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Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1

While the engine in the old one started life out as a Jaguar unit, this one is from Mercedes, using the AMG GT’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine – indeed, Mercedes owns a small stake of Aston Martin. The engine produces 510hp and 685Nm of torque, enough for a claimed 3.7-second 0-62mph time and 195mph top speed.

Any shortfalls found in the interior are easily forgotten when you press the start button, waking up with a roar and burbling away with menacing intent.

It’s a great power unit, with strong response from low-down to make it an easy, relaxing car to drive at lower speed, especially with the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox – though a manual gearbox will be offered later.

How fast is it?

The Vantage might use the same engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox as the DB11 V8 and produce almost identical performance, but it feels much faster. This is partly due to a 129kg reduction in weight versus the larger car, and also shorter gearing.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage 2018 engine

As a result the Vantage feels keen to gather speed almost anywhere in the rev range, giving it both easy flexibility for lower-speed overtaking and a thrilling run to peak revs at 7,000rpm. The gearbox, similarly, feels more energetic, with more positive engagement from each shift, even if it can still feel smooth during relaxed driving, just like the engine.

Compared to its rivals, the performance isn’t as hard-hitting as any of them, as they all push you harder into your seat under acceleration, but this is plenty quick enough. The noise it makes is not quite as theatrical as some of its rivals either, but it’s still loud enough – It sounds better than a 911, but is just a bit more subtle in the way it goes about its business than any of its V8 or V10-engined rivals.

What's it like to drive?

Considering the generous performance and rear-wheel-drive layout, the Vantage puts its power down with impressive composure. There will be no complaints about the performance available, except perhaps from the traction control system. Get a little over-eager and the systems quickly quells unruly wheelspin, although in wet, winter weather conditions, we did find the ESC light flashing away right up to fourth gear.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage 2018 driving

Turbocharged engines can suffer from a spongy throttle pedal and turbo lag when you accelerate, but the Vantage is crisp and responsive, giving it the immediacy a sports car deserves – and drivers expect. Best of all, the V8 revs towards peak power with great enthusiasm and a suitably intoxicating soundtrack.

There are three drive modes available to alter the engine, gearbox and ESC ferocity, named Sport, Sport+ and Track.

Does the AMR version turn up the heat?

We’ve seen the AMR’s manual transmission before, on the now-dead V12-powered Vantage S, and two years on it’s barely less of an enigma. Having seven gears is unusual enough, and ought to give a driver plenty to think about, but this gearbox has first back and to the left on a dogleg, with the remainder of the gears arranged in a conventional H-pattern, just like in vintage supercars and racers.

The idea comes from racing, where first was only used when starting the race, so kept out of the way of the more used ratios. Here the pattern is just a fun nod to those days, though since first gear does tend to be quite handy in a road car, the novelty can wear off. More pressing is the rattly transmission noise and the narrowness of the gearshift gate that makes it too easy to mis-shift and end up going from, say, first to fourth.

Which would be hugely embarrassing it wasn’t for the Vantage’s AMG-sourced 4.0-litre V8’s ability to dig deep and use its swell of low-end turbocharged torque to cover your mistakes. And that’s despite it serving up less torque to the rear wheels than the automatic car, with 625Nm, because the manual isn’t strong enough to handle the full force.

The lighter transmission is part of a 95kg diet that helps offset the torque shortfall, but the AMR is still slower than the automatic Vantage and feels it: an identical 510hp rating means an identical 195mph top speed, but the 0-62mph time creeps up from 3.6sec to 4sec. Which, in the loopy world of 500+hp cars, is actually pretty torpid.

Handling

  • Agile and fun, but less so than a 911
  • Steering could do with more feel
  • Great handling combined with decent comfort

On the road, the Vantage immediately feels more aggressive than the mechanically similar DB11 V8. The suspension is much firmer, there’s significantly more road noise, and the engine sounds more raucous too. It’s a sportier, less soothing companion than a DB11, if still perfectly usable, but the Vantage’s sharper focus also makes it a more enthralling drive.

Steering that offered more road feel would be welcome, but the response overall is superb and this doesn’t detract from the Vantage being an incredibly engaging car to drive over a challenging road. The chassis is extremely well set up with body roll quickly controlled, the brake and throttle fizzing with feedback and the Vantage rapidly builds driver confidence thanks to a combination of huge front-end grip and fleet-footed agility.

As well as three drive modes for the engine and gearbox, there are modes for the suspension as well, but in short, you don’t really need it to be any firmer during daily use.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage 2018 handling

Even when pushed to extremes in the snow, the chassis also seems incredibly benign as the rear end slides out of line and then regains its composure – it feels both playful in its willingness to entertain and confidence inspiring in its composure.

Mostly, drivers will leave the stability systems on, but it’s reassuring that the chassis is so well balanced with them disabled. Equally impressive is how quickly the brakes slow the Vantage in such tricky conditions – we tested only the standard brakes, though a far more expensive carbon-ceramic upgrade will also be offered.

No, it’s not as agile as a Porsche 911 or McLaren 540C, but it’s more comfortable and luxurious than either of them and still manages to be enjoyable, without ever feeling terrifying.

AMR version stands out here

While there's not a huge difference in the sportiest Vantage's performance, fortunately there’s more to the way the AMR pulls down a straight road. Mild suspension changes mean the AMR feels even pointier then the standard car, the oddly square steering wheel connecting you via a high-geared steering rack to a front axle that seems to cling on even in the worst weather conditions, though it can’t touch a McLaren 570S for steering feel.

The rear end feels less tied down too, or at least it did on sodden, twisty Germans roads, which don’t feel much like British ones (well, apart from the sodden bit).