Chris Evans’s Coupé over­floweth

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - OMAGH: THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY - Chris Evans

IDON’T like cars that feel overly wide when you get in­side them. I don’t like cars that feel fat when you look out over the bon­net once you’ve sat in­side them. And I don’t like cars that feel like a gi­ant hand is squish­ing you from above for no ap­par­ent rea­son. I also don’t like square steer­ing wheels. Nor do I like it when a car’s in­te­rior leather trim is so bulky it looks like it’s been stuck on top of the orig­i­nal trim, like a wall that’s been over-pa­pered a thou­sand times too many.

All of which means I re­ally shouldn’t like the new As­ton Mar­tin V8 Van­tage, as it is a vic­tim of all of the above. The good news is, other in­te­ri­ors are avail­able. Many, many more in­te­ri­ors. In fact, there are over three mil­lion paint, ma­te­rial and trim com­bi­na­tions from which any po­ten­tial new As­ton Mar­tin owner can cre­ate their dream car. Just don’t ask who­ever spec’d the one I was sent for any help.

Not all the cock­pit’s woes can be fixed via a cou­ple of hours and sev­eral cups of cof­fee in the ate­lier lounge, how­ever. The cheap pla­s­ticky in­di­ca­tor stalks are stan­dard and re­ally quite hor­ri­ble – for an As­ton. Although not quite as hor­ri­ble as the cheap cen­tral arm­rest. Not only is it way too small but its bar­gain-base­ment hing­ing mech­a­nism is so poor that it re­fuses to open at all un­less you give it a hefty yank, as a re­sult of which it al­most comes off in your hand. As­ton – what on earth are you play­ing at?

But of course we’ve been here be­fore, although not for a while. Some of the Nineties As­ton in­te­ri­ors were equally as Lidl, but then came the good sense, so­phis­ti­ca­tion and qual­ity (ie, sweep­ing pi­ano-black dashes, el­e­vat­ing info screens and stain­less-steel quartz clocks) of the late Noughties/early Tee­nies As­ton cars.

Maybe I’m too old and long in the tooth for the new crowd that AM is look­ing to at­tract (with the gar­ish blue leather door in­lays!) but I just can’t see the ap­peal, wher­ever the new ap­peal is meant to be. Hon­estly, it felt like sit­ting in a gilded Nis­san GT-R than some­thing fresh, new and ex­cit­ing from the le­gendary and hal­lowed de­sign stu­dios of New­port Pag­nell.

That said, the V8 Van­tage’s new su­per-stream­lined looks and all- round body shape are sim­ply to die for. In pro­file the car, even at a stand­still, looks like it’s fly­ing through the air. How the ex­te­rior and the in­te­rior are even dis­tantly re­lated, I have no idea.

Let me briefly men­tion that the car is still a wee bit wide from the front and, if you squint, in the wrong light it might look like a cross between a gi­ant MX-5 and a con­sti­pated Tesla Model X. And the fact that I have no idea why they did away with the Van­tage sig­na­ture grille from the side.

How­ever, that was me still in dis­il­lu­sioned mode, shortly af­ter es­cap­ing that in­te­rior hor­ror show.

Be­cause I ended up lov­ing this car. Even though for the first cou­ple of days I didn’t even like driv­ing it. Af­ter all, you’re in­side when you’re driv­ing and – have I men­tioned? – the in­te­rior’s a dis­as­ter!

But who needs a pretty dash­board when you have near-per­fect 50/50 weight dis­tri­bu­tion? There’s also a mon­ster of a twin-turbo V8 en­gine. For­get your V12 – this is all you’ll ever need. As soon as you press the start but­ton, the en­gine gives a throaty roar like an an­gry wrestler. There’s also Sport Plus and Track modes, which raise the noise lev­els to awe­some and mind-blow­ing.

The old Van­tage had just as much grunt, maybe even a bit more. But it was as ner­vous and twitchy as an al­co­holic wasp with anger is­sues. You never wanted to plant your right foot in case it all went hor­ri­bly wrong. In this new model, you sense that you can use all of that con­sid­er­able power – and feel safe while you’re do­ing it. Bravo.

AM has fit­ted its first elec­tronic dif­fer­en­tial, which can lock up from fully open within mil­lisec­onds. This is linked to the sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem, which re­acts al­most in­stantly to your han­dling needs. The up­dated chas­sis de­sign and con­struc­tion also con­trib­ute to in­creased sta­bil­ity. And the abun­dance of alu­minium al­lows the chas­sis to be more ro­bust.

Sud­denly I was hav­ing such a blast driv­ing the Van­tage, I for­got about the ear­lier ir­ri­ta­tions.

They mar­ket this one as a coupé but ef­fec­tively what we have here is a hatch­back. An­other iden­tity loss. But by now I’m be­yond car­ing. By now I’m wish­ing I was driv­ing this car on a track.

And I’m re­al­is­ing why the new Van­tage is so wide, both in­side and out. It’s to ac­com­mo­date its pas­sen­gers’ enor­mous grins...


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