Aston’s baby has evolved in to something bigger, shoutier, and more brash than ever before.
The last-generation Aston Martin V8 Vantage was around for over a decade. Throughout its life it carried itself with grace and refused to age badly, while offering V8 noises and effortless cool wherever it went. Following it will be no mean feat, but with a fresh chassis, AMG power, and a bold new look, the new Vantage has the right ingredients to pull off something special.
Gone are the days of a mildly confused model line-up, too. Each Aston Martin will not only look suitably different from its stablemates, but they’ll feel different as well. The DB11 is the grand tourer, Vantage is sports car through and through.
Oh boy, that’s wide. And its bonnet is loooooooong (with many extra ‘o’s). At first glance it’s a purposeful thing, though from the front it can be quite colour dependent. See, there’s a power bulge on the hood that can be rendered pretty much invisible on black and white cars (check out our gallery of pics including black, white and full-on fluorescent lime coloured Vantage models), but it’s there and it’s hiding a noisy 4-litre V8 turbocharged motor with 503bhp and 505lb ft to play with.
If the front isn’t your jam, the rear is absolutely breath-taking. There are few, if any, automotive rear ends that can top it, though the fact the rear light bar isn’t a single piece irks a touch – but that’s just because we’re being picky.
Its wild new look doesn’t mean it’s lacking the Aston Martin hallmarks, but it does mean they’ve been given a new twist. Its grille is the right shape for an Aston, but it’s not as toothy as before. Sitting low on the nose, it’s reminiscent of the DP100 Vision concept made for Gran Turismo. The traditional side vents are there but they’re not the usual shape – instead they’re triangular and purposeful, and there to relieve air pressure from the wheel arch and so reduce front-end lift. They're not there to sit on a mantelpiece. It retains Aston’s epic body-to-wheel ratio as well, so it looks pretty imposing from the side profile. Where once there was elegance, now there’s Conor McGregor in a well-made suit.
Inside things get a little… wild. In the DB11 the interior can easily look overdone with a few rogue ticks on the options sheet, and it’s much the same here. Our test car came with luminous green highlights, most notably around the centre console. It was about as un-Aston as you can go, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste it will be to some. It’s wonderfully designed and looks good. There’s even an echo of the newly designed exterior side vents on the door cards – a neat touch.
There’s an abundance of buttons in there, too. Some would say this is a bad thing but in reality… it’s just not. While touchscreens were once a futuristic plaything full of potential, in reality they’re a pain. Unless they’re incredibly well designed you often find convenient functions are hidden behind icons that don’t offer haptic feedback once pressed – meaning you have to stab at a screen and look to see if you’ve hit your mark. With a button, that problem is gone. Okay, in the Vantage they don’t look as high end as you might like but they’re not low grade either. They’re sensibly laid out and once you’ve learned the cockpit you’re golden.
Aston’s tie-in with Mercedes does mean quite a bit of the switchgear will be familiar. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind. Though its use of Merc’s Comand infotainment system does rather take the shine off. It’s simply not as good as it could be.
How does it drive?
Holy hell it’s quick. Twin-turbo power suits its new beefy look down to the ground. Its 505lb ft comes in from 2,000rpm and there’s no lag to speak of, so it catapults you time and time again at the flick of your foot. Power delivery is linear and smooth. It’s also addictive to push, over and over and over and over. So if you’re worried about Aston’s new turbo era (natural aspiration is dead to them now), don’t be. You’ll have a good time with the Vantage.
Its eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is as good here as it is in any other car – smooth when you want it to be, angry when it’s in the right setting, and fun to use with the paddle shift (in fact, you may spend your time playing the ‘box in manual mode rather than letting the car do its thing). Alright, it can be a tiny bit slow to respond on the paddles, but they give a satisfying ‘clunk’ to pull so you may just prod them for the fun of it. Manual fans need not lament the auto ‘box – a stick shift is coming in 2019.
On the (weirdly square) steering wheel are two main buttons to prod with your thumbs – one to adjust the drivetrain, the other the suspension. There is no Comfort mode in the Vantage, instead Sport plays that role. A prod of either button cycles through Sport, Sport Plus, and Track. Each making the car more aggressive in its setup. It’s a good way of doing things, although not being able to quickly jump from Sport Plus back to Sport does mean a moment in angry mode, which can surprise passengers. Sport Plus is the way to go when it’s just you in the car, and Track should be for circuit/airfield use, and the rest of the time Sport will do you well.
In its basic Sport setup the ride is pretty good. Over the rough roads of Portugal it took all bar the worst in its stride. It’s best to remember that it’s a sports car not a GT though, so don’t expect it to cup your bum every time you see a lump in the road. It corners wonderfully flat even in its softest of settings, but if it’s an angry country road blast you’re looking for Sport Plus makes the ride notably harder but lets you corner faster.
When you’re on the move there’s not too much by way of tyre roar, certainly less than a Porsche 911. What you do get plenty of is engine noise – this is a good thing, because the 4-litre V8 sounds pretty good. OK, it’s a touch muted thanks to its turbo setup, but it’s not bad. At its heart it’s a Mercedes-AMG unit that Aston Martin fiddled with, and there’s only so much they could do to hide the fact, but it won’t sound identical to next door’s AMG GT. Fear not - it booms, crackles and pops with pleasing regularity.
The steering is smooth and brilliantly weighted, offering decent feedback. You’ll know what the front wheels are doing when you need to. If you’re of the ‘sideways’ persuasion the car can be easily controlled as well, which is nice.
Our test car ran on standard steel brakes, though carbon-ceramics are an option. As it happens there was never any need for anything more than what was available. The standard brakes offer strong response and the pedal gives plenty of feel.
If there was any doubt that Aston Martin’s Vantage successor would be brilliant, it’s surely now gone. Aston wanted to build a sports car and oh my, it succeeded.
Should I buy one?
Well… yes. A million times yes. But the question that most people looking to drop more than £100k on a sports car isn’t really ‘should I buy one’, but ‘should I buy one over a Porsche 911?’ This is where things get complicated. With a Porsche you know what you’re getting – reliable fun, decades of development of the same concept, German build and engineering. With an Aston you get a hand-built car (for better or for worse), and they do have a rep for things going wrong – that remains to be seen with the new Vantage (which, it’s worth remembering, has German bits in the cabin and under the hood).
However, the Vantage is a stand out car. It looks wild, sounds wild, and is incredible fun to drive. So actually, the question isn’t ‘should I buy one?’ it’s ‘when should I buy one?’
Gallery: 2018 Aston Martin Vantage first drive
2018 Aston Martin Vantage