What Car? says...
Few car manufacturers can claim to have an image as strong as Aston Martin. It’s consistently voted one of the coolest brands in the world and, well, James Bond had one. Enough said.
Yet, while the British brand's cars have always looked superb and sounded just as good, Aston Martins weren't always as brilliant to drive or as classy inside as you might have hoped.
Read on over the next few pages to find out what the Vantage is like to drive, what it’s like inside, how practical it is and how much it’ll cost to run. And don't forget to check our new car deals to find some tempting discounts.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
This is the bit that really matters when it comes to sports cars and, for years, we were used to Aston Martins that never quite lived up to their looks. The more relaxed grand tourer DB11 was a turning point, but the Vantage is by far the best volume-production model the firm has built to date.
The engine is a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 petrol unit borrowed from Mercedes-AMG (which knows a thing or two about making brilliant engines). It produces 503bhp and can propel the Vantage to 60mph from standstill in just 3.5sec. Find a stretch of (private) Tarmac long enough and it’ll carry on to 195mph.
But an engine is about more than just numbers; in a sports car, it needs to be enjoyable to use. Happily, the V8 has huge reserves of low-down pull and the accelerator response is brilliant. Once in its stride, it pulls effortlessly from just about tickover and really starts to fly beyond 4000rpm. The V8 roar that accompanies the experience is one of the best sounds in motoring, too.
You don’t really need it, but Aston Martin offers an optional quad-pipe exhaust over the standard dual-pipe system to take the voliume to downright anti-social. We also tried both the standard brakes and optional ceramic set. The former are hugely powerful on the road and will be fine for most, but anyone who plans to use their Vantage on track will be thankful for the better longevity under heavy use of the latter.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard – Aston Martin says a manual version is on the way – and works very well with the V8. It flicks between gears intelligently in auto mode, while the large metal paddles either side of the steering wheel allow you to take full manual control. Do this and the gearbox responds promptly to paddle-pulls, although not quite as rapidly as the auto gearboxes in the Porsche 911 GTS or McLaren 540C.
What about the handling? Well, at long last, we have a truly engaging Aston Martin. The steering is meaty in weight around town but nicely consistent and accurate at all speeds. This, combined with strong front-end grip and the Vantage’s short wheelbase, results in a real eagerness to turn in to bends and plenty of feedback for the driver. The latter is important because it's a key ingredient of enjoying the experience and it gives you the confidence to push hard.
The Vantage controls its body extremely well through those corners, too, with its suspension showing a compliance that allows you to confidently reapply the accelerator and fire yourself out towards the next bend without the car feeling unsettled. It’s all helped by a clever rear electronic differential that is constantly assessing grip levels and sending power to the rear wheel that can best handle it. Mind you, the Vantage's handling limits aren't quite as quite as the 540C, 911 GTS or Audi R8.
There are three modes of increasing aggressiveness (Sport, Sport+ and Track) and the same three modes for the Vantage’s standard adaptive dampers. In addition, the car’s traction and stability controls can be set to a Track mode that allows more slip before intervening or, if you’re feeling brave, said systems can be switched off completely.
On a smooth road or track, you’re best off picking the Track driving mode and Sport+ suspension setting. This gives you the optimum accelerator and gearbox response and relatively stiff suspension. Oh, and the noise is turned up to 11. On less agreeable roads (let's face it, that's most of them in the UK), it’s better to leave the suspension in the more supple Sport mode to allow the Vantage to take bumps and camber changes in its stride more effectively.
And, impressively, with its engine, gearbox and suspension dialled back to their most relaxed modes, the Vantage is also a reasonably comfortable car. True, its rivals from Porsche, McLaren and Audi are even more supple, but the Vantage sponges away larger bumps well and isn't too punishing over potholes. In fact, our only real complaint is the amount of road noise at motorway speeds.
The interior layout, fit and finish
It’s no use for a car to handle well if you aren’t sitting comfortably enough to enjoy it. Fortunately, the Vantage has a very good driving position, with generous electric adjustment for the driver’s seat and a good range of manual steering wheel adjustment. Electric steering wheel adjustment is available as an option.
The Vantage’s relatively compact dimensions and low window line allow for reasonably good visibility, not only at roundabouts and junctions but also of the road ahead when you're driving quickly. Unsurprisingly, the view back over your shoulder isn’t as good, but the large door mirrors help with this and so do the standard rear parking sensors (you get front sensors as standard, too). LED headlights are standard for great visibility at night.
Like the DB11, Aston Martin has also borrowed Mercedes-Benz’s infotainment system for the Vantage, consisting of an 8.0in screen and a rotary controller between the seats. We prefer it to a touchscreen system (such as McLaren's) for ease of use on the move and the screen graphics are fairly good. However, the three-tier menu structure is more confusing than Audi’s MMI system that you'll find on the R8. Still, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring and sat-nav are all included as standard (although Android Auto is not available).
Less impressive is the sheer number of buttons littered all over the Vantage’s steering wheel – more than 40. Many are quite small, so finding them while trying to concentrate on driving can be tricky, and they don’t quite feel as solid as you might hope in a car costing this much money. In fact, the Porsche 911, McLaren 540C and Audi R8 all have higher-quality interiors than the Vantage, although Aston Martin's baby is still classy enough inside to make you feel special.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Vantage is a strict two-seater, but it has lots of space for two tall adults. They’ll have no complaints about the amount of head or leg room, while there’s no danger of even two burly blokes rubbing shoulders. Both front seats are fully electric as standard.
Elsewhere, storage is a little tight. There’s no glovebox and each door has only a fairly slim pocket. A small cubby is located behind the infotainment rotary dial and there’s a modest cubby beneath the central armrest, but that’s your lot.
The boot is located beneath a large hatch, so access is good and Aston Martin reckons you can fit two sets of golf clubs inside (although they'd have to be very small sets). However, the space is pretty flat, so it’s perhaps no surprise that you won’t be taking a large suitcase with you. At best, you’ll fit a couple of carry-on cases plus a soft bag.
Ultimately, while a Porsche 911 doesn’t offer more room for its front passengers, it does come with a couple of extra seats behind for bags or very small children, making it the more practical choice should this matter to you.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Vantage’s starting price is way above that of an entry-level Porsche 911 Carrera, although its performance is closer to the punchier, more focused 911 GTS. And, to be fair to Aston Martin, it’s the GTS that the Vantage was benchmarked against from the beginning. Yet, even then, the 911 GTS is some £20,000 cheaper. The Vantage is slightly cheaper than a McLaren 540C, though.
It won’t be of primary concern at this level of sports car, but it’s worth noting that the 911 is slightly more frugal and has a cleaner engine, even though both cars sit in the highest brackets for road and company car tax. Both will hold onto their value extremely well, although the Vantage is predicted to be worth more after three years.
The Vantage is an expensive car, but it goes some way to making up for it with its standard equipment. Electric, leather sports seats, climate control, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors as well as keyless entry and start are just a few of the features. Of course, there’s a long options list to get carried away with, too.
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|RRP price range
|£134,160 - £158,660
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|24.3 - 24.4
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£9,731 / £11,544
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£19,462 / £23,088