This is where Aston’s efforts ought to bear fruit – and they do, especially during road driving. Get the F1 Edition onto an interesting road and it handles like a sharper, more composed, better-controlled and more rewarding sports car than the standard Vantage but, pleasingly, still like a classic front-engined Aston.
The new dampers, more rigid frontal body structure and stiffer-sprung rear axle combine to bring even clearer feel through intuitively paced steering, but it’s the improvement to high-speed body control that existing Vantage owners will really notice. Even if you leave the suspension in its default Sport mode, the chassis adopts a fluent but clipped, neatly controlled ride gait over medium-wave bumps. And at fast road speeds, there is no sense here (as the regular Vantage could sometimes betray in its softer suspension modes) of mass starting to run unchecked; of the rear axle struggling to stay in tune with the front over really complex surfaces taken at speed; and of the smallest Aston suddenly feeling a little bit too big for its own good.
Sport+ damping mode is usable on a smooth road also, increasing the tautness of the body control without introducing much tetchiness. And regardless of the selected mode, chassis response is a shade crisper and handling more precise than in the regular Vantage. The car feels keener and more lithe through tighter bends, settles into longer corners more quickly and shrinks around you that bit more effectively.
Anyone expecting the outright grip level and the fearsome agility of a limited-series Ferrari or Porsche 911 GT3 might be a little disappointed, because the F1 Edition doesn’t quite claw at the asphalt or rotate beneath you like those cars. Instead, handling is a little less darting, and more stable and inert under a trailing throttle, as front-engined sports cars tend to be, although the tuning of the car’s e-diff allows your cornering attitude to then become as animated as you like with power, if you disengage the stability control.
At lower speeds and in terms of rawness, feel and pure agility, then, this car isn’t quite in the league of the latest Ferrari Pistas, McLaren Longtails or Porsche GT cars – but driven to its limits, it’s no less engaging in its own particular way.
On MIRA’s dry handling circuit, the Vantage F1 Edition recorded a lap time only 0.2sec quicker than the standard car managed in 2018, but the way the car dealt with the fast T4 suggests that it has made a sizeable gain on downforce and high-speed cornering stability.
Through tighter bends, our test car worked its front tyres really hard, its optional carbon-ceramic brakes transferring a lot of heat into the P Zero tyres up front and making fine adjustment of tyre pressure critical. A Cup tyre would probably have dealt with the high temperatures much better and resulted in more consistent front-axle bite.
The Vantage’s throttle-adjustable handling is accessible regardless of the condition of the front tyres, though. The way it surfs its way around third- and fourth-gear bends, slewing to ever-manageable slip angles, never fails to raise a smile.
Comfort and isolation
There are no significant compromises to report here. Anyone familiar with Aston Martin’s back catalogue will expect the Vantage F1 Edition to be ready to play the comfortable long-distance tourer when called on, and it surely will.
The car doesn’t feel highly strung in the way it rides or steers; in its quieter modes, it doesn’t trouble occupants with particularly bothersome road or engine noise; and its seats are sufficiently soft and sensibly padded as to be agreeable over longer trips, although longer-legged testers felt they could support your thighs a little better. That exhaust settles to a background hum when you dial back down from Sport+ to Sport powertrain mode, and wind noise is reasonably well controlled as well.
With no glovebox and only a shallow armrest cubby, cabin storage is a little meanly supplied up front (although you do get twin cupholders and reasonable-sized door bins), but boot space is sufficient to take a medium-sized case and a couple of softer shoulder bags – and the forward part of that boot is accessible from the passenger compartment.