After the flagship DB11 gave us a taster, the all-new 2018 Aston Martin Vantage is the first car entirely with Mercedes-Benz partnership in mind – but, what will this German connection mean for the quintessentially British brand?
This is the best Aston Martin yet, brought to you by the Germans.
In the 105-year history of the British sports car brand, Aston Martin has been surviving independently apart from its Ford spell rudely interrupted by the 2008 economic crisis.
Since then the company has been doing the same old, same old, kicking off its range of very expensive and very exclusive cars with a Vantage from 2003. Sometimes them in Gaydon would get extra nostalgic and do a properly special one, with two Mondeo V6s from the 1990s put together to make a V12. They called it heritage, and tradition. They’d use words like legacy.
Aston Martin had to do it, they had to go all corporate on us…
I on the other hand would use words like ‘hopelessly’ and ‘outdated’, as did plenty of other automotive journalists.
That won’t do, not when Audis drive themselves, and Mercs, um, drive themselves, and Bentleys have three-chamber air suspensions from the future.
So Aston Martin had to do it, they had to go all corporate on us. After more than a century the little boutique brand has grown up, and tied up with a Group to consolidate its spot in the ultra-luxury space.
That’s where the Germans come in – in exchange for a few shares, Gaydon now gets its engines in big crates labeled with an Affalterbach return address. That’ll be AMG, Mercedes’ performance arm near Stuttgart that builds some pretty special 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8s.
Now with Merc running gear, Aston Martin can finally be taken seriously. For the all-new Vantage, then, with a new-generation aluminium-intensive chassis and Merc bits abounding, you don’t have to make a single excuse for it. It’s just a great Grand Tourer.
Based on the flagship DB11 (the one with a V12), the new Vantage is nevertheless 70 percent unique with Vantage specific components, and a short wheelbase balanced by a wide track for not only perfect proportions (just look how little overhang there is front and rear) but also great handling.
Aston Martin also felt it was due time to evolve the company’s design language, so it looks markedly different from its predecessor, and better in the metal than in photographs. The idea was to keep weight down, and with a lighter chassis combined with a general lack of equipment the new Vantage weighs a little over 1.5 tonnes. Which is commendable. The weight, not the lack of equipment.
You won’t get no massaging seats in here, nor any lasers, lidars, night vision or self parking. You’ll get a comfortable driving position, and some buttons to select driving modes, suspension settings and traction control leeway.
On the track, here where Motormouth tested the car around the Algarve circuit in Portugal, with everything dialed up the Vantage is a hoot to drive, coming over without any intimidating nervousness or imbalances in its controls.
The pedals are meaty, the optional carbon fibre brakes relentless, and the electric steering consistent and intuitive. There’s even some road feel in there.
Despite such stumpy dimensions – 34mm shorter than a 911 and 80mm shorter than Merc’s own AMG GT – the new Vantage tracks well and handles securely with 50:50 weight distribution and 20in wheels with Pirelli tyres, allowing plenty of time for even the most ham-fisted of us to react to 503 horsepower and 685Nm of torque all coursing through the rear wheels. A first application of an electronic rear differential allows for a quick turn-in as soon as you twitch, and for the sake of self-preservation, some understeer only if you’re too impatient out of the corners.
AMG knocked it out of the park again with this V8, and with an eight-speed automatic transmission on board (no double-clutch – too heavy and needlessly complicated, because with the latest electronics even a regular old torque-converter is fine for the job) you get comfort during a cruise and a pleasing kick in the back on the track through every downshift.
In fact with their latest car Aston Martin is alarmingly close to biting the hand that feeds it. From zero to 100kph, this Vantage is two tenths quicker than the AMG GT, and an even match for Affalterbach’s hardcore AMG GT R. Although, to be fair, that same feeding hand is only prepared to let Aston Martin have scraps off the table when it comes to the infotainment and satellite navigation unit. The Vantage gets Merc’s previous-gen system inside (the rest of the interior is a match for anything else out there), while the new Mercs themselves have the latest 12.1-inch displays and crisp graphics. Well, you can only expect so much in exchange for five percent of the company…
This is undeniably a better daily driver than its German relative too, mostly because Mercedes got a bit carried away and made the AMG GT too harsh for normal conditions. It’s really trespassing onto supercar territory, the AMG, while the Aston strikes a finer balance between a Grand Tourer and a sports car.
With this hit on their hands, Gaydon is well placed to look forward to the future – the all-new Vantage isn’t nearly as thrilling as, say, a 911 GT3, or a wailing Lambo, but it doesn’t have to be.
This is only the beginning, which means we get to look forward to more focussed upcoming models, in the mould of the old Vantage S or Vantage GT8. And if the Germans get any say in it, no one will ever utter the words ‘hand-built charm’ again.
2018 Aston Martin Vantage
4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 | eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive | 503 horsepower and 685Nm of torque | 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds and top speed of 313kph | $179,650