There’s an all-new 2019 Aston Martin Vantage arriving in showrooms later this year. The new coupe will replace a predecessor that was in production for 12 full years – that’s two lifetimes in the automotive industry’s typical renewal cycle. Yet enthusiasts and fans of the brand will dismiss the long wait once they drop behind the wheel of the completely redesigned Vantage, as the British automaker’s sportiest offering is the best vehicle to ever emerge from its factory in Gaydon, England.
There’s no mistaking the new Vantage for anything but an Aston Martin. The company’s bold and distinctive styling has been carried forward to the new vehicle, but with a modern twist. The oversized front grill, which is necessary to feed air to the engine, retains its iconic shape and is more prominent, but the headlights are smaller. The side gills on the front quarter-panel now dump air out of the wheel wells, to lower lift – the sculpted rear valance achieves the same objective. Overall, the engineers have managed to create a sleeker coupe, with notable aerodynamic downforce (something we appreciated during our rainy test drive), without the need for unsightly wings.
The passenger cabin is equally advanced – particularly revolutionary for this traditional automaker. Occupants face an organically sculpted dashboard and center console with an array of toggle switches, rotary dials, and round buttons with genuine glass faces – artfully crafted. Technology abounds with two multifunction digital infotainment screens – one in front of the driver, the other at the top of the dashboard.
Most impressive are the handcrafted materials, a gorgeous mix of fine leathers and metals, which are contrasted by unique patterns and colors. The visual extravagance is accompanied by a wonderful leather aroma, moderately intoxicating, that reinforces the Aston Martin’s luxury and prestige – taken as a whole, the passenger cabin borders on over-the-top.
Aston Martin utilizes a manufacturing technique that bonds aluminum components together with adhesives and fasteners. The process, which is common in the aircraft industry, makes its chassis lightweight and strong. The robust platform, with a solid-mounted rear subframe, allows the engineers to improve the steering. “If you’ve got more rear lateral stiffness, you can put more response on the front because the rear can cope with it,” explains Matt Becker, Chief Engineer at Aston Martin. That stiff platform also serves as a rock-sold foundation for the Vantage’s 3-mode “Skyhook” Adaptive Damping System (the driver may choose between Sport, Sport Plus and Track settings).
The standard engine is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, sourced from Mercedes-AMG, rated at 503 horsepower and 505 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission, which drives the rear wheels through a unique alloy torque tube with a carbon-fiber propeller shaft, the 2-seater rockets from a standstill to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. If the road is long enough, the sports car won’t run out of steam until it hits a blistering 195 mph and it could have gone faster. “We haven’t chased top speed, because it’s all about the agility and the dynamic performance of the car,” notes Becker.
Thankfully, Aston’s engineers have fitted it with 20-inch wheels, sticky custom-compound Pirelli P-Zero tires, and oversized multi-piston steel brakes (carbon-ceramic brakes are optional) that allow it to stop as quickly as it accelerates.
Becker explains how the new Vantage priced at about $153,000 in the U.S. was tuned to be significantly sportier than the company’s DB11 by focusing on the amount of body roll. In simple terms, the new Vantage sports car splits the difference between the DB11 and a dedicated racecar. “The Vantage is around two degrees of roll per 1G of lateral force,” while the DB11 was “targeted three degrees per G, which is more of a GT car.” Furthermore, the Vantage is fitted with a variable electronic differential, or E-Diff, which is “used to basically be able to effectively make you feel like the length of the car is varying because you’ve got different levels of torque.” AKA: The new Aston turns in quicker.
The Vantage does drive much sportier than its larger and heavier sibling, the DB11. The steering feels quicker, and much more responsive. Body roll is nearly indiscernible, and there is plenty of grip assuming you don’t mash the throttle recklessly. That said, there’s sufficient power from the turbocharged engine to effortlessly break the rear end free, light up the tires, and slide sideways (assuming you’ve got the talent). The power reserve from the V8 is extraordinarily deep, and useable.
It’s also imperative to mention the exhaust note that emanates from the rear of the Vantage it’s simply intoxicating, whether fitted with the standard or sport mufflers (they both sound excellent). Acceleration is deeply throaty, while deceleration is accompanied with the expected sporty concussions. “It’s got more volume, and it’s got more frequency… and it does a few more pops and bangs,” says a smiling Becker.
Aston Martin doesn’t hold back when you ask what its new Vantage is targeting all sights are aimed at the venerable Porsche 911, the segment’s best-seller for years. In a check-box comparison, the new Brit surpasses the German in almost every performance benchmark and the Vantage’s interior is particularly more premium in materials and craftsmanship.
Yet, there’s a significant difference between the 911 and the Vantage in terms of subjective driving dynamics. The Porsche is hundreds of pounds lighter, and it carries a lot less weight on its nose it feels smaller and more agile, especially as the road gets tighter. Aston doesn’t deny this, but it points out that its vehicle is less clinical. “The 911 is a very competent car,” admits Becker. “But I think we’ve engineered something different. The 911 is not something you really play with… you don’t slide it around. Where this car you can, you can have fun with it, and it’s very rewarding.”
There’s no contesting Becker’s claim this is the most engaging Aston Martin we’ve ever driven.