Few sports cars can command the same attention and allure as an Aston Martin.
Some 56 years after Sean Connery drove a DB5 in the James Bond film Goldfinger, the brand is still synonymous with the suave, debonair double agent. Of the many sports cars and supercars I was fortunate enough to pilot this year, the 2020 Aston Martin Vantage drew perhaps the most excitement and attention – aside from the outrageous Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, which also happened to cost nearly three times as much and was outfitted in bright purple paint.
More than just a styling exercise, Aston Martin has gone to great lengths to ensure that the Vantage’s driving dynamics match its sleek, exotic facade. There is only a small list of revisions for the 2020, while an AMR edition will be available in short supply, and carbon-ceramic brakes are now offered to reduce fade and better operate under higher temperatures.
Aston Martin has long been known for its stirring and sophisticated design language. The new Vantage continues that tradition by somehow managing to be simultaneously aggressive yet elegant. Its sculpted, athletic lines walk a tightrope act, balancing between form and function. From its massive, gaping mouth designed to provide robust amounts of air to keep things cool, across its bulging rear haunches to the unobstructed rear diffuser, it means business.
The list of optional styling equipment is long, and so is the number on the price tag. The Diavola Red paint is $6,100, as are the gloss black 20-inch wheels. Black exterior accents and brake calipers add an extra $9,100 to the bottom line. Interior contrast stitching, logo embroidery, and colour options can all be chosen to suit your taste and budget. Essentially, if you have the money, Aston Martin will satisfy your requests.
Autonomous driving in any form isn’t exactly what the Vantage is about, so there aren’t any active safety technology options available. A couple of seatbelts, airbags, and anti-lock brakes are about all you get; however, a 360-degree camera system and blind-spot monitoring are available as options.
Compared to an SUV or minivan, the Vantage may seem impractical. But in the realm of exotic performance coupes, it offers an adequate level of practicality. The rear hatch opens to exhibit a cavernous compartment that is able to easily accommodate more than you’d need for a trip to the golf course or a weekend getaway for two. It almost makes up for the fact that there’s no glovebox and the centre console only offers enough space to fit a smartphone and keys.
User Friendliness: 6.5/10
British vehicles have a reputation for nonconformity, so a few quirks were not unexpected or overly aggravating, but they were evident. Over the last 15 years of driving and reviewing vehicles of all kinds, there are only two that have required me to reference the owner’s manual for simple operations – this Vantage is one of them. I had to consult its guidance not once, but twice. Those familiar with Aston Martins will laugh or jeer, but for the uninitiated some tasks seem unintuitive. For instance, the hood release handle is under the dash on the passenger side, and the secondary latches weren’t easy to find, either.
The next unsuccessful feat was attempting to disengage traction control, as simply pushing the button accomplished nothing. The manual advised how to complete this operation, which required me to hold it down for as long as five seconds. [In fairness to Aston Martin, plenty of other automakers require the same prolonged press-and-hold. – Ed.]
Now I know: In addition to its 4.0L V8 powerplant, Aston Martin also chose to source its infotainment system from Mercedes-Benz. If you’ve used the brand’s interface recently, the Aston integration will feel familiar. Maybe it’s because I’m not British – or German, for that matter – but for the life of me I couldn’t get the voice-activation function to properly set my destination in the GPS. Operating the system manually, however, was simple and easy.
When purchasing a vehicle in this upper echelon, one may be forgiven for expecting to be overwhelmed with technologically advanced trickery, gadgets, and doodads, but the Vantage is a driver’s car. You’ll be treated to heated and ventilated seats, of course, and be privy to such features to which you’ve become accustomed such as Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and GPS navigation. Offering additional extraneous frivolities would only serve to add weight or dilute the driving experience, however.
Under the clamshell hood resides a twin-turbocharged 4.0L V8 supplied by the good folks at Mercedes-AMG, which can be paired with either a seven-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. My tester was equipped with the latter, which is less engaging to drive and weighs substantially more. Still, gear changes are activated faster than the blink of an eye through the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The 100 km/h mark on the digital speedometer can be seen in 3.4 seconds from a standstill.
As is tradition, the final assembly and inspection for this particular motor was provided by a gentleman by the name of Harrison Bluck, as noted on a plaque atop the engine cover. Performance is rated at 503 hp as the Aston Martin DB11 V8, to go with 503 tire-shredding lb-ft of torque, which comes in as low as 2,000 rpm.
While Mercedes-AMG knows quite a bit about building engines, the persistent check-engine light does lead me to question the finer points of the collaboration. As it turns out, a fellow auto scribe picked up a DB11 at the same time I was getting a walkaround for the Vantage and he experienced the same issue. Different car, different circumstances, same problem. [Well, they are British cars after all, Dustin. – Ed.]
The availability of sport, sport+, and track driving modes and yet no specific option for comfort should tell you something about where this car’s intentions lie. The Vantage isn’t as supple as, say, an Audi R8, but it isn’t without its creature comforts. Heated and ventilated power seats serve to ensure the proper temperate and seating position, while they’re bolstered enough to be supportive without being confining or restrictive to those with larger waistlines. The well-insulated cabin feels like a cockpit without being intrusive. It’s also easier to get into and out of than some sports cars in its class.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
The Vantage’s exterior design language provides a hint at what is to come once behind the wheel, as it feels equally brash and refined. Sliding into its supportive buckets and pushing the starter button, the engine thunders to life before settling into a throaty, menacing idle. Piloting with soft, gentle inputs, it exhibits rather sedate road manners; its suspension is firm but compliant and accommodating on most surfaces. Apply the throttle with any sort of enthusiasm, however, and you’ll find yourself hastily propelled forward amid a raucous symphony of scorching high-performance Pirelli P Zero rubber and twin turbocharged V8 ferocity through the quad exhaust.
Rather than attempting to gauge this Aston’s performance prowess in the city by dodging potholes and sitting in stop-and-go traffic, I opted to escape to cottage country. The roads in and around Ontario’s Muskoka region provided an excellent testbed to evaluate the Vantage’s driving dynamics under a variety of conditions. Intuitive and well balanced, its performance is exceptional but predictable, particularly without all-wheel drive. The amount of grip it held in the corners felt nothing short of astonishing, yet a decisive stab of the right foot results in the back end stepping out and back with ease. It makes for a very engaging and enjoyable experience.
Fuel Economy: 6.5/10
I can’t foresee the amount of premium fuel it consumes being a deterrent to someone purchasing an Aston Martin, but as the saying goes, “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) lists fuel consumption ratings of 13.1 L/100 km in the city and 9.6 on the highway, resulting in a combined 11.5 L/100 km for the automatic-equipped version. Ticking the box for the seven-speed manual results in those numbers jumping to 16.7, 11.2, and 14.2, respectively. To put that into perspective, the annual cost estimates are $3,335 versus $4,118.
The as-tested MSRP of this particular tester is $221,409 before the government takes its cut. Given the starting MSRP of $175,944, I certainly don’t think anyone will bat an eye at personalizing the Vantage any way they please, but the cost of entry and then accessorizing is not for the faint of heart. Given the number of options, I would hazard to guess that no two Vantages will leave the showroom alike. That kind of performance and exclusivity comes at a price.
The Aston Martin Vantage is built for someone with discerning taste, who appreciates the art of driving, and wants something most people don’t have. It’s got style and it has substance. If everyone in your neighbourhood drives an AMG-massaged Mercedes, a Ferrari, or even a Porsche, owning an Aston is a sure-fire way to turn even the most jaded and discerning of hard-to-impress heads. Money doesn’t buy class, but it can buy an Aston Martin, and that’s pretty much the same thing.
|Peak Horsepower||503 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||505 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||13.1/9.6/11.5 L/100 km city/hwy/comb|
|Cargo Space||350 L|
|Model Tested||2020 Aston Martin Vantage|
|Price as Tested||$221,509.25|
$41,485 – Special AML Paint, $6,100; 20-inch Forged Gloss Black DT Wheels, $6,100; Exterior Black Collection, $4,600; Black Bodypack, $2,700; Black Brake Calipers, $1,800; Comfort Collection, $2,900; Tech Collection, $3,400; Sports Plus Collection, $4,000; Smoked Rear Lamps, $865; Premium Audio, $2,700; Contemporary Leather Colour, $2,100; Colour Keyed Steering Wheel, $865, Ventilated Seats, $1,800; Contrast Stitching, $690; Headrest Embroidery, $865.