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First drive: 2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.

First drive: 2018 Aston Martin Vantage
Aston Martin has reinvented its Vantage sports car, creating something very special indeed.

 



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2018 Aston Martin Vantage

5 5 5 5 5

The second new 'core' model of a revitalised Aston Martin is the Vantage, distanced from its DB brothers above like never before as the British company reinforces the sports car aspect of its two-seat coupe. Aston's engineers tell us that they benchmarked the Porsche 911 GTS, but they've created something much more special than that might suggest.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Aston Martin Vantage
Price: 120,900
Engine: biturbo 4.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive, electronically controlled limited slip differential
Body style: two-seat coupe
Combined economy: 26.8mpg
Top speed: 195mph
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Power: 510hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 685Nm at 2,000-5,000rpm

What's this?

A brand-new Aston Martin Vantage, the second new 'core' model from the company, following on from the DB11. That's described as the grand tourer of the range, whereas the Vantage is unashamedly the sports car of the family. It's launched initially in two-door, two-seat coupe format, though we already know there will be an open-topped Roadster variant before too long and, if we're lucky, other special versions.

Though based on the same bonded aluminium architecture as the Aston DB11 family, the Vantage shares just 30 per cent of its components with the V8-engined DB11, is smaller and some 129kg lighter. Under that snub nose is more or less the same AMG-sourced V8, though, which is very good news indeed. By way of reminder, it's a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre unit with the turbos inside the V and here it makes a healthy 510hp and 685Nm of torque - the latter, it should be noted, all the way from 2,000rpm to 5,000rpm. That's fed rearwards to an eight-speed automatic transaxle, which features an electronically controlled differential to divide up power between the two rear wheels. Apparently, a seven-speed manual gearbox will also be offered.

Up front, the suspension is a double wishbone design, while the rear uses multiple links. Coil springs and anti-roll bars are used front and back, as is adaptive damping with Sport, Sport+ and Track settings to choose from. The electric power-assisted steering is speed-dependant and takes just 2.4 turns of the steering wheel from lock-to-lock. As standard, there are 400mm steel brakes discs up front and 360mm items at the back, though these can be upgraded to carbon ceramic discs for 6,995. If you go for those, and all the other lightweight options on the long list, the Vantage can weigh as little as 1,530kg, while Aston quotes a 50:50 weight distribution.

Inside, the Vantage is a strict two-seater and it features new sport seats clad in Strathmore leather as standard, with Alcantara elsewhere in the cabin. The instrumentation and infotainment systems are as per the Aston DB11 (satnav, Bluetooth, smartphone integration and DAB are all included), but the Vantage gets a more compact centre console. There's a little storage space behind the seats and a 350-litre boot out back.

Make your own mind up about the looks of the new Vantage (we love it), but it should be obvious with one glance that Aston had the car's aerodynamics firmly in mind. There's a low front splitter, side gills to relieve air pressure in the front wheel wells, a flat floor leading to that huge rear diffuser and an upswept tail. It all means positive downforce at high speeds, which apparently is a first for a core production Aston Martin model.

How does it drive?

The previous Vantage was, by any normal measure, well past its sell-by date, and yet we relished every chance we got to get behind the wheel of it, right up to its final moments. Can Aston Martin keep all that character and all that analogue driver engagement, while ramping up the technology and sophistication? It's a big question, but it takes very little time behind the wheel of the new Vantage to discover that we need not have worried, as it's one of the most exciting cars to drive that money can buy, and you don't need to be nudging its top speed to enjoy it.

Obviously, AMG's mighty twin-turbo V8 has a big part to play in all this. It's nestled down low and far back in the chassis (contributing to that perfect 50:50 balance) and has seemingly never-ending punch, whether you're ambling about in automatic mode or banging down through the gears manually for maximum attack. The eight-speed transmission is simply brilliant too, managing to smooth out gear shifts when driving normally and then cracking them in with vigour when you're 'on it' in the sportier driving settings. Aston has even fitted larger gearchange paddles than in the DB11, acknowledging that owners of the Vantage are likely to use them. We wholeheartedly approve.

Now, thanks to the fact that the driver can choose driving mode and damper setting independently, the Vantage makes a good fist of longer distance driving when you're not in a hurry. Sure, there's more road noise than in a DB11, but the performance is effortless and the suspension so well-controlled that it's no hardship to spend hours at the wheel. Saying all that, the Vantage is not designed for such things first and foremost. It is, undoubtedly, a sports car that can cruise rather than a cruiser that can do the sports car thing. And that's emphasised as you ramp up the driving modes, where you'll discover that the throttle response might even be a little too sharp in the Track setting for smoothly negotiating busy traffic, for example.

Out on the open road, though, it's sensational, with more power than you'll ever need and cracking response. It grips hard and stays flat through any direction change you care to fling it at, as well. Naturally, there's more than enough torque to unstick the wide rear tyres if you wish to, but unless you're provoking a slide, the electronically controlled rear differential takes care of dividing engine output between the rear wheels, resulting in controllable movement at the rear that is both hugely satisfying and quick. The direct steering helps with any necessary corrections and the brakes stand up well to continued abuse (we tried the steel items on the road and the optional carbon ceramic brakes on track). In summary, this new car eclipses its predecessor in terms of competency and sophistication, yet it still feels wonderfully 'analogue' to drive hard, engaging the driver at all times.

Verdict

While the new Aston Martin Vantage will always be compared to various versions of the Porsche 911, Aston has managed to create something arguably more special, even if that can't be measured by the stopwatch. The fact that production will always be relatively low and the line-up restricted also adds to its appeal. But at the end of the day, all that matters to buyers is that the Vantage is exciting to look at, exciting to drive and, we suspect, exciting to own.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 11 Apr 2018









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2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.

2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.2018 Aston Martin Vantage. Image by Max Earey.








 

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