By Jonathan Crouch
Vantage. An evocative name for a magnificent bloodline of thoroughbred sports cars. For seven decades, the heartbeat of Aston Martin's purest models, the Vantage nameplate has been worn by some of its most memorable designs - and this 4.0-litre V8 version launched in 2018 was another of them. If you think you know what an Aston is and can be - and you haven't tried this modern-era Vantage, then you might need to think again. As with the brand's other models, you might still buy it because of the way it looks or because it makes you feel like James Bond. We think though, that you'll simply want one because it's a very, very good sports car.
5-door GT [4.0 V8]
If you can't afford that top end exotic supercar, Aston Martin's post-2018-era generation Vantage could be the next best thing. In fact, it may even be better. And today we're going to find out why.
There was a time late in the last century, when 'Aston Martin' meant something very different. An iconic British brand, to be sure, but a maker of hand built sports cars aimed at older buyers romanced by name and heritage in the face of compelling evidence that German and Italian rivals were better made and finer to drive. The gorgeous DB11 of 2016 was a sign that the future might be different, but it was still an old-style GT, rather than an out-and-out sportscar, the kind of design still most likely to appeal to old school Aston enthusiasts. A slightly smaller model with a younger, more dynamic orientation was needed. A car that someone with little prior interest in the brand might buy. A car you could seriously choose over a top Porsche 911 or a Mercedes-AMG GT. A car like this one, the new generation version of Aston Martin Vantage.
For seven decades, the Vantage nameplate has been the heartbeat of some of Aston Martin's purest models and was first used in 1951 on a high-output engine option for the DB2. The Vantage quickly became a model in its own right, history highlights including the William Towns-designed V8 Vantage of 1977 and a spectacular twin-supercharged V600 Le Mans model. Most familiar in the heritage line for potential customers though, will be the car this one replaced, the V8 Vantage first launched in 2005. That was the first modern-era Aston to really catch the attention of the company's German and Italian rivals, being relatively light, fast on its feet and desirably styled in both its coupe and Roadster guises. But both the V8 and V12 versions sounded faster than they actually were, build quality was patchy and the old fashioned VH chassis precluded the car from being able to match its competitors on track.
Astons never have been able to do that; turn up to a track day in one and you'll be almost a celebrity, so rarely is the brand usually represented. But this car, we were told, would be different. Modelled unapologetically on a Porsche 911 and sharing its V8 twin turbo engine with a Mercedes-AMG GT, it proved to be wilfully different from the brand's other models, not only in the way it looked but also in the way it handled. It was the most serious driver's car the company had ever made. From launch, there were questions though. This car tipped the scales slightly heavier than its 911 arch-rival. Plus, being over 20% more expensive than the outgoing Vantage, this model no longer had the significant price advantage over its immediate competitors that its predecessor enjoyed. Commentators like us also wondered whether customers should care that its engineering borrowed so much from directly competing class contenders. And asked, more importantly, whether this was the car to save Aston Martin. History might judge it exactly in that light. Let's check out the used proposition offered by early 2018-2020 versions of this rejuvenated 4.0-litre V8 Vantage.
What You Get
This Vantage makes a statement, particularly at the front end which is dominated by the lowest-sited functioning grille every to have been used on one of the company's cars - and surely also one of the largest. In profile, you're reminded again that this new-era Vantage shares nothing but its name with its predecessor. It doesn't share much with its DB11 showroom stablemate either, apart from the all-aluminium chassis it rides upon - and even here, 70% of the structural components are different in this model. Our favourite Vantage point though, is at the rear, which is dominated by this pencil-thin LED lighting strip and an aggressively-angled lower diffuser, which helps to generate 50kgs more downforce than the previous model could offer.
There's much to like once inside. It's a cockpit that shrinks round you far more than it does in a DB11 - as you'd expect it might given this Vantage's 101mm reduction in wheelbase. You sit 10mm lower than you did in the previous model - which helps with the immersive feel - and grasp a flat-bottomed race-style stitched wheel, complete with huge aluminium paddle-shifters. Through it, you view a single-dial instrument binnacle, the colours of which change depending on drive and suspension mode selections made respectively via tabs on the right and left wheel spokes. An 8-inch Mercedes-sourced infotainment screen might look like an iPad hammered into the dash, but it works well enough and the fit and finish just about meets the exclusive standard required of an exotic super-sports car of this price.
The triangular layout of the transmission buttons works well and there are lovely touches like the beautifully-crafted footwell kneepads and the saddle-leather door pulls. Storage space is at a bit of a premium, but you can at least reach back to this boot shelf, which tries to compensate for the lack of the useful little rear pews you'd get in a DB11 or (perhaps more pertinently) in a rival Porsche 911.
That 911 would give you boot space at both ends of the car; you don't get that here, but the 350-litre luggage area capacity is vastly better than you'd get from, say a rival Audi R8 or McLaren 540C from this era. You're still going to have to pack with squashy bags rather than big suitcases but there's enough room here to make trans-Continental GT motoring a far more realistic option.
What You Pay
If you're looking at a typical '20-plate version of this 4.0-litre V8 Vantage model in coupe form, you're looking at starting prices beginning from around £89,200 (around £101,200 retail), rising to around £98,000 (£110,000 retail) for a late '21-plate car. The Vantage Roadster prices from around £97,500 (around £109,500 retail) on a '20-plate, with values rising to around £107,100 (around £120,000 retail) for a '21-plate model. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.
What to Look For
This post-18-era Vantage was much better built than its predecessors, but you still need to be careful - and insist on a fully stamped-up service history. You don't expect a hand-crafted car of this kind to be faultless as it ages - and the Vantage very definitely isn't. If you want something closer to perfection in this segment, buy something German.
Based on our ownership survey, here's some things to look out for when perusing used examples. Check the bodywork carefully, particularly the panel edges as the aluminium can bubble underneath the paint finish. It's worth getting a specialist inspection of the underside of the car as the protective panels fitted have to be taken off to check the condition of the underbody. Make sure you inspect the boot and the cabin carefully for damage to the trim and the leather. Otherwise, it's just the usual things - like scuff and scratches in the huge, expensive wheels.
(approx based on a 2020 Vantage Coupe ex VAT - Scuderia Car Parts) A windscreen for the Coupe costs around £1,256. A wind deflector for the Roadster costs £566. A front bumper is in the £1,667-£1,959 bracket. A headlamp costs in the £1,430-£1,516 bracket. A battery costs £240. A clutch plate costs £1,300.
On the Road
You'll want this Vantage to be fast: it is. The intoxicating soundtrack and the exhilarating roar under hard acceleration makes this car feel supercar quick; in fact, the performance figures from the 510PS Mercedes-AMG-sourced V8 wouldn't have been out of place in a fully-fledged supercar just a few years back. Thanks to a thumping 685Nm of torque (developed from just 2,000rpm), 62mph from rest can flash by in just 3.6s if you're quick with the deliciously tactile aluminium gearshift paddles. And, for brave or foolhardy owners who've a runway, a racetrack or a de-restricted autobahn to hand, maximum velocity is reached at 195mph. The steering could use a touch more feel 'in extremis' but otherwise it's brilliantly feelsome and is one of the parameters you can alter to suit your preferences via the 'Sport' and 'Sport+' and 'Track' settings that apply both to the driving mode system and the Skyhook adaptive dampers. If you're interested, the efficiency stats are 26.8mpg on the combined cycle and 245g/km of CO2.
Which is where we could leave things if this were any other Aston. But it isn't. Let's be clear: this is nothing like any of the brand's models we've ever tested before in the way it changes direction and scythes from bend to bend. A key reason why lies with the installation of an Electronic Rear Differential that can understand the car's behaviour and react accordingly to direct the engine's power to the relevant wheel. There's also tremendous traction from the bespoke Pirelli P Zero tyres, perfect 50:50 weight distribution, a vast improvement in the body's torsional stiffness and an impressively powerful braking system. The result of all this was billed as the first Aston you'd really want to take on a race circuit. Own this car and it would be criminal not to even at least try a track day in it. Of course in creating the car this way, Aston made it less effective at the things an Aston is usually very good at; wafting you long distances at very high speeds and leaving you fresh and almost rejuvenated at the end of it. But the Vantage doesn't do badly in this respect, with a reasonably supple ride for commuting duties; if you want to do better, buy a DB11. But that car isn't the game-changer in terms of drive dynamics that this one is. For us, it's the best Aston ever made.
Without the Vantage, it's doubtful whether Aston Martin would be the company that it is today. Without this post-'18-era V8 Vantage, it's doubtful whether the brand could ever achieve the goals it has for tomorrow. It isn't the junior GT sportscar its predecessor was, so approach it expecting a scaled-down DB11 and you'll be in for a shock. For us though, that's a good thing. At last with this model, the company produced a really engaging driver's car and a properly circuit-tuned machine.
There's something rather soulless about the clinical perfection of a rival Mercedes or Porsche that you just don't get here. And it's one of the reasons why you'll find a Vantage simply overflowing with the kind of special feel you'll want in the sports car you've dreamed of owning all your life. More sophisticated than a Mercedes-AMG GT, more exotic than a Porsche 911, it's brilliant and it's British. Enough said.