Blues Traveler: Aston Martin Vantage

The latest Vantage coupe may be an entry model, but its cool factor is exponential.

As someone who’s served up his fair share of James Bond quips, I’m doing my best to refrain from going into overdrive right now. But to slide behind the wheel of an Aston Martin and not reference the indelible 007 connection is something of a challenge. Especially since the 2020 Aston Martin Vantage rocket ship I’ve been piloting never failed to leave me shaken, stirred, and desperate to, well, drive another day. 

I’ll also point out that the first time anyone saw this iteration of the Vantage coupe was in the 2015 Bond blockbuster Spectre, two full years before it went on sale. Who can forget that heart-pumping chase through the back streets of Rome, Daniel Craig powersliding the Aston around the Colosseum before unceremoniously dumping it into the Tiber River?

The 2020 Vantage, priced from $156,081, is the entry model in the range, but it’s also the sexiest, most fun, most agile Aston Martin on the market. This, my friends, is a car with a true license to thrill.

A lot of this two-seater’s appeal comes down to the comprehensive makeover it received in 2018. At the time, most of its original wrongs were righted, resulting in a reimagined body, an improved aluminum chassis with bits borrowed from the bigger DB11, a new V-8 engine, and a higher-quality interior.

That V-8 is a byproduct of the technical partnership Aston Martin forged with Mercedes-Benz in 2013. In return for a stake in the British car maker, Mercedes agreed to supply its AMG-built 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, along with electronics and infotainment systems. This is essentially the same engine that powers the Mercedes-AMG GT, which is, ironically, a serious competitor to the Vantage. In the Aston, it yields a 503-hp punch and 505 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to fire the rear-drive Vantage to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and not quit until the speedo shows 195 mph.

See it in the metal and your heart will melt. While Aston Martins of old have tended to be refined grand tourers, such as that iconic 1965 DB5 from Goldfinger, the Vantage is a blunt instrument. Think of a muscular Daniel Craig in a tight-fitting Brioni tux, all bulging biceps and six-pack abs. That’s the Vantage.

There’s function behind this eye-candy form; that huge front spoiler and ducktail rear lip ensure the car stays rock-solid, even when approaching 200 mph. And despite the car being shorter than a Porsche 911, the cabin feels surprisingly roomy. It’s practical too. Pop open the high-lifting tailgate and there’s more than 12 cubic feet of luggage space. The lack of a glovebox, on the other hand, is laughable.

To drive the Aston, however, is to love it. The big AMG V-8 is mated with ZF’s trusty 8-speed automatic, which shifts gears with the immediacy of flicking a light switch. Toggling through the trio of drive modes—Sport, Sport+, and Track—will enliven the engine and quicken shifts. Sport+, my favorite, delivers slingshot launches, right-now passing, and the mid-range thrust of an F-18 on full afterburner. Surgically precise electric-assist steering and 20-inch tires with the grip of 20 cases of Gorilla Glue round out the driving experience.

My only complaint, in fact, is about those rubber band–like tires, which produce a heck of a lot of road noise. But that’s a small price to pay for this much excitement, style, and athleticism. Should you buy one? Of course. After all, you once live twice. 

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