Aston Martin’s new Vantage is a crucial car, replacing the British automaker’s smallest model and biggest-seller; 25,000 Vantages were sold over its lengthy production run. The new car goes head to head with the Porsche 911 Turbo, Jaguar F-Type SVR and Mercedes-AMG GT, but the AMG-GT is closest in concept: a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive sports car with a front/mid-mounted V8.
In fact, the Vantage even gets the GT’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. It makes 503 hp with 505 lb-ft of torque, and fires up with the kind of roar normally silenced by a tranquilizer gun. Some of that’s down to our test car’s optional sports exhaust with its quad outlets, sure, but the Vantage sounds seriously good whether you’re burbling ’round town or running for the redline.
The Mercedes collaboration continues with the Vantage’s electronic architecture: The infotainment system’s gloss-black Comand controller is a reminder of the Mercedes zeroes and ones working away in the background.
The Vantage is 100 percent Aston Martin under a steel bodyshell, though. It looks strikingly low and wide when you get up close, with a windscreen angle faster than George W ducking a well-aimed shoe. It builds on the bonded aluminum architecture first introduced with the 2016 DB11, the moment new Astons stopped getting hand-me-downs from older siblings and started with a clean sheet. Aston quotes a 3,373-pound dry weight and estimates 3,594 pounds with fluids –- comparable to the all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo, though more than 330 pounds chunkier than a Carrera.
There’s the DB11’s double-wishbone front/multilink rear suspension hardware –- the track widths are identical -– and again there’s an eight-speed automatic in a transaxle arrangement, but Aston claims the rest of the structure is 70 percent new. Twenty-inch wheels and adaptive dampers are standard, and the Ferrari-style electronically controlled limited-slip differential is an Aston first.
The driving position sets the tone for the driving experience: You sit low down, the bolsters clamp you snugly but comfortably all the same, ensconced by the high window line and center console.
If there’s any intimidation, the steering quickly quells the butterflies: The wheel is small and nicely proportioned, and on a snowy surface its relative lightness and speed instantly impart a sense of agility, with weight building progressively as you wind on more lock to give a good sense of how hard the front tires are toiling.
It’s unlikely you’ll long for the previous Vantage’s naturally aspirated V8. The turbo engine’s clean responses, almost zero turbo lag, strong low-end performance and willingness to rev out quickly placates the purists. The eight-speed auto feels smooth and obedient too; dual-clutch rivals have a snappier punch, but this transmission is far from sluggish.
Switch all the nicely calibrated stability systems off and drift the Vantage from lock to lock, and it feels benignly balanced, particularly in how body roll is so well managed, how generous the steering lock is and how neatly the tail slips back into line –- no lurching or snapping around here. The throttle’s precision and the smoothly operating e-diff adds to the sense of playfulness with total control. The brakes slow the Vantage convincingly and with little ABS intervention, even on a slippery surface. Our car got the standard cast-iron anchors, though carbon-ceramics are offered.
It’s a shame most Vantages won’t spend their lives gliding gracefully between snow banks, because clearly they’re very good at it. But only a complete test on the road and racetrack can provide the full picture of how they’ll feel in your lives. We’ll update you when we get the chance, this coming April.
On Sale: Spring 2018
Base Price: $149,995
Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8; eight-speed automatic; RWD
Output: 503 hp @ 6000rpm; 505 lb-ft torque
Curb Weight: 3594 lbs (est)
0-60 MPH: 3.5 seconds
Pros: Aston Martin’s best-selling model finally gets updated
Cons: The naturally-aspirated engine is no longer available