Since I last drove a new Aston Martin Vantage not much has changed, except everything has as well. What I mean is, the car itself is fundamentally the same as the car I drove last year but the circumstances around the world have significantly changed. To me, the Vantage is a reminder of 2019, a time that now feels like pre-history, driving it today brought me back to happier times.
Of course now, we live in uncertain times. The global pandemic that’s taken hold of most of the world is still very much a real thing while Aston Martin as a company has faced troubling times too but in recent weeks have had some semblance of good news with Daimler increasing their stake in the company to 20%.
The Vantage is proof that an Aston Martin and Daimler partnership can only lead to good things. So to prepare myself for a drive in what is perhaps Aston Martin’s most important model in its recent history, the DBX SUV, I got myself reacquainted with the ‘baby’ Aston – the Vantage.
After spending a few days with the 2020 Vantage here some things I liked and didn’t like about it.
Five Things I Like About The Aston Martin Vantage
Grand touring ability
For this test I decided to go somewhere that was a nice distance away from Tokyo to test the Vantage’s GT capabilities but also that had some fun roads where I could play around with the smallest Aston sports car. Naturally the popular touristy area of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture northwest of Tokyo was the place to go. About a two and a half hour motorway drive from Japan’s capital it was the ideal spot to see if Aston’s sportiest offering could also do all the grown up things its siblings can. I’m happy to report the Vantage is every bit of a grand tourer as the DB11 or DBS. It’s just a nice place to cover several hundred kilometres in. It’s beautifully refined blocking out unwanted outside noise and the ride never feels unsettled or uncomfortable. This thing was made to eat up the miles and even if you do get stuck on a traffic jam on the motorway this car deals with it in a stress-free manner.
Can be used as a daily
Adding on top of its long legged ability, the Vantage is a car you could easily use on your daily commute. This is a car that’ll make mundane drives feel special because it’s an Aston Martin. For starters it’s nowhere near as low as you’d think it is. The ground clearance is excellent and despite it having a rather prominent front lip I didn’t scrape it once. Then there’s the 8-speed ZF auto which I think is a better match for the Vantage than the awkward 7-speed manual I tested earlier in the year. Then you’ve got more than adequate luggage space in the back that’ll easily swallow a set of golf clubs let alone some weekend bags or your weekly shop.
Engine is still a peach
Power is still from an AMG-sourced 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 with 375kW and 680NM of torque. 0-100 km/h is done in 3.5 seconds and it’ll go all the way up to more than 310 km/h. I love this engine. It’s a tower of power with plenty of torque to spare. It’s responsive and has excellent and predictable power delivery. But what I love most is the muscle car soundtrack it provides. It’s very in character for the Vantage. When you’re going hard, the engine rewards you with thunderous applause from the back. You’ll want to keep driving this car hard because it’s still the sportiest and most playful Aston for sale right now.
Interior is a treat to the senses
One thing that doesn’t get mentioned in car reviews more often is interior smell. Maybe because that’s an odd thing to write about but I’m a firm believer it’s an important aspect of new car ownership and Aston Martins have some of the best interior smells out there. Not only that but the materials used inside are top notch, the perfect blend of sporty and luxury. I especially like the driving position which is nice and low, so the appropriately posh interior cocoons around you. The soft leather from the finest Scottish cows look and feel every bit as posh as you’d expect from a hand crafted British sports car. It almost makes up for the dizzying array of buttons on the centre console.
No other car makes you feel like a secret agent
The best way I can sum up the Vantage is that it’s a fine sports car. It’s good but not great. There are several other cars on the market that do things better than it but none can make you feel like a secret agent quite like this one. A Honda NSX will leave this in its dust around a twisty road, a Porsche is sharper to drive, and a Maserati can fit more people. However, if all you want from a car is a sense of occasion that you are indeed living out your James Bond fantasies I can guarantee you that no Porsche, Jaguar, or Mercedes will make you feel like a kid quite like this car. For me, that’s reason enough to get one.
If you do need more reason, just look at it. I know some don’t like the way it looks. I agree the headlights are a bit small and the grille a bit too striking but overall it’s a handsome little thing. The proportions are right and from the rear three-quarters it just looks stunning. I’m especially a fan of this Skyfall Silver colour, partly because I’m a sucker to bluey-silvers and partly because of the name.
Five Things I Dislike About The Aston Martin Vantage
Parking camera is an option
For some unfathomable reason, even in 2020 a 360 degree camera is an optional extra on a $300,000+ brand new luxury sports car. I mean, I managed to survive without it but it feels like they’re taking the piss. A reversing camera should be standard fit these days. I don’t understand it but crazier things have happened this year.
Overly sensitive brakes
I don’t remember the other Vantage I drove in the past having brakes this sensitive but it was hard to balance the brakes. They were either on or off and they squeaked a lot. Speaking of on or off, this particular Vantage had a very good stop/start system but whenever you let go of the brake pedal it’d just slingshot itself forward. That made it quite terrifying in the city.
No significant changes from the 2019 car
It’s pretty much unchanged, at least the important stuff remains the same. That means there’s no Apple CarPlay or smartphone mirroring of any kind, there’s no power upgrades to the AMG engine, and it’s still not as heart-racing as some rivals around corners.
Still had hand built British quirks
I should preface this by saying Aston Martin is a small company that hand builds their cars so there’s going to be some room for error. They’re never going to be perfect but that’s just part of the unique ownership experience. For example, in my test car, if you had both windows down and you shut the door the driver’s side was completely normal. However, on the passenger side the glass would hit the metal panel making a very painful sound glass-to-metal sound.
Not as charming as the old car
In every objective sense, the new Vantage is a superior car to the car it replaces. It works better as a car, it has less flaws, a better automatic gearbox, it’s kinder to the environment, and it’s got better tech. Yet I find myself lusting after the older car more. The previous generation Vantage has some magic about it that seems to have been lost in the new car. Don’t get me wrong, this new Vantage is still a good car but it’s just not as charming as the old car. Granted, it’s still got more charm and character than some of its contemporary rivals. It’s not the boring obvious choice, let’s put it like that. It just doesn’t make me lust after it quite like the old one did though. Astons of old used to be all about power, beauty, and soul. This car certainly has the power and the beauty sorted but the soul, not so much. Perhaps all that will change once I can test a Vantage with the roof off.