2020 Aston Martin Vantage: The Distinguished Sportscar.
More nimble than a DBS, with more manageable power, the "entry" Aston is the right Aston.
I stand by my opinion that the last generation Aston Martin Vantage is one of the best looking GT cars ever produced, and that it will never age at all. The new generation of Aston's best selling model introduced a much more stylized package inside and out, but still looks the business, and packs a reliable and punchy turbocharged powerplant supplied by Mercedes-AMG.
When I tested the bigger, badder DBS Superleggera last fall, I loved the looks, disliked how tiny the trunk was, and thought it was fantastic on twisty roads, but packing over 700 horsepower meant you were dancing on a knife's edge if you tried to employ all of them. As a smaller, less powerful car than the DBS, the Vantage looks like a more reasonable package to play with. At this size and price point, the Aston picks a fight with Mercedes-AMG's GT, Porsche's 911 GT3, and Jaguar F-Type SVR.
The Key Stats
Sharing a slightly less powerful version of the 4.0-liter hot-inside-V turbo V8 shared with the Mercedes-AMG GT C I road trip tested last year, the Vantage kicks out 503 horsepower and 505 lb-ft (685 Nm) of torque. Hooked up to a rear-mid-mounted eight-speed automatic with an electronic limited-slip differential and dynamic torque vectoring, the Aston Martin Vantage can sprint from 0-60 MPH in 3.6 seconds, hit 100 MPH just four seconds later, and peak at a top track speed of 195 MPH.
Bust out the measuring tape and you'll find the Vantage has an overall length of 175.8 inches, stands 76.5 inches wide, 50.1 inches tall, and a 106.4-inch wheelbase. The overall length is just shorter than the AMG GT C I tested, but the Vantage has a 2-inch longer wheelbase, and the cabin definitely feels roomier in the Aston. With a curb weight of just over 3,600 pounds (1,632 kg), the Vantage isn't terribly light, but there's a ton of equipment and leather packed into it. At a base price of $152,995, this sparkling Lunar White tester ticked a bunch of option boxes, and has a total MSRP of $187,229.
Things That Stand Out
With perfect GT proportions, this Aston flexes a swept profile with a low roof, short overhangs, and a strong belt line. Fascia is sexy yet fierce, with a seriously wide stance. The optional mesh grille looks fantastic too. This design language for Aston Martin is squarely aimed at younger buyers than it typically focuses on, and I like the more modern look. Lines flow nicely around the body, and nothing has an ill-fitting edge. I couldn't find a bad shooting angle either. Everywhere I went around Los Angeles, I had plenty of admirers pop by to pay respect, and admire the eye candy before them.
When you step inside, the Vantage is better designed than the DBS, with subtle yet sporty details in the stitching and perforations. I also love the look of the black, white, and red interior theme. Slip into the seat, and everything just fits perfectly around you. While the belt line is high, and you sit low in the cabin, the overall cockpit design makes you feel like you're in a proper sports car. Aston's gauge cluster isn't wonderful, as it's a bit small and plain looking, but I appreciate the center tachometer, with the digital speed reading smacked dead center.
Not Too Hot
Aston Martin's deal with Mercedes-AMG allows use of Affalterbach's brilliant V8 engine, but also means Aston gets an infotainment setup that is forced to be one generation behind the German offering when the car goes into development. This old setup is not the most intuitive, and because of its age, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto didn't exist yet.
Your choice is either Bluetooth or an auxiliary mode streamed in if you like Spotify, and you're using an awful navigation system to get around. If there was a better place to stick my iPhone, this would have been easy to work around, but Aston didn't think its drivers would want to put their phones anywhere other than locked inside the center armrest when plugged in.
While the controls for the transmission, climate control, navigation, and audio have a cool looking button layout in the center console, using them is far from easy, and the touchpad and puck infotainment combination isn't stellar. I am glad I found a sweet spot for all my preferences early on the first day, so I didn't have to mess with this setup much.
Civilized In The City
With more of a sportscar feel than a grand tourer, the Aston Martin Vantage is surprisingly easy to drive around a congested city like Los Angeles. Because of its good proportions and sharp steering, it's easy to park, and even with a swept roofline, I didn't feel like I couldn't see around the car's exterior.
The suspension is on the firm side, and I wish the "sport" suspension setting wasn't the default, as any bumps on city streets will be strongly felt. Softer damping would be nice, considering sport is the most compliant suspension setting available. EPA fuel economy estimates are 18/24/20 city/highway/combined, and due to my sportier use of the car, I barely hit 18 MPGs during my week with the Vantage.
Two occupants are comfortable in the Vantage. With heating and ventilation, the plush leather seats fit nicely, and have a healthy amount of support along your torso and thighs. While an unconventional shape, the squared steering wheel makes it easy to get in and out of the Vantage, while fitting my hands perfectly. Accidentally scrolling the rolling wheel adjustments on either side of the spokes is easier than I prefer, so keep your thumbs tucked behind at 9 and 3 if you want to get forceful with your steering inputs.
If you take the Vantage on a road trip, you'll be surprised how big the boot is, with a couple divided sections as you move toward the cabin for better securing smaller bags. I dig the small shelf just behind the seats, which neatly held my sweater, camera, and big reusable water bottle in place.
One More Day Up In The Canyons
While some buyers chose the Aston Martin for ordinary driving and looking cool in the valet line, I'm one who appreciates that the Vantage is as much of a sportscar as it is a grand tourer. In the Angeles National Forest, the little Aston got plenty of exercise. Getting the Vantage dialed in only takes a couple clicks on the steering wheel-mounted controls for the suspension and powertrain settings, with Sport, Sport+, and Track as defaults. There's no individual option available, so I put the engine and transmission in track, and kept the suspension in sport.
Engine response is sharp, and unlike the AMG GT, Aston's engineers gave the exhaust tone a throaty bark, with pleasant crackles when you roll off the throttle. When you stand on the gas, the hot-inside-v turbos spool up quickly, giving you a good shove ahead. Managing the boost and power delivery can be tricky when you're gunning out of a bend, so use a more gradual application to get the best and most controllable results. If you've got a long stretch of pavement ahead of you, you'll love how quickly the Vantage bolts from reasonable to criminal speeds, with a smooth wave of torque pulling you along.
Initially the Vantage feels light on its feet, with the suspension being firm, but I quickly appreciate how responsive the ride is. A quick adjustment to the somewhat light steering feel is easy, and the Aston shines in faster corners. The Vantage's long wheelbase helps keep oversteer in check, and stuffing the transmission just ahead of the rear axle helps manage the weight distribution. As the suspension is stiff by default, you can easily upset the balance if you hit a bump mid-corner, but be smart with your steering and throttle work to keep the car from losing control.
Pirelli P-Zero rubber is wrapped around the 20-inch forged wheels, and handles above average drivers' abilities nicely. My tester didn't get the optional carbon ceramic brakes, which not only scrub off speed without any fade, but drop a bunch of unsprung weight. The steel rotors are well ventilated and slotted, and only got hot when I put the Vantage through an hour-long mostly downhill session during a hot day in the Angeles National Forest. I spent a full day up there on one of my testing days, making a couple stops to take photos, eat a snack, and let the car cool off, and I didn't feel taxed or beaten at all. The Vantage is really comfortable if you want to put in a long day of sporty driving in the canyons, and still make a long drive home.
A More Than Competent Sportscar
Aston Martin has blessed the car market with a balance between sportscar and grand tourer in the Vantage for several years, and this new generation leans more toward the sportscar category. In no way is that a complaint, as the DB11 (and its V8 option) can be more suited to GT tastes. If you want even more performance focus from Aston Martin, there's the limited-run AMR variant, and a 7-speed manual dogleg gearbox option.
Finding itself competing with the AMG GT and 911 GT3, the Vantage offers stellar looks with strong performance on any road, but is still civilized enough for daily duty. If you want a car that's good looking, sporty, comfortable, and not too exotic in terms of styling and price, the Vantage is a good choice.
I never shoot the boring frame most people snap on Lower Grand.
Unnecessary extra name badging.