Meet the long-awaited, all-new, 2019 Aston Martin Vantage. It marks the first radical change for the model, both visually and dynamically, since the modern V8 Vantage arrived as a concept car at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003 and endured a lifespan 12 model years long with only incremental changes.
To drive the old Vantage was to know a rewarding road machine, even as its major systems fell a generation behind those of better-funded competitors. It was part sports car, part GT. It was supple, poised, and visceral, with meaty, tactile steering, a classically handsome profile, and lovely noises from both the V-8 and V-12 engines.
Sure, there was plenty to improve upon, like dodgy ergonomics and a clonky automatic box that always seemed a step behind the engine’s torque curve. Still, the new 2019 Vantage, while a long time coming, has some oversized shoes to fill.
It also arrives in a new business environment. Aston Martin is a different company now than it was a decade and a half ago. It’s independent, capitalized, and is in the midst of CEO Andy Palmer’s “Second Century Plan.” That includes replacing every sports car in its current range—DB11, Vantage, and Vanquish—by 2019. After a century of struggle, Aston may finally have Porsche, Bentley, and Ferrari square in its sights. And this new V-8-powered sports car is a key part of the program.
The Vantage comes at the end of a sweeping development process, encompassing a new bonded-aluminum platform introduced with the DB11 and a whole batch of design and performance tuning. The new Vantage is more stylistically daring than the car it replaces, with cues from both the James Bond-spec DB10 concept and the DB11 production car.
More than that, the new Vantage is set to be sharper than the previous model, with a performance envelope to match the best of its sports-car competitors while leaving a margin for an even more hardcore variant.
The Drive got a sneak preview of the new Vantage earlier this year at the Aston Martin headquarters in Gaydon, Great Britain. The display car was painted in Lime Essence, a predatory “communication color” in nature, design director Miles Nurnberger said, laying down a conceptual marker for the new Vantage.
With a Aston-claimed zero-to-60 time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 195 mph, the base Vantage is at least within striking range of a new Porsche 911 Carrera GTS—and at a starting price of $149,995, it’s not far off from the Porsche’s take-home price, either.
The powertrain layout is familiar: a front mid-mounted engine connected to a rear transaxle via carbon-fiber propshaft. That’s an AMG-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 503 horsepower, the same as the DB11 V8, but with seven more pounds-feet of torque for a peak of 505.
That’s matched to the excellent eight-speed ZF automatic transaxle running bespoke software calibration, and the latest electronic rear differential with torque vectoring. (It’s the first Aston Martin to get a torque-vectoring e-diff.) A seven-speed manual version will arrive within a year’s time.
The suspension comprises double A-arms in front, but like the DB11, a new multilink setup replaces the old Vantage’s rear wishbones. Adaptive dampers—the newest-gen Bilstein DampTronic “skyhook” dual-valve, continuously variable shocks—are mapped to Sport, Sport Plus, and Track settings.
Those three modes also jack up the throttle map, quicken shifts, and sharpen the electric power steering, already lickity-split with a 13.09:1 ratio. The rear subframe gets solid mounts, not squishy bushings, for rigidity, signifying Aston’s objective to give even the base Vantage a harder edge than its upline GT cars.
Aston’s head of vehicle tuning (a.k.a “vehicle attribute engineering”) Matt Becker says the amount of roll per lateral G, or roll sensitivity, has been reduced significantly from the previous Vantage. The tires are fat, but not exceedingly so, with Pirelli P Zero 255/40/20s in front and 295/35/20s at the rear.
The brakes are two-piece, ventilated, cast-iron discs (400 mm) clamped down by six-piston calipers at the front and ventilated 360mm discs with four-piston calipers at the rear, along with an uprated master cylinder and booster commensurate with the new car’s more hardcore tune.
In fact, in discussing the new Vantage at the company’s HQ, Aston reps were encouragingly forthright about exactly how hardcore the new Vantage will be, referring to road noise, ride quality, and other trade-offs made to enhance transient response and driver engagement.
No doubt, the effort to recast the new Vantage as a sports car weighed heavily on the design team. Using metaphors from the animal kingdom, design director Nurnberger spins an elaborate backstory for the new Vantage’s styling methodology. The car has the “mentality of a hunter,” he says, whose shark-like nose aids in its predatory mission, “sniffing” for its “prey.” The headlamps are set into the hood plane, reducing frontal area, and heightening the “shark-eyed” look.
Short overhangs at the front and rear signal this is, first of all, a Vantage. Wide haunches echo the previous car’s bulldog stance. From the side, the view is a sculpted take on the classical GT form, with flowing, “gill-like” channels that direct air flowing from the forward wheel ducts along the doors, and a sharper inward angle at the nose.
Get closer, and you’ll notice how many more facets divide the space between the A- and B-pillars, and how few traditional curves actually define the Vantage’s shape.
From the rear three-quarter view, the deck lid and complex diffuser add visual interest to the typical confluence of fastback lines. Shockingly, rotate to the front three-quarter angle and the shape changes utterly. Where typical curvature over the quarter panel might draw the eye far out toward the rear deck, a straight bone line across the top of the rear wheel arches shroud the end of the roofline, which plunges dramatically out of view.
The result is a complete change in visual character. It’s a massively more challenging design study than the previous car was.
Aerodynamic elements dominate the new Vantage’s design. The front splitter channels underbody airflow through system of fences that move the air to various cooling duties, while cleaning the airflow ahead of the rear diffuser. The byzantine rear diffuser directs low-pressure air out through the center, preventing turbulence off the rear wheels. Between the side gills and rear deck lid, the Vantage generates what the company describes as a “significant level of downforce.”
Equally radical changes appear on the inside. The seating position feels a bit lower, the cockpit more snug and intuitive. The venerable waterfall center console is gone, in favor of a more ergonomically useful set of switchgear. The high console that once required an awkward elbow angle to manipulate the shifter has been axed as well, which will matter more when the manual version arrives.
Leather knee pads for bracing in corners are a nice touch. The Vantage also gets an adequate slate of infotainment features, including a centrally mounted 8.0-inch LCD screen for the Aston Martin Audio System, Bluetooth and USB audio, sat nav, and even wi-fi.
If all goes as promised, we’re in for a Vantage that’s more profoundly agile, more rigid, more potent, and more competitive than its forebear, while leaving room for the inevitable “even more hardcore” version to make an appearance in due time. And then, there’s the effect all this will have on Aston’s competition car, which we’ll see soon as well. The next few years in Gaydon should be quite entertaining.