What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Aston Martin?
In this country, it's Sean Connery – playing James Bond. That silver DB5 has a lasting effect on people, especially when they do not realize that (a) Aston Martin had a long history before its big screen debut and (b) there had been many other Aston Martins produced since.
For those people who know both (a) and (b), there is also another perception to tackle. We know Aston Martin as a purveyor of great grand touring coupes. Sometimes, they'll pour more horsepower into these coupes to create relevance when pitted against other marques.
When they created the first Vantage, Aston Martin wanted a sports coupe that would rival everything from the Jaguar F-Type to the Porsche 911 and everything else in-between. Since then, a lot of things changed. In fact, Aston Martin went back to the drawing board to create an evolutionary design language that was also revolutionary, produce their cars into a full monocoque construction, rather than skinning a car over a tubular chassis, and simplify specifications to target performance and driving dynamics benchmarks.
Two results came out of this effort. The DB11 remains a 2+2 grand tourer in both coupe and Volante convertible form. The second is an honest-to-your-deity-of-choice sports car.
I drove the second – the new 2019 Aston Martin Vantage.
First of all, this is my first ever drive in an Aston Martin. It does not seem fair that the new Vantage would be the first one, considering the multitude of Astons that could have been driven prior to this one. It is as I jumped over every spot on a Monopoly board and landed in the best place to be.
In other words, everything you knew about Aston Martin – including 007's own DB5 – will be tossed out the window with this new Vantage.
Let's talk about the car. Outside is all new with a front end that is shaped like the traditional grille shape but acts as both bumper and a large lower air intake. There is no chrome to be found up front. The entire profile is low and sleek, with some creases extending out of the front wheel well, which also serves as an air exit from the front brakes. The rear is highly sculptured, with a full-length taillight unit that frames the leading edge of the hatchback. In all, this Vantage is seriously distinctive and all-business.
Inside will simply challenge your mind. There are only a few hints of its Aston Martin heritage – the superb, hand-crafted cabin quality, the badges, the seat controls on the side of the center console, and the ignition button. Everything else is all new. The center console is crowned by a series of buttons for the transmission and the ignition. Above that are more switches for the infotainment and climate controls. These are all within an arm's reach. On top of the center stack is the infotainment screen which houses the navigation system and all other audio readouts.
The control area that drivers need to work with is on the steering wheel and column. You have both drive modes and suspension controls, along with the paddles for the transmission, cruise control, steering column adjustment, and a few infotainment switches. Beyond that is three-screen TFT instrumentation cluster that is informative and easy to read. The steering wheel itself has a race-car shape that encourages you to hold it in a 9-3 position.
The seats are heavily bolstered and extremely comfortable. There is true cushioning in the bottom with a fatigue-free seatback. And, before I go further – this is only a two-seater!
You can also customize the seats to the way you like through an individualization program at the local dealer. If you go that route, your Vantage will arrive in six months after the order is placed.
Under the hood of the Vantage is a hand-built AMG 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, sending power through a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission towards the rear wheels. With 503 horsepower, this engine is an absolute treat to drive. That exhaust note is always on – and that sound is live, not filtered through the audio system. Not to mention, the engine is set behind the front axle with the transmission moved towards the front to accomplish complete balance on the road.
When setting up the car, you only have three choices in drive modes and suspension settings. Sport is the new normal, but it refuses to go soft anywhere you point it. Click on Sport + and you get firmer dampening, a solid steering feel, and more control of the shifts in the transmission. Unlike most sports cars, it is an easy click into Track mode. No need to do a few steps to get there – just one click and you're ready to rock the Vantage on the track. In Track mode, the Vantage begs to be shifted for every part of the track – or road. It gives you the firmest suspension setting with the sharpest steering feel.
Through every mode, the Vantage offers not just balance from front-to-back, but all around. It is designed to keep you inside the curve and in control through it without overcorrecting and screwing up. The brakes are good, with superb stopping, even though some pedal work might be required for those who have never driven a sports car like this before. In all, this car is designed to make you a better driver – no, seriously, this Aston Martin encourages you to explore your next set of limits and help you deliver them without harming anything.
Pricing starts at $149,995 for the 2019 Vantage. If you looking at it just for the pricing alone, then you're missing the entire point of this car.
Let me get this out of the way – this one damn good sports car! No, better, this is a great sports car. More so, this will be the one Aston Martin that will forget about Sean Connery or Daniel Craig and the one movie character they share.
Great cars are designed to deliver the maximum pleasure, fun, and whatever makes you happy. If you honor its history and place in the automotive universe, this has to be the next Aston Martin you should own. On its own merits, the 2019 Vantage accomplished more than most sports car has done in my lifetime – absolute excellence in driving.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Aston Martin via Morrie's Luxury Auto, Golden Valley, MN