In the past, Aston Martin models have primarily seemed to be touring cars, in the sense that they were full of leather, luxury goodies and nice styling, but they couldn’t quite hang with "real" sports cars, save for a few ultra-powerful, special-edition Astons. As of right now, that’s no longer true.
The 2019 Aston Martin Vantage is now truly, officially a sports car, and it feels every bit like a sports car should. I know this because I recently had the chance to drive a 2019 Aston Martin Vantage, courtesy of Aston Martin Newport Beach, where the latest Vantage is just starting to trickle in.
Before I explain my thoughts on the new Vantage, here are the particulars: It’s totally new compared to the old model, not just updated, and it looks basically nothing like the outgoing Vantage. This has apparently been a source of consternation for some shoppers who want Aston to preserve the tradition of beautiful, if conservative, designs that look a bit similar to one another. Aston insists those days are over, and the Vantage is clear proof.
Under the hood, the Vantage offers a 503-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8, which is borrowed from Mercedes-AMG. This is the same engine in the Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS, which, it should be noted, is cheaper: The AMG GTS starts around $135,000, while the Vantage starts from about $152,000 with shipping. Cheaper, indeed, but wouldn’t you pay $17,000 more for the Aston Martin brand name?
Personally, I would, and I feel even more confident in that opinion after driving the car. The AMG GTS is cool, sure, but it’s rapidly becoming common, and the interior is very old-hat Mercedes-Benz — a problem you don’t have to contend with in the Vantage. Instead, the Aston’s interior is beautiful, gorgeous, handsome and, in some spots, quirky — the hood latch is on the passenger side, rather than the driver’s side, a vestige of the car’s right-hand drive roots. To me, it just elicits a laugh.
On the road, the Vantage also makes an excellent case for itself. The AMG GTS drives well, but the Vantage drives just as well, boasting an amazing exhaust note and incredible performance. The Vantage apparently sprints from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds, on its way to a 195-mph top speed, which is near supercar territory. Handling is sharp; the ride varies from sports car-harsh to acceptable, depending on your setting; and gear changes are near-instantaneous, even though they don’t come from a dual-clutch automatic transmission, but rather an old-school torque converter.
If there’s one letdown with the Vantage, I’d say it would be technology. Apparently, Aston Martin’s contract with Mercedes-Benz for the powertrains also lets the storied British brand borrow Mercedes tech, but on the condition that they use the last-generation Mercedes-Benz infotainment system, while Mercedes gets the good stuff. The result is an old-feeling COMAND interface that’ll be familiar to anyone with a 2013 C-Class — lack of Apple CarPlay and all.
I bring that up because, with this car, Aston is punching into the territory of some serious competitors, not just the AMG GTS, but also the Porsche 911 Turbo (and the Carrera S), the Audi R8 and even the Ferrari Portofino when a Vantage is fully optioned. And, to me, aside from the tech, it stands up well against those cars. I understand the complaint that the AMG GTS is a cheaper car with the same engine, but who among us would rather have an AMG over an Aston Martin — especially when the price delta is "only" $17,000, before options? And yes, the Vantage doesn’t quite perform like a 911 Turbo, but it’s also quite a bit cheaper — about $10,000 in base price. And then you have the name recognition issue again: a Porsche? Or an Aston Martin? Do you want to be a successful dentist? Or James Bond?
The simple truth is this: The Vantage is an excellent sports car, and certainly an improvement over its predecessor. Pricing is right, the performance is excellent, styling is strong and the engine note is fabulous. But it lives in a crowded segment filled to the brim with strong rivals — so it’ll be interesting to see how a reborn Vantage performs. I, personally, would be sure to spend some time with one before seriously considering anything else.