Johannesburg - Stylistically speaking, few cars can withstand the test of time like Aston Martin’s previous Vantage did. With an unusually long 13-year lifespan, the sexy coupé still looked as minty fresh in showrooms this year as it did at launch in 2005.
But as good of a job as its taut skin did to hide them, the wrinkles were appearing underneath, and with such old-school engine, gearbox and infotainment tech the Vantage was in dire need of replacement. Especially when considering how advanced its competition has become.
Well here it is. The all-new Vantage. Bristling with all the latest and greatest gizmotronics needed to take the fight to its closest supercar rivals. Rivals such as Audi’s R8, Porsche’s 911 Turbo, and Merc’s AMG GT. The AMG in particular, because of all the bits shared between the two cars thanks to a tech sharing arrangement forged in 2013 between the British and German brands. More on those in a bit.
The new Vantage shares its aluminium chassis structure, or at least a good chunk of it, with Aston’s other recently reborn coupe, the DB11. It’s shorter, of course, because the two-seat Vantage chops a section out of its midriff where the DB’s back seats would be, but from the tip of its nose to the A-pillars the cars are nearly identical underneath.
They’re also quite similar at the back where each has an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox (a manual Vantage is expected in due course), positioned at the rear axle for 50/50 weight distribution. But, for sharper handling, the Vantage ditches the DB11’s rubber subframe bushings for solid mountings, and it also gains a clever electronically controlled E-Diff in place of a mechanical limited slip unit.
But what about those shared AMG components? The biggest inheritance is under the hood, where Affalterbach’s four-litre twin turbo V8 resides. The tech-sharing agreement means that Aston Martin couldn’t toy with the engine’s rotating internals, but was allowed to fit its own intake, exhaust and computer management systems, as well as some light fettling of the cylinder heads. The result sees an Aston-specific output of 375kW and 685Nm, putting it roughly on par with AMG’s 375kW/650Nm GT S Coupé in performance terms.
Elsewhere evidence of the partnership is plain to see, such as in the indicator stalk, 20.3cm central infotainment display, and curved touchpad controller between the seats which are all direct transplants from Mercedes’ current passenger car lineup.
Despite the Mercedes influence, however, the Vantage has its own feel on the road.
South African importers of Aston Martin - Daytona - gave us a brief stint at the wheel of a fluorescent green pre-production prototype (note, this Lime Essence colour is an actual option) ahead of the car’s scheduled July launch, and we’re pleased to say the car has a character all of its own.
Most surprising to us, was that it never feels quite as sharp edged as aforementioned competitors, despite the effort Aston put in to make it a firmer, pointier and more responsive car than its DB11 sibling. Unlike the DB11, which comes with a Comfort setting in its range of drive modes, the Vantage sees only Sport, Sport+ and Track, but even with Track selected the coupe managed to smooth out rough road surfaces in a way an R8 wishes it could.
Bear in mind we only drove the car on a short loop around the Cradle of Humankind, where cyclists and speedhumps prevented any envelope pushing. Still, if we look at supercars on a scale of comfortable grand tourers versus aggressive corner slicers, the Vantage leans more toward the former. Not that it’s not quick. It certainly is, and we trust Aston’s claimed 0-100km/h time of 3.6 seconds and 314km/h top speed are relatively accurate.
Recent AMG V8s have built a reputation for their angry exhaust notes, so naturally the Vantage doesn’t disappoint in this department. It does, however, manage to produce a signature soundtrack thanks to all its Aston-specific components. And, because the engine sits so far back in the chassis, it sounds like the twin-turbocharged beast is riding in the cabin right alongside you. Which it almost is.
The new Vantage has swelled in pretty much every dimension from its predecessor; Nevertheless, the cockpit has a very confined feel, not unlike the previous Vantage where its low floor and high window line make for a very cozy sensation, but here the feeling’s exaggerated by a fairly broad console area.
It’s a busy place too, with enough knobs and switches to keep even Neil Armstrong occupied, but at least it’s laid out in a reasonably intuitive way. The interior, and its plethora of switchgear is also made with a level of quality the previous Vantage can’t compete with.
The new Vantage will be available from Daytona in late June or early July, with a starting price of about R2.9-million.