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

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents -

“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.”

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