The Aston Martin Vantage is a rolling supermodel — something to be lusted and sought after. Aside from that brochure-like description, it’s a hell of a sports car. This is my first time behind the wheel of an Aston and I was thoroughly blown away by just how good it is, even if the company didn’t build the engine.
(Full Disclosure: Aston Martin let me have the Vantage for a week and told me not to go over 400 miles. I went 405. Sorry, Aston Martin! I cleaned the car and there wasn’t a close enough carwash that was worthy!)
What Is It?
This Vantage made its debut in 2018, replacing the previous V8 and V12 Vantage that had been available since the company was owned by Ford. It’s probably the sportiest car in Aston’s lineup taking engineering know-how from the Vantage’s racing success in GTE, GTM, GT3 and GT4 classes. Sure there’s the DB11 and DBS, but the Vantage is just as powerful and fast as those models.
You can get the Vantage in three flavors: The V8 models you can get in coupe and convertible, or you can choose the recently released special edition V12 Vantage which is a 700 horsepower, 200 mph track monster. It’s also the cheapest way to get into an Aston Martin. This isn’t cheap the way we regular folk would think. This is one-percenter cheap: the Vantage starts at $143,900. At this price point, it dances with other competitors in the segment like the Porsche 911, McLaren GT, and the Mercedes AMG GT.
Options on my borrowed $182,486 Vantage included $3,600 sport seats, a $2,200 audio system, and $4,100 paint.
How It Drives
Those gorgeous lines hide a fully capable and fantastic sports car. Aston Martin is too small of a company to build its own engines, so under that all-aluminum hood resides a German-sourced fire-breather: a 4.0-liter 503 horsepower twin-turbo (hot vee setup) V8 that Aston gets from Mercedes AMG. This may be a bit of a problem that I’ll get into later.
The power hits you like a punch in the chest. And that exhaust! Oh man. It’ll make an SRT Scat Pack proud.
Turbo lag is nonexistent so all 505 lb-ft of torque is available down low at 2,000 RPM. Aston says the Vantage hits 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. I think that may be a bit conservative. It feels like 3.0-3.2 seconds at least. The V8 is paired with an eight-speed automatic. It shifts lightning-quick, but downshifts, especially in Sport+ can be a bit rough. Jerkingly rough. Unfortunately, it looks as though a manual transmission is not offered.
It’s not a surprise the Vantage handles as well as it does. The Vantage’s lead engineer Craig Jamieson, worked on the first gen of the Vantage, went to work for Lotus, and then came back to work on this. I had a chance to take it on some local canyon roads and it’s easily one of the best-handling cars I’ve ever driven. Turn-in is excellent. You can throw it into a corner and feel confident enough that the car’s Dynamic Torque Vectoring will put down the power to pull you out of a turn.
Driving mode and suspension customization are literally at your fingertips. Each can be controlled by their respective buttons on each side of the steering wheel. The Vantage comes with three modes. The standard setting is always Sport because, of course it is. I expected to see an Eco mode, but the annoying start/stop system (which can be turned off, THANK GOD) gives it some semblance of gas savings.
The other two modes are Sport+ and Track. The suspension has the same three settings. They’re interchangeable but oddly separate. The driving modes change just that, throttle response, active exhaust, etc. But selecting Sport+, for instance, doesn’t put the suspension in Sport+ as well. You have to press the driving mode button and then the suspension setting button. So, you can have the suspension in Track mode while the driving mode is in Sport+. I’d advise anyone not to do that outside of actual track driving as the suspension in its track setting is pretty harsh.
Exterior & Interior Design/Usefulness
This thing is a rolling supermodel. Even though the Vantage looks smaller than it really is, (measuring 14 feet long, 7 feet wide, and just over 4 feet high) its body lines draw you in. From those rear flanks, and that slim, full-width LED rear tail light, this car is asking for your attention. I’m not just talking about rubber-necked stares.
You’re going to get thumbs up or people taking their phones out to record or take pics. There are even the weird people speeding up to ride alongside you and stare. Given the striking curves of the car, the front fascia is strangely simplistic in its design. Some pointed out that it looks like a Miata, something my son said as well. I didn’t see it at first but after living with it for a week, I can finally see it.
The interior didn’t blow me away the way I thought it would. Sure the sport seats are nice, but the rest of the interior left a lot to be desired. The dash is covered in leather, but with it being all black, it came across a bit plain. There was a bit of carbon fiber trim accents on the center console, but it wasn’t that striking. I just didn’t care for the way it was designed at all if I’m being honest.
Everything is controlled from the center stack, from interior lighting to the door locks. The Vantage also has the annoying trend of having a radio and display screen that can’t function independently of each other. If you turn the radio off, the screen is black. This means you cant use the nav system unless the radio is on.
The same is true of the climate controls. There’s a button labeled “menu” that brings up the climate control menu. If the radio is turned off, you can’t bring up the climate controls.
The navigation system is not good either. What makes this so much more painful is the fact that Apple Carplay isn’t even offered or supported in the Vantage, something I find incredible in a car costing this much (it also doesn’t come with remote start, which is equally egregious.)
Update: I was informed by Aston Martin that Apple Carplay is offered as an option on the Vantage, DB11 and DBS. It is a dealer-installed retrofit.
For driving controls: the steering wheel is good. It’s thick, flat-bottomed, almost race-like wheel complimented by huge paddle shifters that stay in place no matter the wheel position. There’s also a nice sized 12-inch LCD speedo display that changes with drive modes and can display things like vehicle info and certain nav data.
The Vantage also has some of the best ventilated seats I’ve ever encountered in any car. Seriously. Other automakers need to find out how they engineered them and take notes.
Cargo capacity is also ok for what it is. You can fit a couple of weekend bags in the back hatch. Theres also small cargo shelves behind the seats. One sits directly behind while the other is situated over the rear cargo area.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a small problem with this car some buyers might want to consider. In the post asking what you wanted to know about the Vantage, one of our readers, V10omous, asked an interesting question: given that this is powered by a V8 sourced from AMG, why would you buy this over an actual AMG with the same engine?
The straight forward answer is that you can’t get this engine in a Mercedes AMG like the Vantage. The Vantage uses the AMG M177 V8. Most Mercedes AMG models ending in 63 use this engine. Everything from C63, to the AMG GT 63 four-door coupe. With that, Mercedes does not make a sports car with this engine. Sure you can get it in the SL, but the SL is more GT than a track-attacking sports car.
In the grand scheme of things, like the interior or the fact that it uses an engine from a different manufacturer, they’re all minor annoyances given what the Vantage’s mission is. As I’ve mentioned before, I take the position of “can I live with this car every day?” when looking at any vehicle, six-figure sports cars included.
So, could I live with this? A resounding hell yea. There’s an exclusivity to Aston Martin that you don’t really get with exotics from Lamborghini and Ferrari. Being here in Southern California, the Italian supercars are, dare I say, common. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen an Aston Martin anywhere. And maybe that’s a good thing. Aston Martin should stay the hidden gem of the exotic car world.