Our brooding, dizygotic twins line up thus. The Vantage is a 2011 car kindly lent to us by Aston Martin Walton-on-Thames (01932 506947), where this particular example is for sale at £55,995 with a 12-month, unlimited-mile warranty. In extremely tidy nick after a scant 16,000 miles, it does without the optional Sports Pack (lightweight alloy wheels, stiffened suspension) and features the six-speed manual gearbox rather than the Sportshift robotised manual, which would have struggled to mix it with our M2’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. No manual M2 was available to test, but our cars’ respective gearboxes arguably show them in their best light regardless.
Wheels aside, the 4.7 V8 Vantage is externally indistinguishable from the 4.3 (and not much different from the current iteration, either) but benefits from the DBS’s centre console, an alloy engine that’s upgraded from its cylinder heads down to its dry sump and revised, Bilstein-damped passive suspension claimed to improve both ride and handling.
Our M2 is loaded with life-easing niceties that push its price up from a base of £45,750 to £53,070. The £2245 M DCT gearbox is its sole dynamic option, but the electronically controlled, multi-plate Active M Differential, stiffened and reinforced suspension and twinscroll turbocharged aluminium engine that all bear influences from the M4 are standard. Unlike its big brother, though, the M2 is passively damped, leaving the car’s Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes to alter the drivetrain, steering, exhaust and ESP calibration.
Suitably wooed by the Aston’s graceful yet athletic exterior and glamorous up-and-out door action, I’m ready for a hit of luxury inside. And it’s there, with leather, Alcantara and real metal finishes covering most of the surfaces you’ll see and touch. Even the seatbelt buckles are sheathed in hide. Installed between door and chunky transmission tunnel, you sit fairly low in enveloping, supportive seats, peering out through the slim, high glasshouse.
Now, Aston has come an awfully long way since the Ford era during which the Vantage was born, and this progress will no doubt be borne out by the next-gen car, but the other side of that coin is manifested in shortcomings that become clear on closer acquaintance with the cabin. Although its rotary dials feel solid, other switchgear is less convincing, and the plastic column stalks and oddly placed seat and mirror controls are plain ugly. The flip-up sat-nav is archaic and fiddly, the cupholders mainly accommodate your left elbow and the steering wheel won’t go quite high enough for me. They’re minor complaints individually but collectively worth flagging to those expecting perfection from their cut-price luxury sports car.
It’s obligatory to mention that the M2 shares its cabin architecture with the cheapest BMW (the £21,420 118i) and to point out that the likes of M badging, contrast-stitched leather and Alcantara and rough ‘open-pore’ carbonfibre cladding can’t transform its interior into a place of intrigue and opulence. But despite the remaining abundance of hard plastics and sobriety, there’s a certain luxury to be had from its fuss-free design, precision fit and top-class tech.