We’ve been told, but sadly unable to confirm through personal experience, that it can be a burden to be too beautiful. Nobody focuses on your skills, only your looks. If that’s true, the Aston Martin Vantage is going to develop a complex. Everywhere we went in it led to a conversation, and that conversation was always some variation of, “Wow, that is a beautiful car. No, really, that is a really beautiful car.” Poor Vantage. Nobody cares that it’s quick, clever, and customizable. They just want to talk about its body.
What a body it is, though. The Vantage has the taut haunches of a crouched cat, stretching forward into the lean menace of a predatory fish, and if that combo of fish cat doesn’t sound appealing on the page, we assure you that it’s a stunner on the road. At a time when most performance vehicles look like cheese graters, and most other vehicles look like shoes—or the boxes they came in—the Vantage manages to channel the elegance of a silver tea set, if tea sets were fast and made nice rumbly sounds.
Lovely as it is, $156,081 to start and $172,169 as equipped is a lot to pay just to have a nice shape in the garage. Can the Vantage, with its AMG hand-me-down engine and infotainment system, deliver on the promise of its pretty profile? Would you accept mostly? We have no complaints about the 503-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8’s performance. The last Vantage we tested went from zero to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 11.5, which doesn’t make it the quickest kid on the block these days, but it’s fast enough to make your eyes wide and your grin wider. The default Sport mode is a little sluggish on throttle response, but one click up into Sport Plus is perfect for vigorous street driving. Press hard for those inputs: The steering-wheel-mounted buttons for changing engine and suspension modes require a firm hand, ensuring you don’t accidentally ramp up the throttle response halfway through the Starbucks drive-through.
Once you’ve got those sticky buttons defeated and Sport Plus engaged, the Vantage gives a little shake like a dog after a bath, growling louder and holding shifts longer, the exhaust popping happily on deceleration. Wound out, the Vantage sounds amazing, an energizing drumbeat to match the whoosh of scenery going by, but at cruising speeds it sounds a bit like a toddler blowing bubbles in milk. Clearly, the answer is to stay on the throttle. One step above Sport Plus is Track mode, which holds gears even longer and burbles its milk even louder.
The suspension also offers three modes, although the differences between each one are much less noticeable than on the engine side. Moving from Sport to Sport Plus makes the ride perhaps a bit stiffer. In general, the ride quality is sportive but not punishing. The Vantage offers the kind of deceptive performance that doesn’t feel fast until you pass one of those electronic speed-warning signs and the thing flashes triple digits at you like a giant accusatory Lite-Brite.
The Vantage requires some work from its driver (as it should), but it isn’t nervous or exhausting. There’s no battle to stay between the lines. The only disappointing aspects from a driving perspective are the soft brake pedal and a massive forward blind spot. The brakes stop the Vantage adequately, we just wish they did so a little earlier in the pedal travel. Aston does offer carbon-ceramic brakes, which previous reviewers have complained were too grabby, so pick your poison. The blind spot, ironically, is the fault of the side mirrors, which stand far off the fenders to provide a rearward look past the Aston’s hips but block your view of cross traffic at intersections. On the plus side, should you decide to pull a trailer with your Vantage, the tow mirrors are already there.
Aston Martin is as inconsistent with its interiors as it is dialed in with its exteriors. The overall cabin design is decadent in its simplicity, like a designer white T-shirt. It drapes well, you look good in it, and there’s nothing splashy about it. There’s not much small-item storage around the seats, nor is there a glovebox. It does have a neat shelf running behind the seats for jackets or small bags, and the rear hatch opens into a roomy 10 cubic feet, double that of a Porsche 911. The Vantage can be configured to the buyer’s taste, which means as much or as little carbon fiber and Alcantara as you want, with leather and contrast stitching ranging from class to flash. Unfortunately, those surfaces not covered in leather or carbon are rendered in dull black plastic. It’s a small complaint, but this car has too big a price tag to leave any touch points untouched. The pushbutton shifter should be a tactile delight, and instead its plain black plastic circles suffer in comparison to the system in a 1964 Dodge Dart. At least the Dart had chrome around the buttons. Stepping up to the AMR model gets you glass buttons—or the ability to ditch the push buttons altogether in favor of the manual shifter option—but it’s a shame that Aston didn’t make that extra effort on the non-AMR models. If the cockpit was a little plusher, we’d overlook the lack of a touchscreen infotainment system and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility.
Aston Martin has a hard road ahead, a road filled with Porsche 911s that are quicker and Mercedes-AMGs that are better equipped. The Vantage can’t compete head to head on price or performance. What it does offer is personality. It’s not hard to imagine pulling into a car show to park amongst a sea of German sports cars. The Aston would part the waters and turn every head in the lot. It’s quick, it’s charming, and boy, is it beautiful.
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