Weekend Wheels: You'll Bond with Aston's new Vantage
OK, I’ll try to go easy on the James Bond quips. I promise. Yet to drive a new Aston Martin, any Aston Martin, and not make reference to the indelible 007 connection is something of a challenge.
Especially as the 2020 Aston Martin Vantage rocketship I’ve been piloting never failed to leave me shaken and stirred, and desperate to, er, drive another day.
I’ll also eagerly point out that — and this is for your eyes only — the first time anyone saw this latest Vantage coupe in the metal was in the 2015 Bond blockbuster, Spectre, two years before it went on sale.
Who can forget that heart-pumping chase through the back streets of Rome, Daniel Craig power-sliding the Aston around the Coliseum before unceremoniously dumping it into the Tiber River.
I tell you, that scene alone scared the living daylights out of me.
This newest 2020 Vantage — prices from $149,995 — might be the entry model in the range, but it’s arguably the sexiest, most fun, most agile Aston Martin you can buy. A car with a true license to thrill.
Much of this is down to the comprehensive makeover the two-seater received in 2018 that righted the many wrongs of the original.
New body, an improved aluminum chassis with bits borrowed from the bigger DB11, a new V8 engine and a redesigned, higher-quality interior.
Talking of the V8, this came as a result of the technical partnership Aston Martin forged with Mercedes-Benz back in 2013.
In return for a stake in the British car maker, Mercedes agreed to supply its magnificent AMG-built 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 along with electronics and infotainment systems.
Here is essentially the same engine that powers the potent Mercedes-AMG GT — ironically a serious competitor to the Vantage. In the Aston it delivers a healthy 503-horsepower punch, along with 505 lb-ft of torque.
That’s enough to fire the rear-drive Vantage from rest to 60mph in 3.6 seconds, and not quit until the speedo is showing 195mph.
See it in the metal and your heart melts, especially when you take in our car’s spectacular shade of baby blue.
While Aston Martins of old have tended to be elegant, refined grand tourers — like that iconic 1965 DB5 from Goldfinger — the Vantage is a blunt instrument. Think of a muscled-up Daniel Craig in a tight-fitting Brioni tux, all bulging biceps and six-pack abs. That’s the Vantage.
Just gaze at those powerful, muscley haunches covering the rear wheels, the arch of the roofline, that mile-long clamshell hood. Just gorgeous.
Inside, those deeply bolstered sports seats hold you tighter than a body hug from Jaws (the silver-toothed Bond villain, not the sharp-toothed shark). 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 over 12 cubic feet of luggage space. Enough for a weekend away for two. But it’s laughable that there’s still no glovebox.
To drive the Aston, however, is to love it. And from the moment you press the “start” button and hear that spine-tingling “whoomph” of the exhaust, you know you are in for a treat.
The big AMG V8 is mated with ZF’s trusty eight-speed automatic which shifts gears with the immediacy of flicking a light switch. And toggling through the trio of drive modes — Sport, Sport+ and Track — will liven up the engine and quicken shifts.
My all-round favorite: Sport+, which delivers slingshot launches, right-now passing and the mid-range thrust of an F-18 on full afterburner. And oooh the noise. Angry grizzlies don’t sound this vocal.
Without a race track to open the Aston’s handling envelope, it’s largely meaningless to describe its cornering abilities. On the road, the Vantage essentially goes where you point it. Its electric-assist steering has surgical precision; its 20-inch rubberware offers the grip of 20 cases of Gorilla.
My only complaint: Those rubber-band-like tires throw up one heckuva lot of road noise, with every lump, bump and surface change being transmitted into the cabin.
But that’s a small price to pay for so much excitement, so much agility and athleticism. So much style.
Should you buy one? Of course. After all, you only live twice.
To test drive the 2020 Aston Martin Vantage Coupe, ask the folks nicely at Aston Martin of Tampa Bay, in Pinellas Park.