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First Drive: Aston Martin’s Vantage is back with a sharp new focus

Aston has been fettling its Vantage to make it even more involving to drive than its predecessor – but has it succeeded? Jack Evans finds out.

A wider front track combines with a large grille
A wider front track combines with a large grille (Photographer Max Earey)

What is it?

The Vantage looks more familiar from the rear
The Vantage looks more familiar from the rear (Photographer Max Earey)

Aston Martin is a brand on the move. It’s pushing more towards the dynamic, departing from its more comfort-focused approach to producing cars which are even more entertaining and involving for the driver. We’ve already seen that process started with cars like the DBX707 – which represented a radical departure from the standard DBX – while the DB12 was introduced with more edge than the DB11 it replaced.

Now, it’s the turn of the Vantage. The baby sports car in Aston Martin’s range, this 911-rivalling two-seater has been redesigned to make it ‘the most driver focused and fastest Vantage’ that we’ve seen so far, according to the brand. Is that the reality, though? We’ve been out to Seville to find out.

What’s new?

It’s all change for Aston Martin at the moment
It’s all change for Aston Martin at the moment (Max Earey)

While it might’ve been easy for Aston Martin to simply have turned up the dial on the Vantage’s V8 engine and leave it at that, things have been taken a lot further. The transmission has been completely recalibrated over the previous generation to offer sharper, more eager shifts while a clever new adjustable traction control system allows you to tweak the level of assistance you’re after through a variety of different levels.

The car’s overall stiffness has been improved, too, thanks to additional strengthening applied in a number of areas while Vantage-specific Michelin Pilot Sport S 5 tyres have been developed to deliver a bespoke level of grip. Overall, you’re getting a car which has been radically altered with a new dynamic focus – but improved in-car features such as a completely redesigned infotainment system aim to make it more intuitive to live with on a day-to-day basis.

What’s under the bonnet?

The large starter buttons kicks things off
The large starter buttons kicks things off (Photographer Max Earey)

Seemingly immune to the trend for downsizing, the Vantage’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 remains a core part of the Vantage package. It’s been granted more power – equivalent to an extra Volkswagen Polo – with 153bhp in additional punch bringing total output to an impressive 656bhp. Torque stands at a chunky 800Nm, too, and it combines to get the Vantage from 0-60mph in just 3.4 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 202bhp. These figures really do blur the line between sports car and supercar, that’s for sure.

It’s all driven through an eight-speed gearbox to the rear wheels alone and, as you may expect, efficiency isn’t the best with Aston Martin claiming 23.3mpg combined – expect far less when you’re driving more quickly – alongside CO2 emissions of 274g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

The changes that have been implemented with this new Vantage are immediately noticeable. It’s a car which now feels noticeably sharper and more involving, while a spell at the excellent Monteblanco Circuit showed that the Vantage doesn’t shy away from some track driving either. It’s still a car that can turn on you if it wants to, but with its variety of traction control systems and its intuitive handling it’s a model which is still quite flattering – regardless of your driving experience.

It has come at the expense of on-road comfort. In its firmest suspension setting the Vantage feels a bit too stiff for the public road while cabin noise is quite pronounced. However, find a twisting section of the road and the Vantage will completely devour it – and it’s all accompanied by a superbly raucous soundtrack from the exhaust. It also doesn’t feel like an overall large car and though relatively wide, it’s an easy performance model to place out on the open road. The eight-speed gearbox is wonderfully smooth when left in fully automatic mode, too, though the shifts are crisp and accurate when you take control yourself – and the large shift paddles are a joy to use, too.

How does it look?

The Vantage remains a strict two-seater
The Vantage remains a strict two-seater (Photographer Max Earey)

It’s an altogether meaner affair, this new Vantage. Naturally, it draws some inspiration from the latest DB12 – and we can see more than a hint of the limited-run One-77 in the Vantage’s aesthetic – but from any angle, this is a great-looking car. It’s at the rear where it plays the closest to the previous-generation Vantage, but from the front it’s got boatloads of presence while the larger grille not only serves to make this Aston look even angrier but helps to boost cooling to the engine.

All cars sit on 21-inch forged alloy wheels as standard, too, and as is the case with the rest of the Aston Martin range you’re able to take personalisation up a level through the firm’s ‘Q’ service which taps into a variety of bespoke styling and material options should you want to make your car look truly ‘you’.

What’s it like inside?

The interior features a variety of high-quality materials
The interior features a variety of high-quality materials (Photographer Max Earey)

The cabin of the previous-generation Vantage was always a pleasant place to sit, but the new model does take things up a notch. Waxy, high-quality leathers combine with metals to create a high-end cockpit while the variety of proper physical buttons – controlling aspects such as the driver controls, heating and ventilation and seat functions – provides a welcome break from more screen-centric approaches taken by rivals.

Unlike its four-seater Porsche 911 rival, the Vantage is a strict two-seater. However, there’s some useful storage behind the seats for loose items and smaller bags, while the 235-litre boot can be expanded to 345 litres by removing the load divider and parcel shelf, so it’s more than usable on a day-to-day basis or a weekend away.

What’s the spec like?

A variety of physical controls make changing settings much easier
A variety of physical controls make changing settings much easier (Photographer Max Earey)

Aston Martin hasn’t released official pricing for the Vantage as yet but a good guess would place it around the £165,000 mark. It’ll still be quite a jump on the £129,000 you would’ve paid for a previous-generation Vantage, but there have been many significant upgrades applied to this car – not least in terms of the on-board equipment. The older Vantage was really let down by its slow infotainment system but this new one represents a big improvement. It’s been fitted to the new DB12 and, like there, it’s got lots of features and is accurate and responsive to use. All your usual smartphone integration systems come equipped as standard, too.

All cars get a full leather interior as standard with heated eight-way adjustable sport seats, alongside loads of Alcantara used here, there and everywhere. The Vantage’s interior certainly lives up to the Aston Martin name, though it’s the overall usability – brought through the fitment of well-placed buttons and controls – that really shines through here.

Verdict

Aston Martin aimed to make a more direct and focused Vantage for this latest generation and we’d say it has succeeded. This is a sports car which, as we mentioned, blurs the lines towards the supercar not only through its straight-line speed but also its appetite for corners. In terms of outright involvement for the driver, it’s right up there.

It has come at the expense of overall comfort, mind you. But as a step forward and a reflection of a more dynamic future for Aston Martin, the Vantage is superb.

  • Model as tested: Aston Martin Vantage
  • Price as tested: £165,000 (est)
  • Engine: 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 petrol
  • Power: 656bhp
  • Torque: 800Nm
  • Max speed: 202mph
  • 0-60mph: 3.4 seconds
  • MPG: 23.3mpg
  • Emissions: 274g/km