The Aston Martin Vantage is ready to play.
Part DB10, part highlighter pen, the new AMG-powered V8 Vantage is the shouty antidote to the DB11’s laid-back, long-legged demeanor
“This is our dedicated sports car. It’s simple, pure energy, it’s a hunter. It has a flick in the tail and the lowest nose we’ve ever produced. If the DB11 is a samurai sword, this is a scalpel.” That’s design director Marek Reichman giving us a hands-on intro to the new Aston Martin Vantage.
We are witnessing the rebirth of a company, one that’s emerging from a decade where its products overlapped and leaked into one another like layers on a sub-standard trifle. Shored up with new money and new management, there’s now an ambitious plan in place that, should it work, will deliver seven new standalone models (one every nine months) between now and 2021—and that’s not counting derivatives and cherries like the Valkyrie and continuation DB4 GTs. The first of these seven pillars is the DB11, the Vantage is number two followed by a new Vanquish, DBX, a mid-engined supercar, Lagonda 1 and Lagonda 2. In that order. The bonded and riveted aluminum structure is, of course, descended from the DB11— everything from the A-pillar forward is carried over untouched (new crash structures are prohibitively expensive to develop), but 70% of the components are unique. A 280mm reduction in length is down to lopping out a section where the rear seats would be, while, unlike the plusher DB11, the rear axle sub-assembly ditches any rubber bushing and is solid-mounted to the chassis, sacrificing some refinement for more immediate reactions.
At 1,530kg dry, it’s 170kg lighter than a DB11, but, to be fair, that’s not saying much. More telling is that it’s a few kilos heavier than a Porsche 911 Turbo (Porsche quotes 1,595kg, but that’s with all its fluids on board, which weigh well over 100kg). Expect the curbweight to lighten up a bit in a year’s time, though: that’s when you’ll have the option of substituting the eight-speed ZF auto available from launch, with a manual. Happy days.
The engine? We know it well, but that doesn’t make an AMG-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, recalibrated by Aston to produce 503hp and
685Nm of torque, any less titillating. Claimed performance—0–100kph in 3.7sec and 314kph flat-out—is nudging supercar country, but then so too is the starting price of P8.6 million. P1.4 million more, you have a Mercedes-AMG GT R.
This is the first Aston to feature a new e-diff that trumps a purely mechanical LSD, Aston says, by going from fully open to 100% locked in a just a few milliseconds. There’s also new bespoke Pirelli P Zeros, and three driving modes: Sport, Sport Plus and Track, that gradually ramp up the damping, throttle response, e-diff, torque-vectoring, steering weight and racket from the exhausts, while slackening off the stability control.
There is much technology at work, then, but this is also the first Aston to be completely set up by their ex-Lotus ride and handling chief, Matt Becker…and it’s his kind of car. The DB11 he tidied up, filed the edges; here, he was given carte
blanche and a dream package to work with. Matt, we’re expecting big things.
Starting from the front—the nose has Bond’s DB10 written all over it; the lights are small and aggressive with a front splitter below smuggling smooth air under the car. The front flanks are defined by ‘side gills’ riddled with bullet holes, while the back wheels are stretched to the rearmost corners where they punch through the car’s skin. Right around the back, you’ll find the real drama, with a full-width light strip, uncapped exhausts sticking out like sawn-off shotguns and a proper functioning diffuser. There’s nothing active here.
Inside, you can see the bits borrowed from Merc(screen, pointless mouse-style touchpad), but the good news is it’s a complete rethink from the DB11. Feeling fruity? You can have your center console caked in body-colored bits, or carbon or piano black if you’re feeling less shouty. Gone are the DB11’s haptic feedback surfaces, replaced with physical buttons because “given the more frenetic driving experience, you want an actual click to tell you a button’s been pressed,” says Reichman. The paddles have grown for the same reason.
Will there be a V12 version in the near future? We hope so, but Reichman wouldn’t confirm now, preferring to stir the speculation pot by reminding us that the engine bay is shared with the DB11. So we know it’ll fit and why go to the bother of developing a new twinturbo V12 if you’re not going to spread the costs? Besides, knowing CEO Andy Palmer, the idea of a V12 hot rod will be too tempting to resist.
But will it be the Vantage or the DB11 at the heart of this born-again company? It’s a question that leaves Reichman a bit stumped… “I think, maybe this does define our core more than a DB11. If the DB11 is about style, this is about developing something you can take racing, and that’s what Aston stands for. When they all line up at Le Mans next year, it will be this next to Porsche, Ferrari, Ford and BMW. We want to win with this car.”