The origins of lipstick go back to 3500 B.C., when those fun-loving gals of Mesopotamia reportedly used crushed gemstones to decorate their lips.
Fast-forward to 40 B.C. and the days of Cleopatra VII, who would grind carmine beetles, mix the resulting rouge with beeswax, and paint it on her pout. It did the trick. When Mark Antony cast eyes on her, he was captivated by her sensuous beauty. Call him a sucker for a pucker.
But over the years, not everyone has loved the look of racy red lips. Back in 1770s England, those puritanical Brit parliamentarians passed a law banning lipstick, ruling that women who wore it were nothing more than witches attempting to lure innocent menfolk into marriage.
But we live in 2015, an era when even sports cars wear lipstick.
Aston Martin has distinguished the latest iteration of its Vantage two-seater, the 2015 Vantage GT, with a glowing band of contrast color lining its famous bouche.
While you can pick red lips on white bodywork (perhaps a little too close to human for comfort), silver on black, gray on silver, or red on blue, it’s the searing yellow against the alloro green of our test car that’s guaranteed to rotate heads faster than Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist.
There’s history here, too. Aston’s famous 1956 DB3 S racecar sported the same color scheme, as do the current GTE and GT4 Challenge racers.
But this new GT is so much more than a pretty face. This is Aston Martin throwing down the gauntlet to the likes of Porsche’s 911, Jaguar’s F-Type Coupe, and Audi’s R8. How come? One reason: price.
This V8 Vantage GT stickers for an exceptional $99,900—a price drop of some $18,500 compared to the only marginally better equipped Vantage V8.
That $99,900 sticker is almost identical to the base $98,900 of Porsche’s latest 911 Carrera S Coupe. Not that any Carrera S has ever left a showroom priced as such. Add a few extras and you quickly get north of $120,000.
Of course, you could argue the reason for the GT’s aggressive price tag is that the Vantage model, on which it’s based, isn’t exactly in the prime of its youth. Considering it debuted in 2005, it almost qualifies for AARP membership.
But it has aged supremely well, and age is arguably one of its greatest assets. This is a true analog sports car in a digital world. You don’t need a degree in computer science to drive it. It has old-school hydraulic steering instead of electric and no fancy I-Drive controls or cockpit-adjustable damper settings.
To pilot it is to adore it. Stick with the six-speed manual version—a so-so seven-speed automated manual is an option—and you’ll feel a connection with the car that’s almost go-kart like. Find a twisty back road or a few tight freeway on-ramps, grip that wonderful Alcantara suede steering wheel, and you could be lapping Sebring International Raceway.
Power comes courtesy of Aston’s 4.7-liter quad-cam V-8. Its 430-horsepower output and its 4.6-second sprint from zero to 60 seem meager compared to the 550-hp Jaguar F-Type R. But the V-8 is big on torque, firing the car out of curves like a clown out of a circus cannon.
And boy, can this car carve curves. Sport-tuned suspension, sticky 19-inch rubberware at each corner, and a bonded and riveted aerospace-style lightweight chassis give the car a precision, finesse, and balance few rivals can match.
Word on the street is a brand new Vantage may be unveiled toward the end of the year, maybe coinciding with the opening of the new James Bond romp, Spectre, in November.
So pucker up and grab this Vantage GT, coupe or convertible, while you can. It might be the most fun-to-drive model in the Aston Martin lineup.
PRICE: From $99,900
ENGINE: 4.7-liter quad-cam
V-8 POWER: 430-hp TORQUE: 361 pound-feet
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual 0-60: 4.6 seconds
TOP SPEED: 190 mph
LENGTH/WIDTH: 172.5/73.5 inches
WEIGHT: 3,595 pounds
WHY WE LOVE IT: This new Vantage GT is all about pure, old-school driving enjoyment, and as the Brit moviemaker Guy Ritchie said, “There’s no school like old school.”