BEAST FROM THE EAST

THE BRITISHEST OF BRI­TISH CAR MAK­ERS HAS BOR­ROWED A GER­MAN EN­GINE, WITH STUPENDOUSLY GOOD RE­SULTS.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING -

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.

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