The smaller, sportier Aston Martin is leagues better, still works as a daily driver, and is a lot less boring to look at
This is the new Aston Martin Vantage. Aside from the trademark grille, little else is recognisable from the previous iteration of Aston’s sporty V8 two-seater.
The old Vantage looked exactly the same for years, though it still had fans of its blend elegance and class, there was little to doubt it was getting long in the tooth.
Good that the new one is all brazen aerodynamics at the back (even if contrasts a little to the unadorned front)so it stands out even amongst an increasingly crowded sports car field. Ticks the box for visual drama, then.
Nothing is carried over from the old car, who like its AMR platform, toiled on for many years before the ‘new age’ of Aston rolled in with the debut of the current DB11 grand tourer with all-new drivetrain, platform and interior technology.
That’s the key, ahem, advantage the new Vantage is able to maximise – but does it go high enough to gain an adv.. an edge, over rivals ranging from the Jaguar F-Type R to pretty much any Porsche 911 in the above $500k+ price range?
Aston Martin says 70 percent of the componentry for the bonded aluminium platform is new for the Vantage, since it aims for a sportier, harder edge than the DB11 does.
To that end, various structures and subframes are different, and also result in the car being 230kg lighter than the DB11 V8, at 1,530kg.
So despite there being the same AMG-supplied 503hp twin-turbo V8 in both cars, the Vantage is much quicker to step off the line, 0-100km/h in a rapid 3.6 seconds (4.0 for the DB11 V8), and it also has an electronically-controlled rear differential with torque vectoring (the DB11 has a conventional LSD).
The cockpit is broadly identical, with a cluster of computerised instruments, the Mercedes-supplied, Aston-skinned infotainment system a welcome addition adding to the level of polish and execution we’ve always expected from Aston, but not seen until most recently.
On a quality and execution level, Aston has gone from ‘hard to recommend’ to something much more acceptable.
Aston is refreshing in its love for buttons – there’s not only buttons for each menu function, but also the P R N D modes, and the now recognisable crystal start button.
Again like the DB11, the cockpit has a close, fitted feel, with supportive full-leather seats
Actually in our test car it’s full-leather everything, even the roof liner. Lovely to see and to feel, but coupled with the extra-low seating position, and unable-to-point-fully-downward aircon vents, it makes for a sweaty driver in our climate.
At least there’s an immediate, plugged-in feel for the driver, while you won’t be able to see much (visibility isn’t the best, but at least there’s a blind spot monitor system) you do get an immediate feel of where the wheels are and what they’re doing.
Drive functions are controlled by buttons on the wheel – one button for the drivetrain and one for the suspension, each having a Sport (normal), Sport+ and Track setting – which is framed by massively tall shifter paddles.
Surprisingly, the Vantage doesn’t feel blisteringly fast, despite the low-to-the-ground seating position, it’s actually very restrained in some ways. The V8’s roar for instance, being nowhere near as fearsome (or, on the flipside, as fatiguing) as the AMG GT’s.
It’s also surprisingly benign to drive at sane speeds: The steering is only slightly heavy, the suspension not of the boneshaking variety.
You can even stuff 350-litres of stuff in the boot, including a set of golf clubs, and that’s not counting the shelf behind the seats.
The only thing that’d give me pause in driving it daily is the heat – because of the ergos, you’ll have to blast the aircon, though that gives you the other problem of dry eyes.
But should we be harping on ergonomics when the big picture is all about fun?
There’s no denying the car’s ability. Colleagues who have driven it on track rave about its drivability and fun factor in that situation, but in urban environments, there’s little chance for you to dip into this wondrous well of drivability.
It’s easy to drive at a sane pace, and practical even, but offers little by way of involvement at the same time and pace, perhaps because it lacks that last 10 percent of delicacy that makes a 911 such a treat to drive no matter what the speedo shows.
The new Vantage doesn’t eke out a tremendous advantage over other sports cars, but it is where is needs to be, and that’s far more than Aston could claim in the past two decades.
Aston Martin Vantage
|Engine||3,998cc, V8, twin-turbocharged|
|Power||503hp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||685Nm at 2000-5000rpm|
|Top Speed||3.6 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||C2 / 245g/km|
|Price||S$699,000 without COE, options|