► The Vantage gets the AMR treatement
► Manual box and 95kg weight saving
► But is it worth the premium?
The new Aston Martin Vantage AMR is Aston’s first crack at a more serious baby sports car and it’s packing a seven-speed manual.
What’s an AMR?
It stands for Aston Martin Racing, but where road cars are concerned it stands for an Aston that’s a little lighter, a little tauter and little more driver focused than the stock stuff.
So it’s Aston’s 911 GT3?
Swap that 3 for an S and you’ll be nearer the mark. We’re not talking part-time endurance racer here, just a Vantage that promises a little extra poise and a heap more exclusivity. Aston’s only building 200. Of those, 59 will be in loud lime and green Vantage 59 trim to celebrate the 60thanniversary of Aston’s Le Mans win.
What’s the skinny on the tech changes?
Skinny’s not a word you’d normally use in connection with Aston’s tubby 1600kg Vantage, but swapping the regular car’s heavy ZF auto for this manual is one of the reasons the AMR weighs 95kg less.
You also get a normal limited slip diff instead of an e-diff, which also helps with the diet. Because old-style LSDs can promote understeer when not in full opposite lock beast mode, Aston has tweaked the suspension, including fitting a stiffer rear anti-roll bar to help make the car turn.
Tell us about this new gearbox?
First, it’s not new. Remember the old V12 Vantage S? If you do, you might remember it’s seven-speed with first left and back on a dogleg like an old supercar.
You get used to the layout pretty quickly, but it’s not the nicest box to use. First is slightly awkward to select and the combination of a narrow gate and springing biased towards fourth and fifth means its too easy to wrong-slot. Fortunately the AMG’s fat torque curve means you could probably get away with only five gears anyway.
How does it mate up with Benz’s 4.0-litre V8?
Pretty well. When you’re in full charge of the gears you really get a feel for the throttle response, barely-there lag and how freely it revs. It’s just a shame Aston had to clip its wings to make it work.
To keep a handle on reliability Aston had to dial the V8’s torque back 44lb ft to 461lb ft. It never feels slow, but the 4.0sec 0-62mph time says its significantly slower than the automatic car (3.6sec) despite the weight loss, and your spine-o-meter tells you that it’d be blown into the weeds if it ever got into a tussle with a 911 Turbo.
On the plus, if absolutely pointless side, both auto and manual Astons are packing the same 503bhp, and top out at the same 195mph.
What about the chassis?
We spent much time driving the smooth, sodden roads around (but not part of) Germany’s Nürburgring, which give little idea how the AMR will feel back in the UK. But on a quick sojourn to Belgium we unearthed some earthier lump strips of Tarmac that highlighted the kind of composure that suggests it’ll fare just fine.
As for the handling, the electric steering’s not as sweet as the 2005-2016 Vantage’s hydraulic rack, but the pointy front end felt glued to the road, even in awful weather. Not so the back, which seemed to let go surprisingly quickly, even under light throttle loads, on tight, smoothly surfaced turns. On dry roads and at high speeds though, it felt absolutely locked down.
So it’s a Vantage with no more power, less torque, a decontented rear diff and significantly less off-the line kick than the standard car. What’s the discount?
None. How does a £30k premium grab you? A standard Vantage costs a stiff upper lip hair over £120k, and the AMR a rather more serious £149,995, though the carbon trim and excellent brakes helps explain some, if not enough, of that swell. Fancy one of the Vantage 59 editions? You can add another £15k to the base AMR price.
We love changing gears and we’re big fans of the Vantage, so the AMR should be a match made in heaven. Instead, it’s still queuing outside the pearly gates.
Two-hundred Aston fans are going to love wrestling with that awkward gearbox, more than happy to trade the odd tenth to 62mph in exchange for the extra involvement. And despite its ‘more focused’ remit, it’s as practical and comfortable as the standard car.
But the AMR’s compromises are clear and at £30k more than the standard car, value isn’t a strong point. We like the AMR but we’d stick with the standard auto Vantage – or wait until next year when it gets a manual option.