Initially, I was blown away by the low-slung looks of the new Aston Martin Vantage when it debuted about a year ago. Ever since I laid eyes on the Lime Essence demo car, I’ve been itching to get more familiar with it on the road. Unfortunately, prime sports car driving season came and went and I never quite got the chance to experience the car while the weather was nice.
With nothing but endless winter in sight, I finally got a phone call asking if I’d like to take some photos of a new Quantum Silver Aston Martin Vantage around St Paul. Looking out the window, I was hesitant at first. How would I manage to get anywhere in such an exotic, powerful car when there was over a foot of snow on the ground? Then it was mentioned that the car was fitted with winter tires.
That’s when I decided the snowiest February in Minnesota history would be the perfect time to borrow a $187,000 sports car for a few days.
Luckily for me, picking up the Vantage from Morrie’s Luxury Auto was smooth sailing. We were experiencing a lull between snow storms and thankfully, the roads were clear. Leaving the dealership, I steered the car towards Selby Ave and went about gathering the photos that I needed. My first impression was that the ride was smoother than I had initially expected, soaking up rough pavement and potholes with grace. Although power was more than ample with 503 hp coming from the 4.0L twin-turbo V8, the combination of a long throttle pedal and a sophisticated, multi-setting traction control system meant that the Vantage was easy to drive, even in less than perfect conditions.
Leaving traction control fully engaged, the car seamlessly cuts power to avoid wheel spin and curtail most wayward sliding. But hey, where’s the fun in that? Pressing and holding the TC button on the center console for five seconds turns off traction control and puts the stability control into Track mode, allowing a bit more slip angle. Holding the button for an additional 5 seconds tells the Vantage that you’d prefer to be left to your own devices. With zero nannies to reign in all that grunt, the Vantage was happy to spin donuts in an empty, snow-filled parking lot for as long as I wanted.
Obviously, the car is low, wide, making it a bit intimidating in tight parking lots. In practice, however, the optional 360-degree camera system was a lifesaver on narrow snow-laden streets. I especially appreciated the wide-angle camera in the nose of the Vantage. It comes in handy for avoiding parking curbs with that deep front splitter. Despite being a few inches shorter than a Porsche 911, the Vantage initially feels bigger than it is. Probably because of the way that the deep dash and long hood seems to telescope out in front of you. At speed though, the car shrinks, forming around you like a well-worn glove.
Electric power steering has come a long way in recent years and the Vantage’s electric rack is one of the better that I’ve experienced. In the Vantage, it communicates the road surface to you in a way that instantly builds trust. Transmitting just the right amount of granularity to let you know what the wheels are doing without feeling too jittery or tiring. Better yet, the steering inspires confidence. It urges you to push a little deeper into corners because you can feel every last bit of grip.
The Vantage’s perfect 50/50 weight distribution allows it to dance smoothly and predictably over the slick pavement. When traction does start to let go, as it can pretty easily when you have 10 inches of snow and 503 hp at your disposal, those 20-inch Pirelli Sottozeros do an admirable job of keeping their composure.
A Throne Fit For A King
Inside the Vantage, almost everything you touch is buttery soft leather, Alcantara, metal, or glass. Even some of the non-essential trim pieces or covers that you’d never notice are still wrapped in leather. The start button, backlit with red LEDs, is made of glass and is a delight every time you press it. At first glance, the center console looked busy with a smattering of small, squared-off buttons that cascade down the dash and split around infotainment control knob. But after settling in for a few hours, it became second nature to find the buttons I was looking for. The infotainment system, borrowed along with the glorious V8 from Mercedes-Benz, feels a bit clunky and outdated compared to the rest of the highly modern interior but the intuitive steering wheel and dash controls make using the system relatively straightforward.
The squared-off steering wheel that comes with the Sport Plus package has a meaty grip that both looks and feels awesome. Wheel-mounted buttons for changing engine and suspension modes allow you to maintain focus instead of digging through a menagerie of buttons on the center console. This makes switching between Sport, Sport+, and Track modes quick and easy.
During my time with the Vantage, I found the default Sport setting for the suspension proved to be the easiest to live with but preferred keeping the engine in Track mode. Being the most aggressive engine setting, it forced me to shift for myself using the beautiful and easy to reach aluminum paddles.
It didn’t take long before I found myself downshifting just so I could hear the crackles and pops from the exhaust. Kept below about 2500 RPM and only using light throttle inputs, the engine stays quiet enough to not be too offensive. As revs rise above 3000 RPM and onwards toward the redline, the Vantage’s V8 makes a thunderous roar. Turbocharging usually muffles the engine and sacrifices some aural character. There’s no trade-off here. You get a tidal wave of grunt with a rumbly, sonorous tone to match!
After navigating the narrow streets of St Paul and listening to the exhaust’s burbles and cracks echo off of the buildings for a couple hours, I found a quiet parking lot to grab a few more photos as the sun set behind the trees to the west. The temperature began to drop just as fast as the sun and I was thankful for the Vantage’s heated seats and their elegant touch-sensitive buttons. After a long day of driving, it was nice to put the engine settings back into their default mode and just cruise home, letting the Vantage’s ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic do the shifting for me.
It’s easy to appreciate the Vantage as a sports car when you’re driving it aggressively. Equally impressive is that the car can also feel so comfortable, easy to drive, and most importantly, special, even when doing mundane things in it. Aston Martins have always had this duality to them that makes them feel special and normal at the same time. You don’t have to feel guilty about treating yourself to a world-class driving experience in the Vantage.
The Aston Martin Vantage has some stiff competition from the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C, the Audi R8 V10, and the Porsche 911 GT3. All three of those cars offer their own unique experience and feature set. The Vantage may not be as hardcore and track-focused as the GT3, or as powerful as the AMG GT C, or as high-tech as the Audi. Instead, it has a certain character and attention to detail that can’t quite be matched by anything those other cars.
For those wanting a dual-purpose machine that can cruise around town comfortably and elegantly and also want to play race car driver for the day and have a fully immersive experience with a soundtrack to match, the Aston Martin Vantage might just be the car for you. Visit Morrie’s Luxury Auto in person or online today to see if the Vantage is the right car for you.