What is it?
There’s a small, reasonably discrete patch of empty space towards the front of the Aston Martin Vantage’s transmission tunnel that - back at its official UK media reveal in late 2017 - prompted a somewhat inevitable line of questioning from attending members of the press.
“Is that where the manual gear shifter is going to go, then?” was the general gist of these inquiries, all of which were levelled at boss man Andy Palmer. And as is so often the way with these things, his answer was far more nuanced than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Reading between the lines, said reply was certainly explicit enough to indicate that Gaydon very much planned on rigging the Vantage up with a manual gearbox at some point. Aston’s PR team was understandably less than thrilled with Palmer’s revelation.
Nevertheless, roughly two years later that car has finally arrived. Well, it sort of has, but we’ll get to that later on. For now, let’s look at how the nuts and bolts of this new Vantage differ from the regular model.
First up, the standard car’s eight-speed ZF automatic transmission has obviously been swapped out. Replacing it is the same seven-speed Graziano manual ‘box that appeared in the old Vantage V12 S, dog-leg first gear and all. This is the first time a manual gearbox of any description has been fitted to Mercedes-AMG’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, which in itself is no mean feat.
Of course, certain sacrifices had to be made in order to facilitate the pairing. Overall torque has been capped in order to protect the transmission, so instead of the 505lb ft you get in the standard car, the manual makes do with just 461lb ft. That torque is again capped in first and second gears, though if you select Track mode you can have more. Power, meanwhile, remains at 503bhp.
Elsewhere, the standard car’s clutch-based active torque-vectoring E-Diff has been swapped for a mechanical limited-slip differential. Together, these mechanical changes mean the manual Vantage is some 70kg lighter than its self-shifting sibling, with that weight being distributed slightly differently too. The Vantage we road tested last year had its mass split 49:51 front-to-rear on our scales - in the manual Aston Martin says that ratio is reversed.
The suspension geometry has also been tweaked appropriately. At the rear, the spring rate has been slackened off slightly while the anti-roll bar has been stiffened, and both the front and rear dampers have been revised, too. Meanwhile, the EPAS software has been fettled, and the brake booster has been recalibrated to allow for easier heel-and-toe shifts. And If you’re not too hot on these, AMSHIFT provides a rev-matching function that will do all the hard work for you.