First UK drive of the new Aston Vantage – at Goodwood!

Where better to really get a feel for Aston Martin's new Vantage than at the fast, challenging Goodwood circuit that we know so well...

Our guys drove the new Vantage on its launch in Portugal, and loved it. You can read about that here. But just a couple of weeks later we were given the chance to drive it at Goodwood – a surprise first UK drive.

Did we take it? Of course! Sometimes a car can feel very different away from a launch drive anyway, but this is a second opinion too, because this was my first chance to drive the new model.

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First impression? That it looks really good in dark blue, which isn’t a colour that was available at the official launch – and I reckon it’s the best of the colours. The new Vantage is so much more radical in shape than the outgoing model, but the blue keeps it classy.

I always loved the old Vantage, and was lucky enough to drive it a lot, in both V8 and V12 form. A few years ago the latter felt awesome (no other word is enough) but the V8 was almost as spectacular. Even 16 years ago when the V8 first emerged, it was flawed but it was enough fun to negate all that, but recently both were beginning to feel particularly dated.

This Vantage builds on the new aluminium structure introduced for the DB11 two years ago, though significantly different. The engine is an all-new, alloy, 4-litre twin-turbo V8, which delivers 510PS (503bhp) at 6000rpm and 685Nm (505lb ft) from 2000-5000rpm.

The transmission is an eight-speed rear-mounted ZF, which hooks up to an electronic rear differential (E-Diff), which in turn is linked to the car’s electronic stability control system – it can go from fully open to 100% locked in milliseconds, which a conventional differential just cannot do.

In fact this is just one example Vantage’s transformed electronics, which now uses Mercedes-Benz systems.

The in-car entertainment system is a massive improvement over the outgoing model’s, and the interior switchgear has been revamped to match – there are still those slightly odd trademark gear selector buttons on the dash, but the various switches and dials are now much easier to operate on the move, thankfully. There’s noticeably more room inside too.

Enough, though. Does it feel better to drive? With any new model there’s always a danger that performance will be improved at the expense of feel and character.

Not so here. From the start it feels sharper and simply more together, of a piece. The rough edges are smoothed over but not homogenised, the engine sounds so much better than the old flat-plane V8 and the transmission is in another league entirely. Mind you, the automated manual of the old V8 Vantage was by far its worst point.

On track, it feels not just quick but utterly planted and predictable. Goodwood is a seriously fast, challenging track, but the Vantage was never once unsettled, though it would squirm around on the fastest corners, showing at least that it was trying hard.

If you were clumsy (stupidly clumsy, I mean) with the old Vantage, it would sometimes lurch out of a corner, and though it never felt imprecise, it was never as composed or as perfectly precise that the new car feels.

I suspect that the E-Diff is a big part of this, but then there are other factors: just 2.4 turns lock-to-lock on the steering, solidly-mounted rear subframe and revamped Adaptive Damping System must help.

What was really interesting was that it was significantly, noticeably better on the track after knocking the suspension back from its hardest setting. More feel and feedback with it on a softer setting. ‘Just like a Lotus,’ I thought, almost subconsciously, before brain cells lit up with the obvious connection that former Lotus set-up genius Matt Becker has been with Aston Martin for the last two years.

So, the second opinion confirms what the first opinion said. That the new Vantage is much-improved all-round, and Aston Martin continues its remarkable trajectory, creating new, more varied, more capable, higher quality machines.

Photography by Malcolm Griffiths. Thanks to Goodwood Motor Circuit

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