Aston Martin unveiled its all-new Vantage yesterday, along with the LM-GTE racing version for the World Endurance Championship, which was developed in parallel with the road car. The coupé will start reaching customers in Q2, 2018 and prices start from £120,900 in the UK.
The production Vantage – shown in both a high-vis Lime Essence green and a more gentlemanly Tungsten Silver – is tightly compact, with minimal overhangs at both ends and a relatively short axle-to-dash ratio despite slotting a 4.0-litre Mercedes-AMG twin-turbo V8 behind the front axle centreline (and partially underneath the windscreen).
The combination of a low, down-pointed nose and an upswept tail gives the car a natural rake, while subtly flared wheelarches hug 20-inch wheels and tyres.
As the road and racing cars were developed at the same time, the surfaces were as much dictated by aerodynamics as by Copic markers and clay modellers. As such, the dominant, Vulcan-esque front grille has very pronounced ‘lips’ created by a protruding carbonfibre frame (partly comprising the front air splitter on the floor) which guides the air as it first hits the car.
Aesthetically, this gives the car a somewhat fish-like ‘mouth’ which could prove to be divisive, while the replacement of traditional grille bars with a fine grey mesh is another point of intrigue at the front.
The simple headlights are small and spaced far apart to accentuate the width and there is a very subtle double-bubble shape to the roof, to channel air to the integrated rear spoiler.
Down the side, there is a negative-surface light catcher (shadow catcher?) which gives the impression of tucking the bodyside in to visually slim down the main volume. This is complemented by a vent behind the front wheel that pulls air out of the front wheelarch to reduce pressure there.
Like the mesh grille, this latter feature sees a departure from Aston Martin tradition, as there is no chrome bar punctuating the vent. Instead, the central dividing line is created solely by a large crease in the surface which runs to the end of the door.
The rear end sees a skinny single line of LED taillights follow the outline of the rear deck, while the rear apron is, unsurprisingly, dominated by a large air diffuser made of carbonfibre (the guide vanes of which can be colour-matched to the body). The two exhaust pipes sit quietly in this area, pushed towards the outer edges and thankfully appearing not to have an elaborate fake tailpipe piece around them.
There is a certain symmetry to the combination of the tail lights and the outline of the rear apron, giving an odd impression of frowning eyes and a smiling mouth.
The interior's main focus is a chunky, elaborate centre console, featuring a lightly re-trimmed installation of the current Mercedes-Benz infotainment control system for the tablet-like screen nestled into the leather dash. These two areas are separated by a complex array of buttons and knobs for the HVAC, transmission and driving modes.
A small leather pad at the front of the transmission tunnel stops the occupant hitting their knee on solid carbonfibre or plastic. The tunnel houses a shaft leading to a rear-mounted 8-speed automatic gearbox from ZF.
Aston Martin sits the occupants down low against the fashionably high waistline, to give “a more immersive driving experience” as well as creating more interior space than the outgoing Vantage (which first appeared all the way back in 2005). To the same end, they also boast of the usable space behind the only two seats and “generous double-tier storage space” to supplement the hatchback boot.
The headline performance stats are that the 510-horsepower sports car can sprint to 60mph (96.5km/h) in 3.5 seconds on its way to a 195mph (314km/h) top speed, thanks in part to 505lb/ft (685NM) of torque shoving a modest 1530kg (dry mass) up the road, plus a torque-vectoring electronic LSD.
Aston Martin also boast that the Vantage generates a level of downforce not seen in competitor products. However, if it's downforce you're interested in...
...you really ought to focus your attention on the new GTE racing version, unveiled later the same day. The conversion to WEC spec naturally involves much wider tracks, tyres and arches, plus gigantic aerodynamic add-ons and side-exit exhausts behind the front wheels to facilitate a flat floor (and likely save weight on piping).
The bonnet also has six equally substantial heat vents cut into it, highlighted by bright orange paint framing the unpainted-carbon louvres. The choice of livery for the reveal – which may or may not change before the season-opening 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in early May – is based around the same Lime Essence green seen on the road car, rather than the more traditional racing green seen last season, with equally flourescent orange highlights.
It should prove hard to miss out on track...