The 2019 Aston Martin Vantage zooms into the sweet spot between raw performance and drop-dead looks—taking aim at the Porsche 911.
ASTON MARTIN put itself in an interesting dilemma over the last decade: The design of its “entry level” vehicle, the Vantage, was gorgeous, with serpentine lines that resolved like the licks of the best Jimmy Page solos. But the British carmaker’s richer models, some of which cost twice as much, had nearly the same silhouette. Smart car guys asked: Why pay for the marquee model when the underling is just as ridiculously good-looking? Meanwhile, track rats avoided the Vantage, as it couldn’t pass muster, performance-wise, with similarly priced exotics, such as an upper-tier Porsche 911.
Fortunately, Aston remedies both predicaments for 2019—something we learned over two days flogging the car both on track, at the 17-turn Algarve International Circuit; and off, by the cork- and eucalyptus-flanked twisties of southern Portugal.
First, those looks: With head- and taillights pinched to near nothing, and body creases edited down to a sacred few, the new Vantage gets its own character. The look is less voluptuous, maybe, but sportier, more threatening.
Seen in a rear-view mirror, the thing looks downright menacing. With wheels that have been pushed farther toward the corners, a hood that’s devoid of extraneous folds, and gills and a rear valance to quash excess lift, it’s clear here that the design focus was all about fast.
Its performance backs up the looks: This. Car. Can. Hang. From off-cambered S curves on the track to snaky Portuguese back roads, the Vantage’s shorter, stiffer chassis and even front-to-back weight distribution give you the feeling that you’re right at the car’s locus, its pivot point. Stomp the pedal in a three-and-a-half-second romp to 60 miles per hour, and you’re rewarded with the gurgling soundtrack of its twin-turbo V8. That engine was derived from corporate partner Mercedes, which uses it in the AMG GT sports car. There, the power plant is tuned for popping, crackling, look-at-me-coming-off-the-stoplight excess; here in the Aston, the sound is a bit more subdued. Gentlemanly, even.
And, thankfully, Aston has brought over much of the cabin tech from Mercedes, including a polished infotainment system, which makes switching songs or taking calls a breeze.
Behind the wheel, it’s nearly impossible to take your mind off the road, thanks to the rigid chassis (it’s markedly stiffer, side to side, than the DB11, Aston’s most recent road car) and short wheel-base. You’ll inevitably hang your toes too far over the edge, and an electronic rear differential—Aston’s first—quietly saves your skin, moving power to whichever of the rear wheels needs it to keep the car aimed where you want to go.
The Vantage was always a knockout to look at. Now it’s a knockout to drive. With that, Aston Martin may have an entirely new dilemma on its hands: How can its glitzier, pricier vehicles be any more fun than this? Anyone about to shop for a Porsche 911 now has to wonder: Why not a Vantage? It is a problem most of us only wish we could have.