These are weird times in the world of sports cars. Someone once said, “There ain’t no substitute for cubic capacity”, or something like that anyway. It may have been Henry Ford or Gottlieb Daimler. It may have been the bloke in my local garage (cash only) but you get the message; the bigger the engine, the better the car.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and we have cars without any cylinders. Instead of a throaty rumble from the exhaust, we have the underwhelming whine of electric motors. Press the start button and instead of frightening next door’s cat you get… nothing.
Even that great British institution, Aston Martin, is going all radical. They’re building an SUV. There’s an all-electric Rapide in the pipeline and, within ten years, every car in the model range will be available as a hybrid.
And to prove just how crazy things are getting at Aston, they’re even turning a profit.
Thankfully, the latest Aston Martin Vantage is clinging on to some of the old-school ways, but with a modern twist.
For example, under the bonnet, the naturally aspirated V8 has been replaced by a twin-turbocharged V8. It’s a cracking 508bhp 4.0-litre engine, which will be familiar to some readers. It’s a Mercedes-AMG power plant. Aston and Merc have set up a partnership for various bits and pieces. Engines, sat navs, touchscreens, switchgear etc are lifted from the Mercedes parts bin. This makes sense and allows Aston Martin to get on with what it does best: creating a true sports car.
The new Vantage is slightly longer and wider than the previous V8 model. It’s lighter and more rigid, and it benefits from a perfect 50-50 weight distribution.
Zero-to-60mph takes 3.6 seconds; and the top speed is 195mph. If you really must know, you can get around 26mpg on a good day with a following wind. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed gearbox and, to ensure that you keep the fun on tap, you can choose from various driver modes – Sport, Sport+ and Track. For normal mortals, the car is best left in the default mode (Sport) because although the others will increase throttle response, steering feel, gear change speed and adjust the dampers to improve the on-limit handling, all they really do is ruin the ride comfort.
The Vantage is loaded with clever devices to help any driver who fancies a bit of frisky motoring, most of which will get you out of trouble
And comfort is exactly what it is. This was a huge surprise because, once you get beyond trundling around town, the ride is remarkably smooth. This Vantage may be described by Aston Martin as a sports car, but it also makes for wonderful Grand Tourer motoring. It’s hard to think of a better way to carry two people, in comfort, with a surprising amount of luggage (380 litres of boot space) stored under the hatch. It would make for a wonderful blast down to Juan-les-Pins. Handling, as you would expect, is outstanding. The Vantage is loaded with clever devices to help any driver who fancies a bit of frisky motoring, most of which will get you out of trouble. You’d need to be doing something incredibly stupid to come unstuck.
Colour is important in the Vantage. It doesn’t make much difference in profile or at the rear, but the front has a black grille which is huge. It looks like a Basking Shark taking a gulp. In darker colours, it tends to disappear but I’ve seen two cars in light blue and a pale green and it didn’t look too clever. Granted, that’s a personal viewpoint. You may love it. I also feel it’s not quite as pretty as its predecessor.
The interior is a serious step-up in quality for Aston Martin. You sit low down; it’s very cosseting thanks to a high shoulder line and snug seats. The infotainment system is really smart. It’s operated by a rotary wheel and / or voice recognition. And most importantly it actually works. There’s a luxurious feel across the cabin. I shan’t list the amount of kit you get as standard – all of the essential stuff basically.
Is it worth £120,000? Oh yes and, OK this might sound daft, but it’s actually decent value for what is a seriously hi-tech, fully loaded car – one that is hugely rewarding to drive, comfortable, fun and extremely desirable. Early signs are that it will hang on to a reasonable chunk of its value when the time comes to sell. It is also an achievement to say that it will be a really good day-to-day car as well as one for special occasions or a holiday jaunt.
This may be the baby of the Aston Martin range and is currently their entry level model but, for the money, this V8 Vantage it is one of the best cars that Aston Martin has ever made.
For more information, see astonmartin.com