The Aston Martin Vantage Is the Angry Sex Panther of Sports Cars

Remember being a kid and dreaming about driving a sports car? This is what you were dreaming about.

The Aston Martin Vantage is the entry-level car in the British company’s lineup, but you’d never think it’s the base model to look at it. Granted, a car that starts at roughly $150,000 is hardly basic transportation, but even carmakers who traffic exclusively in six-figure iron usually don’t put the snazziest car at the bottom of the ladder. The Ferrari Portofino is no match for the 812 Superfast, and while the Lamborghini Huracan may be snazzy, there’s little arguing that the Aventador is more representative of the brand’s ideals.

The Vantage, though, is arguably the best-looking car in Aston’s lineup. It’s every bit as aggressive a design as the range-topping DBS Superleggera, though its compact proportions lend it extra ferocity — yet the muscular, powerful lines of shrink-wrapped sheet metal lend it a certain sensuality few cars can match. If it were a cologne in Brian Fantana’s musk closet, it’d be Sex Panther.

And as the least-expensive ride in the carmaker’s portfolio (I won’t go so far as to call it cheap), the Vantage also seems like the most likely to be used as somebody’s primary car — or at least their regular weekend one. (Hey, you can lease one for $1,699 a month and $0 down in the New York area.) So to find out how well this car handles the bump n’ grind of real life, we took one out for a spin in New York City and Long Island over the course of a weekend.

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There’s no arguing with the performance

Mercedes-AMG’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is a magnificent powerplant, and the Vantage uses it delightfully well. ZF’s eight-speed automatic is a delightful dance partner; you can order the car with a seven-speed manual for the 2021 model year, but between the stick’s awkward dogleg shift pattern and the overall goodness of the eight-speed (along with the fact that the latter is the only way to get the electronic limited-slip differential out back), I’d almost go so far as to say the automatic is the superior choice.

(I say this, of course, having not yet sampled the stick-shift Vantage. Hint, hint, Aston.)

The short wheelbase and athletic suspension makes it darty and fun; while the ride is a bit harsh, especially on the shattered surface of some of New York’s roads, it never reaches bone-breaking levels of harshness. Cars like the Vulcan and Valkyrie aside, Aston’s bailiwick has long been grand tourers that lean more towards the more restrained end of the sports car spectrum, and the Vantage proves you don’t have to lose that in order to have the agility and playfulness of a true weekend plaything.

It’s surprisingly usable, given, y’know, it’s a tiny Aston Martin sports car

No, the Vantage can’t carry as much as, say, the new DBX, but it’s still plenty roomy and utilitarian for a two-seat sports car of its proportions. The front seats are spacious enough for even taller folks to stretch out, and an ample parcel shelf behind the chairs provides room for backpacks, jackets and purses. The trunk may be a bit strangely shaped, but there’s no arguing with the 12.4 cubic feet of space it offers up. And the short overhangs mean the expensive-looking front lip and rear diffuser are less likely to scrape on ramps than you might suspect.

It faces some stiff competition

If the Vantage has one big problem, it’s that it faces some seriously noteworthy foes. Going up against the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo and 911 GT3 alone is the sort of challenge no manufacturer likely relishes; the high-end 911s are nearly unbeatable in most objective and subjective categories, from performance to driving fun. For those who prefer something futuristic-looking and tech-packed, BMW’s i8 and Acura’s NSX both pose a hybrid threat. And anyone who wants something wildly exotic is more likely to be drawn to the mid-engined McLaren 570S and Audi R8.

That said…when the Vantage first came out, I had a loaner for a couple of days, and since I was coming back from a work trip, I asked the fleet service company that handles logistics for media loans to leave it for me at the airport valet lot. The shuttle dropped me off along with everyone else at the parking lot, the Vantage practically singing “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Other)” from its spot between the crossovers and compacts. I fired it up, put it in gear, roared onto the highway…and realized this must be what James Bond feels like every time he comes home from a mission. Even your 911 Turbos can’t give you that.

Drivetrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
Power: 503 hp, 505 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Seats: 2

Buy Now: $149,995+

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