The Aston Martin Vantage is a car that you do have to ‘drive’. The gear lever moves around the gate with a sturdy, mechanical feel that often requires effort from the shoulder. In this respect, it does evoke to some extent the old V8s produced by Aston Martin during the 1970s and 80s.
The brakes require confident application of your toes – as does the clutch – and the steering has a weighted oiliness as the wheel turns in your palms. We suspect plenty of owners will value the constant reminder that they’re driving something as special as an Aston Martin, but to us it can feel excessive at times.
Up the pace and the ride quality that impresses so much at slower speeds tails away. It never crashes over ridges like a hardcore Porsche 911, but neither does it tend to flow over seemingly reasonable motorway surfaces with the same relaxed lope. Instead, there’s a constant fidget beneath you that takes the edge off the Vantage’s cruising ability.
Hauling the V8 down from such velocities is no great drama as the grooved discs prove more than up to the task. The initial hard pedal resistance reminds us of the DB9’s centre pedal, but unlike that car’s wooden modulation, the Vantage’s stoppers can really be lent on with reassurance once you’re used to the initial feel.
Less impressive is their relationship with the ABS unit on slippery roads. The pedal suddenly becomes hard underfoot – as if you’ve trodden on packed snow – although the directional stability is without question.
Initially, as the speeds rise, the Vantage feels like a sizeable chunk of English craftsmanship to be threading down a challenging road. But a rapid acclimatisation process is aided by some core Vantage strengths: firstly, steering with well-judged weight and accuracy and a fair amount of feel, and secondly, a very surprising level of body control at speed.
The firmer suspension manages to introduce a new level of compliance as well as control, for example. The noise that emanates from the V8 at full throttle is even more stupendous than previously, but offers lower noise levels when just pootling about. The S is sharper and more refined prospect than the now defunct standard V8, and is arguably what the car should have been since its launch.