What is it?
“Is it better than the Porsche 911?”
That’s the question Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer asks his engineers, and it’s not an unreasonable one for you to ask, too.
And the answer? Well, as they’ll tell him and I’ll tell you over the next 1500 words or thereabouts: it’s not that simple, guv. In some ways, yes, it is better; in many ways, no, it isn’t; but, for the most part, it’s just different. And that’s fine.
Where are we, then? Two models into the ‘second century plan’ that’ll see a new Aston launched every year until 2022, when the cycle begins again. It’ll be a range of sports cars under constant reinvention, with profits from the first providing the investment to develop the next. Like a normal car company. “It’s not rocket science,” says Palmer.
First, then, was the Aston Martin DB11, the big, comfy grand tourer, at one end of the sports car scale. And now there’s the Vantage, which sits at the other end, but using a fair degree of DB11 parts.
It’s a strict two-seater, with a Mercedes-AMG 4.0-litre twinturbocharged V8 engine sourced from Aston’s part-owner in the front and power going from there to the back via an eight-speed transaxle torque-converter gearbox and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential.
To see beneath the new Vantage’s skin is to see the advances Aston has made since the old VH architecture died and the new, still-all-aluminium structure arrived. Only 33% of the structure is shared with a DB11; at 4465mm, the DB11 is 274mm longer than the Vantage but, at 1942mm across the body (2153mm to the mirror ends), 2mm narrower than the new car. A 911 is a thumb’s width longer than the Vantage but, at 1808mm, rather a lot narrower. Which could be important.
There are more pressings and castings than extrusions in an Aston’s make-up these days. They’re more expensive but more space efficient for a given strength, so the Vantage seats two big people very comfortably and the boot, underneath a hatch tailgate, is big enough for two golf bags. The skin is a mix of aluminium and plastic composites, and dry weight is quoted at 1530kg including the lightest options. A 911 GTS is less than that, even full of fluids and with a statutory 75kg added to it to represent driver and fuel. Like for like, the Vantage could be 10% heavier than a 911. That could be important, too.