BEAST FROM THE EAST
THE BRITISHEST OF BRITISH CAR MAKERS HAS BORROWED A GERMAN ENGINE, WITH STUPENDOUSLY GOOD RESULTS.
The obvious problem with Frankenstein creations is that they’re almost always hideously unattractive, what with the heavy scarring, unseemly neck bolts and all that kind of business. From Jeff Goldblum’s sticky, sickly transformation in The Fly to Vegemite’s unholy Cheesybite spread, good rarely comes from forcing two otherwise perfectly fine things together.
None of which bodes well for Aston Martin’s all-new Vantage, which isn’t just a combination of two things, but a blend of so many more.
The styling? That’s all Aston. The engine? Lifted straight from AMG’s German factory. The multimedia system and cabin controls? They’re from Mercedes, too. The ride and handling? Tweaked by a former Lotus chief engineer. Finally, the whole thing is assembled, mostly by hand, by a team in Gaydon, England.
While international co-operation like this puts the UN to shame, you can’t help but worry the result of all the mixing and matching will be a confused and confusing product that is less than the sum of its many fine parts.
But – phew – we needn’t have worried. The all-new Vantage is frighteningly good. Great, even. It’s not just the most dynamically excellent Aston Martin road car in recent memory, but every bit as fantastically fast and frantic from behind the wheel as you might expect from a $299,950 performance car designed to topple the (also very good) Porsche 911 GTS.
It looks like it’s been designed using nothing but a surgeon’s scalpel and a barrel of angles. That gaping mouth is just millimetres from the tarmac below – the lowest nose of any Aston Martin ever – while the super-low roof line, pencil-thin body creases and letterboxslit headlights look so sharp you’re afraid to lean on it in case it draws blood.
If it looks potent from the outside, it feels even angrier from the driver’s seat. The biggest change for this new Vantage – the first model to wear the nameplate in more than a decade – is its new and German heart. A new “technical partnership” with MercedesBenz has given Aston Martin access to AMG’s fabulous twin-turbo V8, which now calls the Vantage home.
That thumping motor is largely unchanged from the AMG factory, except that Aston Martin’s engineers have shoved it as far back as they possibly could, putting more weight over the middle of the car to achieve a claimed 50:50 perfect weight distribution. The V8, so rich and rewarding in its AMG applications, is no less engaging in its new British digs, serving up so much effortless power that the Vantage lunges every time you brush the accelerator. And with a not insubstantial 375kW and 685Nm on offer, it will push this two-seat rocket to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds, making this the fastest-accelerating production Aston Martin of all time.
So far, so fast, then. Next, a quad-tipped sports exhaust is laugh-outloud, the Vantage booming into life with such brutality that Aston was forced to install a “quiet-start” function, lest your early-morning or late-night excursions make you the least popular person in your suburb.
That thunderous exhaust might make your neighbours grimace, but it will paint an ear-to-ear grin on your face, with every gentle nudge of the accelerator accompanied by this thick, deep bass so heavy you can feel it vibrating through the cabin’s still air, each upward gear change cracking through the cabin, and downshifts accompanied by their own intoxicating mix of burbles and pops.
It all adds up to something that is often forgotten in the relentless pursuit of performance and record-breaking laps of whatever international racetrack is currently considered the benchmark. While some sports cars can feel cold and clinical, the Aston Martin Vantage is instead, and unashamedly, huge barrels of lunacy-tinged fun. It is so overflowing with bubbling personality it could be hosting a breakfast radio show.
There are some downsides, though. For one, it’s more fun on a racetrack than a road, where that monstrous engine feels like it’s forever straining at its leash, surging forward at slow speeds and leaving you feeling like you’re travelling in a horizontal yo-yo. The giant 20-inch alloy wheels are a tad too big for the bodywork, too, and can clang awkwardly against the inside of the wheel arches on three-point turns.
For ours, that’s a small price to pay for a car so fun it acts like a handful of petrol-powered anti-depressants every time you fire it up.
The new Aston Martin Vantage’s AMG engine does its best work on the race track, but it also excels at waking your neighbours up in the morning.