The $186,000 Aston Martin Vantage is the most exciting car I've driven in 2020. Here's how this amazing machine takes on Porsche, Mercedes, and even Ferrari.

Matthew DeBord/InsiderThe best of the best — the Aston Martin Vantage.
  • I tested a $US186,027 Aston Martin Vantage coupé – the impressive entry point to the British brand.
  • My 2020 Vantage had a 503-horsepower V8 engine, borrowed from Mercedes-AMG.
  • The Vantage was revamped for 2019; the nameplate has been around since the early 2000s and has gone through one major design update.
  • The Vantage is aimed squarely at taking on Porsche, but it can hang with Ferrari.
  • The V8-powered Vantage is incredible – a magnificent front-engined grand tourer with style, heritage, spirit, soul, and beauty to burn.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Calling the Aston Martin Vantage “entry level” is sort of insulting. If this is entry level, I can’t wait to see what Aston has in store for me later.

Well, actually, I have seen what Aston has in store for me later.It’s called the DB11.

But no matter. The Vantage that Aston let me borrow for a few days had a potent V8 under the hood (sourced from partner Mercedes-AMG) and, as Astons do, immediately captivated with that patented combination of grace and power that the products of this very British brand always bring to the casino.

The Vantage is meant to talk folks out of buying a Porsche 911, but I don’t think anybody really cross-shops the brands all that much. You want a 911, you want a 911, if you get my drift. Honestly, I think the Vantage customer might have ideas about something like the Ferrari Portofino or the Mercedes-AMG GT, with which it shares some important parts. Like the engine.

But really, cars like this are almost sui generis: big-motored, lightweight grand tourers with room for two people and some luggage and their open-road dreams. Mine took me to the Catskills from suburban New Jersey and back.

Here’s what I thought:


My 2020 Aston Martin Vantage arrived in (nearly) all black. “Onyx Black,” to be precise. The Aston in this colour almost seemed to have a cloaking device!

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The earlier version of the Aston was a bit more svelte. The 2019 redesign added some burliness to the car’s frame and beefed up the fastback silhouette.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The large maw of the grille has been controversial. But there’s no question that it announces aggression. This car had a base price of $US152,995, but a list of options brought the as-tested total to $US186,027.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The front aero features are part of a roughly $US2,300 extra body package.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

I like these LED headlights! They aren’t overdone, as so many lamps on high-end cars are these days.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The Aston Martin badge is subdued and lovely, rendered in chrome and British racing green.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

For the most part, the Vantage is free of exterior bling. The side-scoops are perhaps the most prominent elements.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The 20-inch forged wheels added to the blacked-out aesthetic, but the blue brake callipers added a splash of colour. Apart from the green on the badge, the ONLY splash of colour.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

This Aston wore grippy Pirelli P-Zeros at all four corners. But in the back, they weren’t TOO grippy. The Vantage can get tail happy if you hammer the throttle.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

I often favour the front or rear end of the car, but the Aston looks great from every angle.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The nameplate joins the badge, below the integrated decklid spoiler.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The diffuser is actually rather prominent, below the sculptural framing of the quad exhaust pipes.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Overall, the Aston’s rear is glorious.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

And believe it or not, cargo capacity for a two-seat GT, isn’t bad!

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

You have 10 cubic feet to work with. I was able to get a weekend’s worth of luggage in there.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Now, the main event! Let’s pop the hood.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

But how do you actually do that? Well, the hood release is concealed on the passenger side.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Voila!

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Under the aluminium clamshell hood and some cross-bracing, we find a 503-horsepower, 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, yielding 505 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic channels to the giddyap to the rear wheels.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Thank you, Taylus Wright, for the final inspection of this magnificent motor!

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Let’s slip into the “Obsidian Black/Indigo Blue” leather interior.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

It’s incredibly handsome and comfortable, yet sporty. Adding everything up that contributed to it, the extra cost was about $US4,700.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The steering wheel is a supple, flat-bottomed unit.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

It sets up in typical, modern, multifunction style.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The analogue-digital instrument cluster is centered on a tachometer shrouded by a tunnel-like cowling.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The suspension button allows you to toggle through drive settings: Sport, Sport-Plus, and Track.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

That “S” button does the same for the driving dynamics — the Vantage lacks the GT mode found in some other Astons.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The paddle shifters are long, wonderfully tooled, and …

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

… Attached to the steering column.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The start-stop button rules the P-R-N-D gearshift pyramid.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The seats are both heated and cooled.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Seat adjustments are located on the centre tunnel.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

A note about the visor mirrors: these are the best-made I’ve ever seen!

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The seats almost perfectly combine supportive bolstering and comfort.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

Storage behind the seats is meager but …

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

… A small shelf supplies some extra space.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The premium detailing on the interior components is what we’ve come to expect from Aston.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The audio system is excellent. I’ve complained about this aspect of Astons, but my last two vehicles have cured the problem!

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The eight-inch infotainment screen runs a system borrowed from Mercedes that isn’t exactly the most user-friendly on the market, but it gets the job done. GPS navigation, Bluetooth pairing, and USB device integration all work as they should.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

The system is managed via a touchpad/dial/buttons interface. Yes, there’s a learning curve. But not having to invest in a proprietary system enables Aston to use resources on stuff that matters more to the brand.

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

So what’s the verdict?

Matthew DeBord/Insider2020 Aston Martin Vantage.

I couldn’t get enough of the V8 Vantage, and that was after sampling two variants of the new Porsche 911, the rival Mercedes-AMG GT R, and a Warwickshire stablemate, the DB11 equipped with same V8.

I’ve always fallen hard for Astons, however. OK, sure, there’s some inbreeding with the brand as far as the now-extensive collaboration with Mercedes-AMG goes: engines, transmissions, infotainment. How can Aston remain Aston under such partnership pressure?

Ye of little faith! Astons continue to have that Aston thing, an Anglo-Saxon predisposition toward suave wildness. The Vantage is a British Corvette, minus the backwoods association. And although its received a heart transplant in the form oa German motor, the same V8 in the Mercedes-AMG GT R kind of overdoes it on the outrageous sonics while simultaneously not departing from a Teutonic enthusiasm for using brilliant engineering to keep all that oomph in check.

If you’ll forgive the Bond cliché, the Aston shows you a beautiful suit, then punches you in the face, then adjust its cuffs and tie and restores its outward dignity after a burst of threat, just so you know.

The way this played out over 300 or so miles was that I would settle into to a freeway cruise and listen to the thrum of the V8, periodically summoning the demon to pass a semi, and once I exited the highway and found some curvy Catskills roads, I’d sling the Vantage around a bit and enjoy it’s seductive out-of-control-ness. Can’t do that with a Porsche 911 4S! The telekinetic all-wheel-drive won’t permit it!

The whole point of the Vantage is that it isn’t composed in corners. But for all the unstable rudeness, the car’s beauty remains. And that beauty is hypnotic. Ferraris manage this trick in an aggressive way, and Lamborghinis do it with over-the-topness. The outgoing Corvette C7 wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it certainly looked like something. The Vantage is almost completely organised around seeking perfection of shape, form, and proportion. It induces a blissful trance.

OK, yes, as a DB9 enthusiast, I favour the Henrik Fisker-designed first generation of the Vantage, which arrived in 2005, but was briefly discontinued before the new car arrived in 2019. The nose is simply more refined, while the current Vantage is often knocked for its gaping maw of a grille.

But these are nitpicky things. On a drive up to the Catskills from my suburban New Jersey residence, the Vantage performed majestically: a cool customers on the freeway, but a beast in curves and corners. At no point did the car make me feel anything other than utterly and completely alive.

Some brands just have a special thing. Ferrari has it. Lamborghini has it. Jaguar sort of has it. Porsche has it, but it’s diversified across a variety of segments. Lotus used to have it. Corvette has it.

When it comes to Aston, the thing is ever-present and undeniable. And the Mercedes-AMG collaboration hasn’t dimmed it at all. The Aston-ness simply blasts through and takes control. What a glorious sensation this is to experience! A car that is, unapologetically, what it’s meant to be.

That’s why the Vantage is the most memorable car I’ve driven in 2020.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.