What is it that truly makes us human? Splayed out on the couch, coffee mug in hand, watching Will Smith’s dystopian thriller,’I, Robot’ , it was this exact question that sprung to mind. Yes, I realise this is an unusually deep, philosophical start however the question itself has been nagging me for weeks now, and I thought it only appropriate to translate the lingering thoughts held hostage inside this peculiar brain of mine into words.
So what is it underneath that truly unites us ‘homo sapiens’, that distinguishes us from say, artificial intelligence or the chimpanzees of Uganda. After all, it has been said that anatomically we share around 96% of our DNA code with our ape associates. And yet, that last 4% makes such a remarkable difference, you can’t help but wonder if we’re related at all.
And so to Aston Martin’s new Vantage. Underneath it’s stunning sheetmetal it shares many of its key components, including its heart, with Mercedes-AMG’s GT S. Glance at the spec sheets and you may be more than a little surprised to discover that both cars are startlingly similar. Both share the same 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8’s, both have top speeds in excess of 300km/h, both are able to rush from 0-100km/h in under 4 seconds and both are rear-wheel drive as God intended. To all extents and purposes they are just as fast as each other. Identical though? No. Nowhere near it.
Visually at least, the two familial rivals couldn’t be more different. With the addition of the new ‘Panamerica’ grille, the latest iteration of the GT S looks significantly more aggressive than when it first burst onto the sports-car scene in 2014. That said, aside from the snarling face the rest of GT S’s body is, for an AMG at least, surprisingly restrained. Restrained but not bland. With a striking silhouette and one of the most distinctive rear-ends on the market the GT S is a ravishing piece of automotive design, however it doesn’t assault the retinas like the Vantage does.
Pulled taut like a pair of budgie smugglers, the sinewy flesh of the Vantage hints at the bulging beast within. Think, Bruce Banner mid Hulk-transformation and you’re not far off. With pinched headlights, swelled wheel-arches and a rear-end sharper than a swiss-army knife the Vantage is certainly the more aggressive, characterful design of the two. Predatory. The last model was one of the most beautiful sports cars ever. This new one is not. No, it’s far too aggressive to be described in such a way. Just a glance at the imposing flanks is enough to stir trepidation within even the most valiant of hearts.
Aston have given the Vantage a taste for blood. Punch the throttle and a murderous roar erupts from the twin tailpipes. From the outset, you assume the GT S, being a product of mental AMG, to be the more unhinged of the pair. However further inspection reveals otherwise. The Merc’s engine note is surprisingly subdued compared to the overtly ostentatious Vantage. Where the Merc growls and snarls, the Vantage roars like a lion that’s stubbed its toe. Of course, as you’d expect, both produce similar sounds (after all, they do share the same engine) however the overly sensitive Vantage bellows at even the slightest provocation. Aston’s so called ‘Sport Plus’ mode, which opens the exhaust flaps is misleading. ‘Pissed-off-neighbours mode’ suits it much better, if less eloquently.
Plant yourself in the driver seat of the Aston and your pulse increases exponentially. Exciting is one way to describe the dash, juvenile is another. Buttons aplenty arranged schizophrenically, ET style air-outlets which protrude around half a mere out of the dash and some odd-looking paddles complete the infantile appearance. You get the sense that in a few years, it’s going to look quite dated indeed. Conversely slipping into the Merc is like the warm embrace of a friend of a long lost friend- instantly recognisable and comforting. The interior has remained virtually unchanged over the past 4 years, however it’s lost none of its appeal.
When originally planning this, I initially described the Merc as the “wild one”, but here’s the thing, in comparison to the Vantage, it just isn’t. The GT S, unlike its GT C and GT R big brothers, really is quite mature. It carries itself a little too seriously. In stark contrast, the Vantage feels more of an occasion. At first glance, you get that if it could, the Vantage would have no hesitation in ripping your head off. Get to know it, and it’s beguiling. There’s a subconscious aggression underlying the Vantage experience, but for the most part, it’s a perfectly respectable citizen. Once again, much like Bruce Banner. Except British. While the GT S straddles the sports/grand-tourer divide almost perfectly I can’t help but be drawn by the Aston. Every rational part of my brain is screaming, demanding me to pick the Mercedes, but there’s just something intangible about the Vantage that draws me in.
As goes for humans in relation to robots or animals, there is a spirit, an ethereal quality instilled within the Aston that elevates it over its AMG brethren. Objectively, the Merc is the better car, but you never bond with it like you do the Vantage. It’s lacking that intrinsic pneuma that makes the Vantage the more special occasion. It’s for this reason precisely why we’d choose the Vantage every time.
Don’t get me wrong, I like apes and SIRI is entertaining, but I’d much rather spend my time with humans. Sure, they’ve got their idiosyncrasies, but they’re a far more interesting bunch.
And I think I’ve worked out what makes us, us.
Photography Credit: Manufacturers