This year we will see a brave new direction for Aston Martin's dedicated sports car, as it leaves the bow tie in the DB11 and goes for a much more youthful and aggressive look. The 2018 Vantage will also boast considerable upgrades to performance, chassis dynamics and aerodynamics.
Aston Martin's Vantage sports car has been motoring along nicely since it debuted in 2005, slowly evolving with the addition of a new engine or transmission every now and then. But the whole Aston Martin range has been accused of feeling a little samey, with a keen eye required to pick the old Vantage from a DB9 GT, or even the Vanquish, really. It was a hell of a look, but perhaps only reached out in one direction.
The same cannot be said of the new model. The 2018 Vantage is younger, sportier, sharper and more aggressive. And it's launching in a Radioactive Lime colour the previous model wouldn't have been caught dead in. I don't know how I feel about this when I think of an Aston Martin, classiness comes to mind, sophistication and elegance. But on the other hand, most other supercars have strayed away from that and have successfully expanded their target market. Here in South Africa, you see them more and more on the roads. This is not an Aston to be driven in a tuxedo, I don't think you'd even wear a tie. This one's got class, but it's new money class. Open white shirt class. Take me out and drive me, hard, class. And for every drop of class, there are two boy racers. It's going to ruffle some feathers about what it really means to wear that winged badge, and that seems to kind of be the point.
Engine, Powertrain and Performance
The new Vantage rocks a four-litre AMG twin-turbo V8 that belts out a very healthy 375 kW and 685 Nm of torque. It debuts with an eight-speed, close ratio ZF paddle-shift auto, but 12 months down the track there'll be a manual as well for the pure of heart. AMG squeezes more than 570 horses out of the same engine in its GT R, so there's an easy opportunity for a party model down the track.
The 0-100km/h sprint will be dispatched in a brisk 3.5 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 314 km/h. The weight is 1,530 kg or probably somewhere in the ballpark of the AMG GTS coupe once it's got fluids in.
There's plenty here. Dynamic stability control and dynamic torque vectoring help keep things in line when you're pushing on. Adaptive damping, using "Skyhook" technology, finds a balance between comfort, grip and stability to suit how you're driving the thing, and an electronic rear differential can go from fully locked to fully open in a matter of milliseconds to "take very fine control of the car's behaviour" and deliver confidence and agility as you move toward the car's limits.
There are driving modes, but nothing as soft and foofy as "road" mode, because this ain't no grand tourer. Nope, it's Sport, Sport Plus, and Track for the new Vantage, each mode ramping up the firmness of the suspension and the responsiveness of the throttle mapping, the way the torque vectoring and e-differential kick in, the permissiveness of the traction control and the weight of the steering. Crucially, the car also gets noisier as you go up the modes, although it's not clear how the engineers have achieved this. There is also ABS braking, with electronic brake force distribution to keep things in line under hard stopping, as well as emergency brake assist to hit the pedal for you if you get sleepy the wheel.
Aeros take a big step forward on the new Vantage, with a proper splitter and diffusers underneath to help reduce drag and generate downforce. Side gills suck pressure out from behind the front wheels, and there's a hint of a ducktail spoiler at the back to further nudge downforce figures up and enhance rear grip for high-speed cornering.
There will be a wailing and gnashing of teeth from certain sections of the peanut gallery when it comes to the front grill, which breaks from tradition and extends all the way down to the splitter, giving the car a kind of angry, suspicious looking face when combined with the headlights. It's a nod to (or perhaps a developmental overlap with) the custom DB10 that Aston Martin put together for the most recent Bond flick, 2015's Spectre.
The two-seat interior can be specified to suit your preferred balance of youthful, snazzy sportiness and grown-up, understated muscle. Mark me down as a fan of the high-testosterone yellow highlights, but things can certainly be toned down a long way from there. Beyond that, it's all very nice; leather and Alcantara trim, sports seats, dual zone climate control, and an 8-inch touch screen for navigation and entertainment and a touchpad down in the centre console. The whole thing is configurable with a raft of different options, from the functional (sports plus seats, steering wheel upgrades) to pure bling (embroidered headrests, plaques on the tread plates, colourful seat belts and an "interior jewellery" package that presumably swags up the dash).
So there you have it. A brave new design for Aston Martin, leaving the bow tie behind in the DB11 and striking out into pure sportscar territory. It's a fairly radical departure from the old Vantage (the highest selling Aston Martin ever at some 25,000 units) – although you can certainly make it look a lot more adult-friendly with the silver/ grey paint job.