Many road cars have been created around often tenuous connections to motorsports, their uniqueness frequently running no deeper than stickers and graphics. On the surface, the new Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition, with its carefully trademarked logos and an optional stem-to-stern racing stripe, fits this mold. But dive deeper and there’s actual substance to this updated Vantage, including a handful of mechanical changes that meaningfully sharpen its driving experience.
We drove the car in England and got to experience it on both the road and racetrack, the latter being the dinky 1.1-mile Stowe circuit at Silverstone that Aston uses for high-speed testing. The Vantage F1 Edition was developed alongside the company’s full-blown Vantage safety car that is helping to maintain order at Formula 1 events this year. The roadgoing version sports a similarly broad rear wing and, in another Formula 1 connection, is available in the same shade of green used by the company’s racing team. It has also gained a new front-end treatment, with horizontal strakes filling what was previously the black void of the standard car’s grille, as well as new 21-inch wheels. Commemorative plaques aside, the interior is largely unchanged, but the Vantage F1 gains motorsport-inspired black and gray microfiber trim with bright-yellow accents.
For F1 duty, Aston boosted the regular Vantage’s Mercedes-AMG–sourced twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 from 503 horsepower to 527 (torque remains at 505 pound-feet). The increased output isn’t that noticeable, but the revised car’s stronger character is. Its active exhaust note is loud and rorty even in its quieter mode and close to antisocial when fully uncorked, replete with fusillades of pops and bangs every time you let off the accelerator. Revised software also quickens the shift times for the standard eight-speed automatic transmission, reducing the amount of torque the engine cuts on upshifts and with a smarter algorithm to help hasten downshifts under hard deceleration. It still doesn’t have quite the quickness of a dual-clutch ‘box, but it definitely feels snappy for a torque-converter automatic.
While physical suspension changes are limited, the car’s dynamic character has been substantially altered. The F1 Edition’s rear springs are 10 percent stiffer; its adaptive dampers have been revised to improve rebound damping; and the front suspension has been tweaked, tightened, and adjusted for more negative wheel camber. Software changes also come to the electronic limited-slip rear differential, which on the regular Vantage can make the car feel edgy when pushed moderately hard by sending significant amounts of torque to the outside rear wheel. The F1 Edition exhibits far less of this exuberant behavior, feeling more planted under big cornering loads and with impressive traction from its Pirelli P Zero tires.
Despite its big wheels, the F1 Edition rides with impressive compliance over rough surfaces. Running in the dampers’ softest Sport setting (there also are firmer Sport Plus and Track modes) over poorly maintained British asphalt revealed no subjective increase in harshness compared to the standard car. Broader refinement remains a weak spot, with the Vantage’s cabin seemingly amplifying the harmonics of both tire roar and exhaust drone when cruising at higher speeds. The gloomy interior and button-strewn lower dashboard also are feeling increasingly off the ergonomic pace set by this car’s newer rivals. The 8.0-inch central display’s lack of touch sensitivity is another mild frustration.
But in terms of sports-car athleticism, the F1 Edition seemed quite happy to play on the Silverstone circuit. Grip remained strong even under the higher loads allowed by the track, despite its tires being deliberately more oriented for road use. The Vantage turns hard and accurately, resisting understeer even on Stowe’s tighter corners. But it’s the behavior of the car’s rear end that really amuses, especially the progressive (and sometimes lurid) way its tail can be persuaded to step out under power. Few cars are this easy to steer with the throttle or as friendly when driven beyond the limit. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes on our test car also coped with the greater thermal loads of track driving without complaint, biting hard and tirelessly lap after lap.
Stowe’s lack of high-speed corners denied us the chance to experience the claimed benefits provided by a new front splitter, dive planes, diffuser, and rear wing of the F1 Edition’s new aerodynamic package. Aston says that the updates can generate up to 330 pounds of downforce at the rear and 110 pounds at the front, improvements of around 200 percent over the standard car. We will say that it certainly felt planted and stable when cruising at rapid highway speeds. One clear downside of the F1’s big wing is limited rearward visibility, as it obscures a broad swath of the view through the rear window.
While Aston is already working on a heavily revised version of the current Vantage, which we expect to see for 2023, the F1 Edition feels like a moderate facelift in itself. Both coupe and roadster models will be offered, with the coupe carrying a $23,000 upcharge over the regular Vantage coupe’s $142,086 starting price. Aston isn’t really touting it as a limited-edition model, and we won’t be surprised if a significant percentage of Vantage buyers opt for the F1 treatment, although we’re sure some would prefer to have theirs without the stickers and Formula 1 branding.
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