All photos: Aston Martin

The 2019 Aston Martin Vantage is quite a dramatic departure from the relatively consistent styling cues of the last few decades of the company. The new look, especially the new grille, is controversial. But Aston Martin claims it was a matter of weight savings, of all things.

The initial reviews of the new V8 Vantage came out this week and are mostly positive. Yet every single review makes sure to linger over the Vantage’s new approach to the styling up front. The car’s low and wide gaping shark-like maw is polarizing, and there’s a sense it’s missing the same impression of the classic, elegant beauty of Astons old.

Lawrence Ulrich’s Vantage review over on The Drive featured Aston’s justification for the new look. Read for yourself (emphasis mine):

Answering rhetorical critics who’ve questioned tiny headlamps and the elimination of the classic Aston grille, Reichmann wedges his hand into a wheel arch below the clamshell hood, by way of functional riposte: “The lights are incredibly small because there’s an incredibly small space to work with,” he says, gripping the slender curl of metal and glass. As for that missing grille, “Why put 15 or 20 kilos of weight on the nose of a car, in the worst possible spot” for handling balance? 

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So Aston claims the Vantage’s new look is functionally justified, which is nice.

The Vantage is obviously inspired by the DB10 (concept car?) from 2015's Spectre, where the movie’s production team allegedly toured Aston’s design offices and saw an early sketch of what would become the Vantage and asked if it could be featured, presumably instead of one of the aging production cars of the time. Here’s the story, via Wired:

The collaboration that led to the DB10 started in September, 2014, when [Spectre Director Sam Mendes] visited Aston creative director Marek Reichman at the automaker’s design studio in Gaydon, England. Reichman showed off everything in the automaker’s portfolio, but it was a sketch pinned the wall that caught Mendes’ eye. The sleek two-seater was exactly what he wanted, if Aston could deliver it by April of this year.

Problem was, it was just a sketch. Nothing more. And Reichman’s team had other things to do, like designing cars that actual consumers would buy. Everyone expected to riff on a model already slated for production, not create something from scratch. Still, Reichman told Mendes not to worry, he’d have the car. “At which point,” Reichman says, “most of my team sat on the floor, put their head in their hands, and said, ‘What on Earth has he said yes for?’”

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It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think Aston may have been caught off guard a little bit, and what was initially just a very early concept was almost forced into being by the automaker’s relationship with the James Bond franchise. But even then, it’s notable that the Vantage dropped even the horizontal grille treatment of the DB10, so perhaps this was always the plan.

I don’t think Aston Martin has anything to worry about with the Vantage, though. Especially when the manual and V12 options start showing up. It’s an angry little sports car that looks like an angry little sports car.

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The grille design also looks fucking incredible on a racecar: