Words and photos by Jill Ciminillo
AUSTIN, Texas – There is something special about an Aston Martin.
From the feel of the leather to the texture of the etching on the metal surrounding the dials to the smell of the cabin, it’s just, je ne sais pas, special.
It could be the fact that one seamster does all the stitching for the same vehicle. Or the fact that it takes about two weeks to construct a single vehicle. Or even that it can take around 2 days just to apply the paint.
All that’s before you even fire up the engine and listen to the sophisticated higher-pitched growl.
Though the Aston Martin Vantage is the least expensive vehicle in the automaker’s stable at $153k, it has that same aura of specialness you see throughout the entire lineup. With endless configurations, including 24 paint colors, eight different wheel designs, 20 different leather color options and 23 different contrast stitch colors – among many other customizations – you can create the exact vehicle you want.
Don’t even get me started on their “Q” customization program!
Personally, I’d build mine in Cinnabar Orange with a Bitter Chocolate leather interior. Something with a little personality and pizzazz.
The exterior paint of our test vehicle was a more subdued Xenon Grey. A conservative color, for sure, but it sparkled prettily in the bright Texas sun – like pieces of shaved diamonds were glittering under the clear coat sheen. The Red Oxide interior, on the other hand, wasn’t my favorite. It kind of made me think of drying blood.
If you put the colors aside, the details and contours were phenomenally accomplished, and all the surfaces were tactilely pleasing – soft and supple or metallic and firm where appropriate.
The seats themselves were a work of magic, managing to be both stiff and comforting at the same time. They felt good to me, who’s on the short/skinny side of the spectrum as well as my drive partner who was an averaged height male on the stout side of the spectrum.
We spent all day in those seats, and, boy, did we have fun!
We got well outside of Austin proper on our drive route, finding some well-paved back roads with straightaways that had visibility for miles and a couple of nice curvy bits. So, we had plenty of time to push the pace as well as play around with the different driving modes.
We did a couple of flat-out runs that left my heart racing as fast as the engine, and I was duly impressed with how well the Vantage hugged the corners at aggressive speeds.
The Aston Martin Vantage is equipped with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 sourced from Mercedes-AMG. It delivers 503 horsepower and 505 pound-feet of torque, and it has a top speed of 195 mph with a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds.
I’ve certainly driven faster vehicles with more horsepower, but the Vantage is very well-balanced, and depending on your mood and driving surfaces, you can flip between country cruising and track-fast fun with a press of the button on the steering wheel.
The Vantage has individual controls for suspension and steering output, and each operate separately. So, though both have Sport, Sport + and Track modes, you can decide which combination best suits your style and the roads you are traveling.
For straight highway driving, I preferred leaving both in comfort, but as soon as we hit some twisty bits, I immediately set the steering to Track, and depending on the road surface, I dialed up the suspension as well.
Changing the modes to the track position also has the side benefit of tuning up the exhaust note as well, which emits a louder roar and a series of throaty blips with downshifts.
Overall, driving the Vantage is a visceral experience you feel from the tips of your toes on the pedals all the way to the tips of your fingers caressing that supple, leather-wrapped steering wheel. You feel connected to both the car and the road — and that was with the 8-speed automatic transmission.
Though we didn’t drive it, Vantage also offers a manual.
Other than the muddy blood-colored interior, which is an option you don’t have to choose, I was disappointed with the tech side of things in the Aston Martin Vantage.
In another partnership with Mercedes, Aston Martin utilizes the other automaker’s infotainment system. However, as a part of that arrangement, Aston Martin can’t have access to the current-generation technology.
Since things in the tech arena change in the blink of an eye, this is an inherently flawed partnership for the Brit. It always leaves Aston Martin vehicles one or two steps behind.
Other than the fact that I typically find older Mercedes infotainment systems clunky and hard-to-use, in this specific instance, it means no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. And since the Vantage was all-new in 2019, it won’t get these features any time soon.
But maybe you just turn off the ugly navigation map, leave your audio off and simply listen to the sound of the engine if you’re driving aggressively or the sheer quietude if you’re highway cruising.
That might work.
I have never driven anything from Aston Martin that I haven’t liked, and that includes the Vantage. From the hand-crafted leather seats right down to the hand-painted enamel emblem on the bonnet, it is beauty incarnate.
The fact that it can top 100 mph and still feel stable and has plenty of nimble agility for curves, corners and aggressive maneuvers tops it off.
I joke around that if I had to choose between buying an Aston Martin and a house, I might just choose the Aston Martin. But if I chose the Vantage and decided on a small house in rural Indiana, maybe I could have both. Hmmmm …