When you’re roaring down a serpentine mountain pass in southern Portugal to the soundtrack of a crackling exhaust with a broad grin on your face in a new 200mph Aston Martin Vantage, it’s very hard not to get carried away.
Thankfully, if you do, the sure-footed handling and subtle stability control technology in the background of this clever coupe may save you from yourself as you swing around those tight bends like a locomotive on iron rails. Providing you’re not too silly.
The great comedian Billy Connelly famously warned never to trust anyone who, left alone in a room with a tea-cosy, failed to put it on their head. In the same vein as the ‘Big Yin’s’ caution, I defy any red-blooded male – or female for that matter – when left alone in an Aston Martin Vantage not to hum at least a few chords of the James Bond theme.
And this super British coupe really does have a licence to thrill, as I’ve been discovering.
Vantage point: Daily Mail motoring editor Ray Massey prepares to take Aston Martin’s new £120,000 Vantage sports car for a spin at the Portimao circuit in Portugal
Aston Martin say this car is a predator. And the prey in its sights is unashamedly rival German car-maker Porsche’s 911 – used as a benchmark. But Aston bosses say their car has soul not just teutonic efficiency.
Priced from £120,900 the first Vantage deliveries are about to commence right now.
The 007 link with Aston Martin is something the firm, with its boutique headquarter factory in Gaydon, Warwickshire, will naturally exploit.
Indeed, by a quirk of fate, the face of the Vantage is the one which found its way onto the big screen in the last Bond movie outing Spectre in the form of the otherwise fictitious DB10, of which only 10 were made.
Originally, the movie car to be driven by Daniel Craig was supposed to be the DB11, which was set to be revealed just after the movie made its debut in 2015. But Bond bosses visiting the design studio spotted sketches for the yet to be built Vantage and fell in love with the looks so adapted that styling for the movie car.
But in today’s highly competitive world of motoring a movie link to a legendary spy is not enough. It won’t cut. The car really has to deliver. And it does.
In shiny metallic paint the Vantage looks as slippery as quicksilver and has the performance to match.
Its muscular flanks and broad haunches give it an athletic prowess, but it is the new headlights and tail lights give the new Vantage a distinctive contemporary look and road presence.
Muscular flanks and broad haunches give the 2018 Vantage an athletic prowess
Under the bonnet is a 510 horsepower 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine
The new Aston Martin Vantage will accelerate from 0 to 60mph in just 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 195mph
There’s a deeply satisfying growl and burble as you fire up the 510 horsepower 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine.
Linked to a very slick eight-speed ZF transmission, the new Vantage will accelerate 0 to 60mph in just 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 195mph.
But the numbers don’t do justice to the adrenalin rush you get behind the wheel.
Both the exhaust and engine management systems have been specially tuned to give the new Vantage what bosses call ‘a truly intoxicating character and soundtrack’. It’s certainly loud and proud.
Weave your way down mountains or accelerate hard up steep inclines and the exhaust snaps, crackles and pops aggressively into life as you up the revs, and it blips satisfyingly as you downshift through the gears using the larger paddles on the steering wheel to override the automatic mode for a bit of manual dexterity.
The quotes performance figures don’t do justice to the thrill of being sat at the wheel, Ray Massey said
While it might a ferocious animal on track, we were equally as impressed with how well mannered it was on the road
The twistier the mountain road, the more the Vantage eased into its stride
The twistier the road, the more it seems to like it. This has been helped by setting the new V8 engine low and as far back in the chassis as possible resulting in an optimal centre-of-gravity and a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
I quickly reached the limit of my ability on a fair few hair-raising laps of the Portimao racing circuit, so I then let chief engineer Matt Becker and one of the pro drivers show me what it could really do when burning the rubber. Deeply impressive. I couldn’t even get close.
But if you have the money, you don’t have to be a full-on petrol head to enjoy this car. It is perfectly mannered around town. I felt very comfortable driving firmly and securely in Sport and Sport-plus mode.
And the stability control will look after you and help keep you rooted to the road.
I was prepared to leave it to the pros to switch for any length of time on the circuit to Track mode. But if you are into having a bit of enjoyment, whether on or off the track, it is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
Aston Martin is known for making some of the most sumptuous cars on the planet, but the Vantage is easily one of the best looking British built models we’ve seen for some time
Ray Massey: ‘I felt very comfortable driving firmly and securely in Sport and Sport-plus mode’
The new aero pack is designed to improve downforce, though there’s enough power to burn rubber, as you can see
The aerodynamic styling – from the front splitter to the rear diffuser and new side gills – also have a practical purpose to boost performance by channeling air in a way which helps increase the downforce on the vehicle and keep it glued to the road.
Inside is a cosy cosseting cockpit whose lower driving position boosts headroom compared with the outgoing Vantage.
ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE: WILL IT FIT IN MY GARAGE?
Price: from £120,900
First deliveries: Now
Style: Two-door coupe
Length: 4465 mm
Height: 1273 mm
Width (incl Mirror Caps): 2153 mm
Width (excl Mirror Caps): 1942 mm
Wheelbase: 2704 mm
Weight: 1530 kg (inclusive of lightweight options)
Weight Distribution: 50:50
Fuel tank: 73 litres
Average: 26.8 mpg
Urban: 19.7 mpg
Cruising: 34.3 mpg
C02: 245 g/km
Engine: 4.0 litre twin turbo V8
Power: 510PS / 503BHP
Gears: eight-speed automatic ZF transmission
Top speed: 195 mph
0-60mph: 3.5 seconds
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Tyres: 20″ Pirelli P Zero
There’s a useful shelf behind the two seats – handy for laying down your jacket or a small bag – but you can’t pack for a month away. For a sporty coupe the boot space is perfectly adequate, though.
In front of me I was confronted with a combination of rotary and toggle style controls chosen for their tactile and intuitive nature. The 8-speed automatic gearbox transmission buttons – ‘PRND’ – have been grouped into a triangular formation for ease of use and to cluster different functions together.
The In-Car Entertainment system is controlled and viewed via a centrally mounted 8-inch LCD screen and includes audio, Bluetooth, iPod, iPhone and USB playback and an integrated satellite navigation system.
Craftsmanship comes in the form of luxurious Alcantara and leather upholstery and high quality tactile natural materials. Personalisation options include forged alloy wheels sports seats and steering wheel, carbon fibre interior and exterior detailing, and a premium audio system.
Standard equipment includes keyless start/stop, tyre pressure monitoring, parking distance display, park assist and front and rear parking sensors.
Driver enjoyment and control is enhanced by a host of electronic aids including Dynamic Stability Control, anti-lock braking , and traction control. Speed-related electric power steering – with 2.4 turns lock-to-lock – offers keenly-felt responsiveness, precision and intuitive control.
Significantly, the Vantage is the first Aston Martin to be fitted with an Electronic Rear Differential or ‘E-Diff’ which is linked to the car’s electronic stability control system, so it can ‘understand’ the car’s behaviour and direct the engine’s power to the relevant wheel.
The aim is to make the car feel much more composed both in terms of its straight-line stability and its cornering performance.
I couldn’t fault it. It was on the tight bends of rural Portugal that this car came into its own.
It felt completely connected to the road and proved an engaging and exciting drive –like a carnivorous animal getting its teeth onto some real red meat.
The Vantage feels completely connected to the road and proved an engaging and exciting drive –like a carnivorous animal getting its teeth onto some real red meat
Inside is a feast of premium materials, lightweight carbon fibre and race-car like switches
Average fuel economy of 26.8 mpg and a CO2 figure of 245g/km won’t please the green lobby
The chassis is an evolution of the latest generation bonded aluminium structure first seen on the DB11, though some 70 per cent of the structure’s components are new for Vantage. New Pirelli P Zero tyres were developed specifically for new Vantage. Its 1530kg dry weight helps gives the car plenty of pulling power.
But average fuel economy of 26.8 mpg and CO2 figure of 245g/km won’t please the green lobby.
The Vantage name was first used in 1951 on a high-output engine option for the DB2, but was quickly established as a model in its own right. Highlights include the William Towns-designed V8 Vantage, the twin-supercharged V600 Le Mans and the much-loved V8 Vantage.
A seven speed manual gearbox is planned and bosses say there is room in the engine bay for a mighty V12 version which remains ‘an option’.
Aston Martin chief executive Dr Andy Palmer told me the two-door two-seater coupe was the most beautiful car he had worked on in his four decades in the motor industry and ‘the successor to a true sporting dynasty’ stretching back seven decades.
Aston Martin chief executive Dr Andy Palmer said the two-door two-seater coupe was the most beautiful car he had worked on in his four decades in the motor industry
The In-Car Entertainment system is controlled and viewed via a centrally mounted 8-inch LCD screen and includes audio, Bluetooth, iPod, iPhone and USB playback and an integrated satellite navigation system
Aston Martin appears to be toying with the idea of slotting a V12 engine into the front of the new Vantage at a later date
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