It’s Bond. James Bond.
I don’t think I am alone in this sentiment but, to me, there’s nothing quite as special as when a sports car has a little eccentricity to it. In a day and age where many people purchase cookie-cutter “McMansions,” and we’re essentially issued the same mobile telephones, I appreciate when any company steps out of the box to produce something different.
This is one reason why you acquire an Aston Martin.
But, it’s not just its quirks that keep me interested. It’s the level of sophistication that makes an Aston just that. When you open the door, it pitches slightly upwards to avoid curbs and you’re greeted with a waft of rich hides. When you touch something that looks metal, it’s not a figment of your imagination or chromed plastic bits. It’s real metal that clinks on your fingernails. And, boy, when you hit the throttle, the revs climb along the tachometer and the exhaust note swells. There’s a certain rush that will make you smile, your heartbeat faster and maybe even make you laugh. Ideally, you experience all three at the same time.
These are the rest of the reasons why you buy an Aston Martin.
Taking delivery of the all black everything Vantage test vehicle, it looked like it was dressed for a formal occasion. While it was sharp, I would advise being more adventurous if you take the plunge. That’s because as with every Aston, you want to show the lines. This “murdered out” example simply hides the beautiful body’s details.
As the previous-generation Vantage was one of the most gorgeous vehicles ever designed, the all-new car has mighty big shoes to fill. Its wide mouth front grille created controversy out of the gate – it does not photograph well – but now that I’ve spent time with it in the flesh I must admit it has grown on me. It’s certainly bold but not ostentatious. Personally, my favorite bit is the Vantage’s hindquarters. The sweeping lines from its wide hips, reminiscent of the One-77, punctuate with an integrated rear decklid spoiler that some would say looks like a “ducktail.”
Overall, the new Vantage’s design doesn’t live up to the previous model’s well-executed, timeless look. What it does do, however, is signify that Aston is moving in a new direction and that there’s more going on underneath its skin. That I can appreciate.
Getting comfortable behind the square-ish, three-spoke steering wheel, you soon realize that this is an exceptional cabin to call home. From the soft leather encapsulating you to the unique door pulls that remind me of a high-end piece of luggage to the thicker stitching, it’s clear this isn’t your ordinary sports car. There’s a certain level of artistry here that implies the interior design project was someone’s baby.
And then there’s the practical stuff. At 6 feet, 8 inches, I fit perfectly inside with some room to spare in all directions. This isn’t always the case in a compact sports car. The driving position is astoundingly good. Its low-slung seats offer the perfect balance of comfort, for long-distance hauls, and support for when you want to liven things up with the “go” pedal. Some folks may feel claustrophobic inside as the Vantage’s greenhouse is quite small and the doors are tall but I enjoyed the cocoon-like vibe.
A big area of improvement I noted on the new Vantage was overall fit, finish and quality control. While all of the Astons I’ve driven had interiors that were sumptuous and jewel-like, it was expected to find multiple faults in a test vehicle. From lumpy seats to poor stitching to haphazardly aligned/loose panels, I’ve seen it all. This car, however, had zero issues. This is a big step in the right direction. Props!
Aston Martin has partnered with Mercedes-Benz for certain components, which is why the infotainment display/software and rotary dial are lifted from the three-pointed star. It would have been slick of Aston to allow drivers to fold away or stow the display so that when you just want to simply enjoy the ride you can, but honestly that’s a nit pick.
Where there’s an actual stumble is with the HVAC controls and switchgear found in the center stack as well as the center console. Simply put, it’s an ergonomic nightmare. You wind up having to take time — and your eyes off the road — to find the right switch to, say, adjust the direction of airflow or change the infotainment display to access the music you want to play. This is further complicated with the engine start/stop and gear selection also being arranged in the center console in a triangular fashion, which is unusual. In a sports car with a lot of power, this tangled array of buttons is not something I want to be concerned with at speed. So, be prepared for a learning curve and to largely set up the vehicle before you hit the road.
But once you do fire up the Vantage and its V8 engine sparks to life, you sort of forget about those pesky details. Using a Mercedes-AMG-sourced twin-turbo, eight-cylinder engine, the Vantage produces 503 horsepower and 505 lb.-ft. of torque. Paired up with this powerplant is an eight-speed automatic transmission that can operate smoothly from the get go or snap rapid shifts while in Track mode. While I am sure some folks will be let down that the Vantage doesn’t use a dual-clutch transmission, I am actually relieved. That’s because DCTs aren’t all that great when you own them — they can get quite fussy.
Through this slick combination, off-the-line performance is impressive. Zero to 60 happens in 3.5 seconds. Yes, you can get into trouble awfully quick.
Known for producing amazing sounding vehicles, Aston certainly didn’t disappoint this time around. Tap the “S” button on the steering wheel to enter Sport Plus or Track mode and the Vantage will perform for you with a throatier, gravely exhaust note that’s happy to crack and pop on the overrun. That “S” button isn’t just a volume control though. You feel the vehicle come alive with quicker shifts, sharper throttle inputs and more firmly weighted steering as you cycle through Sport, Sport Plus and Track modes.
The most impressive element of the new Vantage though is its suspension. In Sport it is just so comfortable and compliant. This means this Aston is completely usable in Manhattan or for daily driving. Even when dialing it up to Sport Plus or Track, it isn’t unbearable – like it was in the previous-gen Vantage. It’s obvious that Aston’s engineers took great care here and it shows. It’s easily the best setup when compared to other $100,000 to $200,000 sports cars.
Whenever I wanted to smile, I engaged both Track modes as it’s not overkill for country roads and highways. This makes the Vantage a livable touring car that’s happy to be pushed. Unless you do something monumentally stupid, it won’t bite back either. This translates into a “helluva” good time.
Working my way through northern Bergen County’s country roads, I fell in love with the car. While I wish its steering feel was more communicative, it’s just a sign of the times as all automakers switch to electrically assisted steering racks. Everything else, though? Simply delightful.
From the driving position to the power delivery to the planted feel in the switchbacks to the well-appointed interior and sophisticated exterior design, there’s a whole lot to adore about the Aston Martin Vantage. To me, it’s a blend of the laugh out loud thrills of a front-engined Ferrari and the elegant cabin of a Bentley. Unlike the latter, however, the Vantage is not stuffy. And like the former, the Aston has a sense of humor that will make you feel alive.
I just need to know where to send my money.
By Richard Posluszny