Of all the fast, beautiful, overachieving sports cars we’ve driven recently, Aston Martin’s new Vantage is the one we most want in our own garage right now. And that is, frankly, disturbing.
The all-new Vantage is turning lap after lap of the Portimao circuit in southern Portugal, in the pissing rain, and it’s doing everything right. The steering sends back fine-grained information about how slippery the surface is. So communicative and finely balanced is the chassis that you quickly learn to trust it and turn off the traction-control safety net. A new electromechanical rear differential distributes power between the rear wheels, allowing the car to happily run the edge between grip and slip. It powers out of a tricky downhill right at 140 kilometres per hour without feeling like it might spit you off into the guardrails. There’s wheelspin at 200 kilometres per hour, thundering down the main straight with a rooster tail of spray in the rearview.
The new Vantage is both engaging and forgiving in conditions where a rear-drive sports car with 503 horsepower and 505 lb-ft of twin-turbocharged torque should’ve simply been terrifying.
Something is going on at Aston Martin, and it’s worth paying attention to. For one thing, the company is finally standing on solid financial ground. According to CEO Andy Palmer, who joined the firm in 2014, Aston made more profit last year than in all of the past 104 years combined. For another, the all-new DB11, which we drove a couple of years ago, was conspicuously excellent, too. It instantly became our favourite 2+2 grand tourer.
Palmer is putting together the Harlem Globetrotters of automotive engineers, designers and test drivers to expand the company. The all-new Vantage is the second model from this revitalized firm. It replaces the outgoing Vantage, which soldiered on in showrooms for 13 years, long past its best-before date.
The only flaw in the new model is that the Mercedes-Benz–sourced navigation and infotainment system is already showing its age. Hardly a deal breaker. The Mercedes-AMG–sourced twin-turbo V8 engine, however, we have no complaints about. It’s the best-sounding turbo engine in the biz right now, although we still hope Aston Martin is crazy enough to shoehorn its own twin-turbo V12 from the DB11 under the hood. (Palmer did mention there’s technically enough space for the bigger motor.)
The new Aston Martin Vantage is the best all-around sports car we’ve driven so far this year. Or last year. Such a statement would’ve been unthinkable not that long ago. But this is a wonderfully complete and self-assured effort from a company that’s going places. Aston Martin isn’t great again; it’s great for the first time.