"The new car starts where V12 Vantage, not V8, left off," says Miles Nurnberger, Aston's head of exterior design, as he walks us around the production car in an intimate advance viewing at the brand's rural UK headquarters. He is referring to the top-of-the-line, end-of-the-run, 12-cylinder, stick-shifted, spoiler-bedecked analog anachronism that was a limited-edition sendoff for the outgoing car, which had been on sale for more than a dozen model years. (To say that the previous Vantage was long in the tooth is a reckless overestimation of the lifespan of teeth.)
From a purely visual perspective, we cannot argue with him. The new Vantage is immediately recognizable as an Aston Martin — with the signature hill-climb grille, sensuously crisp hood, mesomorphic flanks, squinting greenhouse and tucked tail. But the car can almost be heard, seething, with one's eyes.
First off, the hue the brand has selected as a launch color, Lime Essence, looks like ionized absinthe. Additionally, the car is rimmed along its ground-hugging nether regions, from chin to rear, in a be-pronged sinew of starkly contrasting polished carbon-fiber aero effects. It sneers menacingly through narrowly horizontal, selachian eyes. It flashes a triangular carbon burgonet on each cheek, armor potent enough to ward off a Napoleonic cuirassier. And its rear is a war of stark bladelike protrusions, like the final battle sequence in a chop-socky movie.
"If the DB11 is a gentleman," Nurnberger explains, "the Vantage is a hunter." Its nose is to the ground, scanning the distance for something to trounce."
"It's the color of a predator in nature," explains Aston's straight-talking CEO, Andy Palmer. "Look at a wasp. Its colors warn, stay away."
Not drawing the ire of other motorists is, in our opinion, one of the chief advantages of driving an Aston, especially versus some of its flashier (Italian) competitors. Apparently, Aston is aware of this and also offers the new Vantage in a more subdued palette and trim. We'd spec ours in a more traditional color, like grayish Hardly Green, with satin titanium trim and body-color zygomatic implants. Though we'd go for an optional textured, forged dark wheel to exemplify our evil nature, and for the optional quad exhaust to exemplify our love of being an incorrigible jerk and driving everywhere solely in first or second gear, engine wailing. (We'd skip the optional carbon-ceramic brakes because we know we're not Max Verstappen.)
Speaking of wail, we have not yet had a chance to hear the motor expectorate, but we have a pretty good idea of what it might sound like, given that it's the same one that was recently implanted in the DB11. A 503-hp, 513-lb-ft variant of the ubiquitous and beloved 4.0 twin-turbo V8 that is built by AMG and scattered fervently throughout the Mercedes-Benz range, here, as in the DB, it is specially mapped and tuned for a more trilling and less bombastic engine note. It will be paired to the similarly ubiquitous and beloved 8-speed ZF automatic, which is currently distributed among all of Europe's automakers. However, we did manage to trick Matt Becker, Aston's head of vehicle dynamics, into almost admitting that a seven-speed manual likely will be available in about a year or so. Praise be to the jackal-headed god of all things automotive.
That stick shift will fit nicely in the general area now occupied by Aston's crystal push-button automatic transmission, which has migrated lower in the center stack and bent into a lovely rainbow with the keyless Start/Stop button as its dreamlike pinnacle. This is part of a wholesale interior update, which transforms the brand's formerly vertical "waterfall" control array into something more horizontal. This arrives, again, courtesy of Mercedes' minor stake in the company, and its correlative agreement to provide the electrical underpinnings for the Vantage's infotainment system and digital analog dash.
Benz's familiar Knurled-Oreo-Under-a-Flip Phone COMAND controller is also present to manipulate the big center screen. Dimpled thimbles in the steering wheel spokes control mainly redundant screens that display much of the same info in the instrument panel. Redundant buttons are also dotted around the periphery of the center tunnel like the dashed Rand-McNally border between Ohio and Kentucky. If you own the car long enough, we're fairly certain you'll figure out where they all are, and what they all do. Negative space carved out of the doors and a lower seating position help taller drivers fit, although the rather stingy allotment of greenhouse makes the cabin feel slightly more like a coffin than a cocoon. We identify more with vampires than larva, so we felt right at home.
While the new Vantage shares a bonded-and-riveted aluminum platform with its DB11 stablemate, 70 percent of the structure is new for this car, and the only common body parts are the front and rear badges and the door handles. The car is nearly a foot shorter and, at just more than 3,300 pounds, more than 800 pounds lighter than its big brother. It has ideal 50/50 front/rear weight balance and uses no active aerodynamic aids — just its sharp sculpting, and ground and undercarriage effects, to keep itself planted.
Just how ideal and how planted, we volunteer to find out for you when we are given an opportunity to get behind the wheel in advance of the first U.S. deliveries in June. When that happens, Aston tells us to expect 0-60 times to be around 3.6 seconds, top speed to be around 195 mph and the price to be less than $150,000.
One thing we cannot expect, at least right away, is for the Vantage to arrive on our shores with the DB11's stentorian V12 packed into its nosecone. Though the executives at Aston could not resist speculating on this possibility — dare we say, eventuality — as we looked under the roomy hood, together. The bay here is dominated by a giant pair of cubic air boxes, and then, well behind the front axle, a motor.
"Will the V12 fit ...?" Becker asks, leadingly. "I need to bring my measuring stick."