that feels instantly responsive to the throttle, doesn’t exhibit any noticeable turbo lag and, well, feels ridiculously strong no matter where you are in the rev range – low, mid, high, the Vantage always has energy to spare. On twisty roads, you can simply leave it in fourth gear and still feel like you’re in a very quick car. Be more aggressive and use lower ratios and the Vantage feels so rapid you wonder how insane the inevitable faster ones will feel.
We tried both the optional quad exhaust on track, and the regular dual outlet system on the road. Both sound fantastic, with a hard-edged roar that perfectly complements the raw abundance of any-speed energy delivered by the engine – there’s simply no let up in the ferocity of it all. For road use, the standard exhaust system is more than enough and already provides police in the next village ample time to set up the speed trap.
The gear shifts feel sharper in the Vantage compared with the DB11, even if the shift times aren’t actually improved and refinement during gentler driving remains very good – there’s simply a more positive feeling of engagement when you get a hurry on. You can increase this sensation through Sport, Sport Plus and Track powertrain modes, to the point the Track is perhaps a bit OTT in its aggressiveness. Rivals’ dual-clutch gearboxes are sharper still, but this ’box suits the Vantage well and it never lagged behind our requests.
How does the new Aston Martin Vantage handle?
Immediately the Vantage’s suspension feels much more tightly tied down than the more GT-focussed DB11, even in the Sport setting that sits at the bottom of the three-tier ladder – there’s no GT mode here. It still smoothers the worst secondary imperfections, but it can feel abrupt over primary undulations. Road noise, too, is quite pronounced, partly because of a solidly mounted rear subframe that’s been deployed to sharpen up the handling – the DB11 errs towards refinement with bushings. The steering feels notably quicker than a DB11’s, despite the ratio being unchanged – thank a 99mm shorter wheelbase for that. It’s extremely responsive off-centre, and provides the driver with a suitably chunky – if far from over-bearing – weight to work against.
Carve along a twisting road and you notice how progressively the limited body roll is controlled, how the Vantage appears to pivot around your knees and how calmly it settles and grips through fast sweepers – the lateral g it can hold is pretty stunning. It is, however, a significant 160kg porkier than a Carrera GTS, so the 911 does feel the purer, nimbler machine, and the old Vantage V12 S’s hydraulic steering was significantly more tactile than the new electrically assisted set-up.
Does the Vantage work on track?
It does. The engine is front-mid-mounted, so while a mid-engined car feels more nimble, the Vantage still turns very keenly. The front tyres grip hard, and bleed very progressively into understeer at the limit on a steady throttle. But the Vantage also has a lovely adjustable balance if you aim the steering quickly at the apex and lift off the throttle. The standard brakes worked perfectly on the road with both good stopping power and feel, but optional carbon-ceramics are pretty awesome on the track, with nose-bleed stopping power and a sense that you’ll never push beyond more than half the pedal travel.
A front-engined car putting 505lb through 20-inch rear Pirelli P Zeros is always going to be traction-limited, so you need to keep it neat and tidy to avoid lighting up the stability control lights. Through faster, longer corners, we also noted lateral po-going that intensified as loads mounted up over the outside rear wheel. But even after a generous amount of laps, we still had to be coaxed from the drivers’ seat.
New Aston Martin Vantage: verdict
The new Vantage is a highly convincing sports car, and a solid improvement over its predecessor. Despite the similarities in hardware, its more aggressive personality also succeeds in clearly differentiating the Vantage from the larger, softer DB11.
It Is not perfect, particularly some elements of the interior and the fact that it could fizz with more communication skills too. The 911 Carrera GTS – 160kg lighter, £25k cheaper, if 59bhp down – is also the baby elephant waiting to bound into the group test. But really the Vantage succeeds in translating the visual aggression of its covetable design to a highly rewarding driving experience. You need only look at the pictures to realise what an achievement that is.
See more of our Aston Martin reviews