Although when asked if I’d like to review the all-new Aston Martin Vantage my inner voice yelled rhetorical statements such as ‘do bears take their morning constitution in the forest and was the Pope Catholic, my actual response was a very British “Yesh please.”
I happened to be in the Aston Martin HQ in England when they gave me a sneak preview of the new Vantage. It was a cloak and dagger affair with no photo’s allowed and me being sworn to Her Majesty’s secrecy. I obviously felt both privileged and special, but not as special as actually finding myself behind the wheel of this Sporty Coupe in New Zealand!
The Vantage name was first introduced to the Aston Martin marque in the 1950’s and in particular to the DB2. It signified a model performance upgrade, a hotter version of their already impressive vehicles. In fact, it wasn’t until 1972 that Vantage became a stand-alone nameplate with the AM Vantage and five years later, the V8 Vantage was produced. Heralded as Britain’s first Supercar, it boasted a top-speed of 270km/h, 291kW, 550Nm of torque and a 0-60mp/h time of 5.3 seconds. For Aston Martin, Vantage meant sport and it meant performance and its success at racing events, particularly endurance, has over the years, helped form the AM brand’s core DNA. The all-new Aston Martin Vantage takes all of the brand’s sportscar history and racing pedigree into propels it into a whole new era.
First and foremost comes the design. The new Vantage has a predatory look, particularly around the ‘shark-inspired’ nose. Trademark Aston grille, sleek yet menacing LED headlights and a clamshell-style bonnet. It’s more aerodynamic than ever (body and undercarriage), with a front splitter providing downforce for performance and directing cool air to the brakes and twin-turbos.
Its profile is pure and uncluttered with excess badging or unnecessary fittings and boasts a confident falling shoulder line joining front to rear. The rear arches are wide and athletic, and the tail end boasts a tailgate ‘flip’ for additional downforce, full-width taillights, a rear diffuser and quad-exhausts that let the glorious sound of the 4L, twin-turbo V8 sing out for all to hear.
Access to the Vantage cabin comes via body recessed door handles and ‘Swan’ door opening. They raise as they open allowing impressive entry space. Once inside, you are surrounded by Aston Martin’s modern sportscar luxury and a suite of advanced technology that aids your driving pleasure. You sit low inside, a trait enjoyed by many sportscars, but visibility is good and everything you need is almost fingertip close.
The seats are embracing and totally configurable to suit and hug your frame. The centre console provides push-button start, drive selection and access to the 8-inch LCD infotainment screen (in a familiar German brand way). Features such as 360-degree reverse camera, Navigation, Audio, Phone connectivity, all easy to access and clearly displayed. The instrument cluster is digital and can be configured to suit and the entire cabin comes with tactile switches and dials and a very exclusive feel.
Igniting the Vantage’s 4L V8 ‘undercover’ at Aston Martin Auckland’s garage is a spine-tingling affair. It’s loud and powerful and epic. It’s a sense of achievement at the push of a button. Push D for drive, let off the accelerator and you’re away. The steering is light and car is easy to manoeuvre even in tight spaces, thanks to sensors and cameras, they keep you ad the Vantage safe without being neurotic. There is no ‘Comfort’ mode just Sport, Sport + and Track since I was leaving the city, I started in Sport – it’s all very civil.
Over the Harbour Bridge, a few more revs were introduced and the soundtrack increased, but the V8 kept its deep baritone note, it felt warm and comforting. I was in no hurry, just enjoying the firm yet comfortable ride. Free of watchful eyes, I changed up the pace a little, pushing the drive mode button on the leather-clad sports wheel to Sports +. Immediately many things happen behind the scenes, (to do with steering and throttle response and suspension), but all I needed to know was the revs increased and so did the fun. The bonded aluminium chassis feels stoic in the corners and AM Dynamic Torque Vectoring System lets you corner like a champ. You feel like a racing driver and the 8-speed, rear-mounted ZF gearbox selects the perfect gear time after time after time, it’s an absolute thrill. Finding an appropriate venue, I engaged Track mode, time to unleash the sound, gearshift and aggression of all 503 horses and 685Nm. 0-100km/h comes at a mere 3.5 seconds, the roar resonates around the cabin, it’s addictive. Just as a footnote here, the ZF is great but I also enjoyed using the paddles for (seemingly) more control.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the Vantage, certainly initially as the V8 roars into life, but once you get moving you find out how friendly it is to get along with. ‘It all starts with sport’ I was told when I picked it up and although it was a comment meant as a reference to the drive modes but it could just as well have summed up the entire Vantage experience. It’s a thrill ride yet a grand tourer, it’s modern yet vicious, it’s prestigious yet sporty – above all, it’s a new iconic Aston Martin Vantage.