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First drive: Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.

First drive: Aston Martin Vantage AMR
The Aston Martin Vantage AMR is the one with a manual gearbox. Oh yes.

 



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Aston Martin Vantage AMR

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Relatively speaking, there are plenty of new sports cars on the market with circa 500hp being sent to their rear wheels. They're all exciting to drive, but are they all truly challenging? Time was that you had to raise your driving game to get the most from a sports car, but almost anyone can hop into the modern generation and drive them quickly, regardless of skill or experience. Quick-acting electronic driver assistance systems have played a large part in 'democratising' such performance, but so too have automatic transmissions. Thankfully, Aston Martin has committed to keeping the manual gearbox alive. And the latest model equipped with such a thing is the new Vantage AMR.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Aston Martin Vantage AMR
Pricing: 149,995
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: seven-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 285g/km (VED Band over 255g/km: 2,135 in year one)
Top speed: 200mph
0-62mph: 4.0 seconds
Power: 510hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 625Nm at 2,000-5,000rpm

What's this?

You're looking at the Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Now, the AMR bit of that name tells us that this version of the rear-drive Vantage coupe has been inspired by Aston's motorsport endeavours, so it's a bit more special again. That specialness is enhanced by the fact that only 200 examples will be made. And the one you see pictured here, in 'Vantage 59' specification, accounts for 59 of those, to celebrate the anniversary of Aston's victory at the 1959 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. There are four other specifications to choose from (if there are any left by the time you read this, of course).

As alluring as the moody-looking AMR spec is, the big news here is the adoption of a manual gearbox for the first time in the current Aston Vantage. It's standard-fit in the AMR model and will soon be rolled out as a no-cost option for the rest of the line-up. AMR buyers get carbon ceramic brakes as standard, as well, while Aston also replaced the regular Vantage's electronically controlled rear differential with a simpler mechanical item. The net result is a useful 95kg weight reduction.

How does it drive?

The AMG-sourced V8 up front in the Vantage continues to demand your attention. It sounds phenomenal as ever and has the same 510hp output as in the regular car, though Aston chose to reduce maximum torque (it's still chunky at 625Nm) rather than add weight to reinforce the gearbox. As used in the old Vantage V12 S, it's a seven-speed unit made by Graziano. First gear is on a dog leg, to the left and back, with the other six ratios accessed via a standard H-pattern. It takes a bit of effort and concentration to slot the shifter into the correct gear to start with, which is a shame, though we'd hope an owner would perfect it in time.

Aston Martin fits the AMR with a rev-matching system, too, which allows what seem to be nigh-on-perfect downshifts with the throttle blipped to suit (and its intensity altering depending on the driving mode). It also enables flat upshifting, though that feels completely unnatural to do. Thankfully for those that want to practise their own heel-and-toeing, the rev-match system can be switched off at the press of a button. Indeed, Aston altered the brake pedal modulation to ensure that heel-and-toeing was easy to do, indicating that it expects keen drivers to do this.

The carbon brakes themselves are mighty and feel perfectly normal to use at regular road speeds. We had mostly wet conditions during our test drive, which revealed how playful the chassis of the Vantage is. Aston made lots of tweaks to the suspension to create the AMR, not only to allow for the weight difference, but also to make the most of the different properties of the mechanical rear differential. In the wet, it initially feels like the rear end is overly mobile, but you soon learn to trust it and it can be leaned on when exiting corners, safe in the knowledge that there's plenty of traction to be found. Anyway, the quick steering helps you make corrections as needs be while also giving decent communication to the driver's hands from the front tyres.

It's a firm suspension set-up, regardless of which of the adjustable damping modes you have it set to, but the car moves with the road well and feels rock solid at high speed. Firm it may be, but the Vantage isn't uncomfortable - it could certainly be used on an everyday basis. The selectable driving modes are worth exploring, too, as there's a useful difference between them, allowing relatively subtle cruising and ambling about at one extreme, contrasting with the gratuitously loud exhaust and razor-sharp throttle response at the other.

While we didn't love the gearchange, the Vantage AMR is a thrilling car to drive. Crucially, it's engaging and challenging even when you aren't at racetrack speeds. If you love driving for the sake of driving, and you're considering buying a Vantage for that purpose, then you should seriously consider putting up with the foibles of the gearbox to that end.

Verdict

Other than the weight reduction, there is nothing in the numbers defining the Aston Martin Vantage AMR that say it's measurably better than the standard car. And that's precisely the point of it: this is a sports car for those that understand analogue, for those that want a driving challenge, want to change gears for themselves and want to take time to get the best from their purchase. The gearchange isn't great on first acquaintance, but there will be great satisfaction in perfecting it and knowing that few others will be able to jump into your car and drive it as well. In the high-performance world, it's an anomaly, and one we wholeheartedly approve of.

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

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Shane O'Donoghue - 23 Oct 2019









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2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.

2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.2019 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Image by Aston Martin.








 

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