Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition review: Has Aston made a 911 GT3 rival?
Join us on road and track for a test of Tobias Moers' first Aston product
Tobias Moers is, by all accounts, an intimidating German man with a history of extracting huge success from performance car businesses. After all, he's the man who spent seven years at the helm of AMG, turning it into the sales and power, erm, powerhouse it is today.
One of his first actions on joining Aston Martin as CEO in the summer of 2020 was to make a track-focused Vantage. And here it is: the Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition.
Watch the video below to see what it's like on road and track (including a dubiously claimed overtake on a Valkyrie), and read on to discover why it's the most convincing Aston in years.
What is it?
It's more than just an F1-badged Vantage. Sure, it's designed to capitalise on Aston supplying safety cars for some of the 2021 race calendar – but it's much more than a badge exercise, and it's not a limited edition – this is a halo car for the Vantage range.
And it has its sights set firmly on the track. Available as a roadster or coupe, the F1 Edition has a stiffened chassis, with firmer springs at the back, bigger wheels and stickier tyres. You also get loads of downforce addenda, including funky dive planes on the front corners and a huge diffuser, as well as a not-so-subtle rear wing which neatly divides the rear-mirror view in two.
Power from the 4.0-litre turbo V8 is up 25hp to 535hp, torque is the same at 685Nm and it's all delivered through an automatic gearbox which has new, snappier shifts in the sportier modes.
How does it drive on the road?
A bigger rear diffuser and a massive wing give the F1 Edition real presence
It only takes half a mile of road driving to fathom that the F1 Edition is a far more composed machine than its regular brother. The steering feels more direct, and the front tyres now feel like a friendly pair of sticky mates you can lean on. The chassis also copes better with the V8's torque – the rear tyres find far more grip, meaning you can hammer out of corners at great speed, without the sense the rear tyres are skipping about.
Don't go thinking, however, that Aston's ruined the Vantage's road manners. The F1 Edition is still perfectly comfy with the steering-wheel-mounted suspension button set to comfort, yet it feels firmer than ever when set to track mode. Speaking of tracks…
What's it like on track?
We had unlimited time (but only one set of tyres… and we had to do more road driving) on Aston Martin's Stowe circuit – the smaller, separate loop of track nestled inside Silverstone's iconic GP layout. The overriding feeling you get from the F1 Edition is one of complete confidence, and of a car that's friendly to drive quickly. With the ESC set to track mode you get some small slides out of corners, with the electronics still keeping a hand on your shoulder to avoid any embarrasment. In the regular road stability control mode, you are hampered on corner exit simply because the power gets cut too early.
The cabin's controls are still confusing from a usability point of view – but it feels posh enough
The Vantage's super-fast steering comes into its own on track, allowing you to tackle tight chicanes without removing your hands from the almost-square steering wheel, and it also makes gathering up slides as easy as pie.
Pick up the pace and the F1 Edition Vantage responds with a big sh*t-eating grin on its face. Enter a corner hard on the optional £7,500 carbon ceramic brakes and it rotates neatly into the apex. From there you can either measure out the power to maximise grip and accelerate hard out of the corner, or press a bit harder with your right foot and slide onto the next straight with a bit of opposite lock on. Whichever you choose, it's a hilarious experience, accompanied by one of the best turbocharged engine notes in the business.
What about the rest of it?
The F1 Edition isn't a limited edition – it's a regular production model sitting at the top of the Vantage range
Part of Aston Martin's plan for the next few years includes bringing the Vantage's interior up to more modern standards in terms of layout and connectivity – and the F1 Edition has sadly come too early to receive much improvement in these areas. There's still a mess of buttons on the dash that take some learning, and the infotainment system was phased out by Mercedes some four years ago now, and it feels old. The material quality is largely good though, and you get an F1 Edition plaque by the gear select buttons on the centre console, as well as lurid green stripes on the seats and upholstery.
Should I buy one?
The Vantage F1 Edition's available in a new racing green – it's a gorgeous matt shade
At £142,000, the Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition is not cheap. It does, however, give you a viable alternative to the likes of the Porsche 911 GT3, insofar that it's a brilliant road car yet also incredibly capable on track. We're not sure it has quite as many layers of on-the-limit entertainment to discover as the Porsche, but it's still an incredibly fun, capable car, backed by stunning looks and a soundtrack to die for. It's the car the Vantage always should've been.