The last time Aston Martin launched a V8-engined Vantage, it was 2005 and the firm was still part of Ford's short-lived Premier Automotive Group. Any long-serving employee will tell you that much has changed in the ensuing decade - not least the ambitious turnover of its new and future lineup - and yet the template provided by the previous Vantage still dictates much that is good and right and true about its replacement.
As before, the Vantage is a front-mid engine layout. There's still a V8 in the nose (albeit a turbocharged one) powering a transaxle at the back (albeit it with an E-diff) meaning the weight distribution is as equitable as a brimmed bathtub. The Vantage is still mostly made of aluminium as well, the chassis bonded together in that inimitable way that Gaydon finds so agreeable.
Then there is the look. The outgoing Vantage is arguably the bedrock on which the modern iteration of Aston Martin is built. Partly because it is the biggest-selling, and therefore best known, model and partly because its unforced handsomeness and sporting heft has helped define the brand's values, for a customer base which might have otherwise chosen Porsche or (latterly) Jaguar.
Aston talk about it being their purest model; Marek Reichman, the firm's Chief Creative Officer, told PH its replacement had to be, "simple, but incredibly dramatic." And whether you like it or not, the amalgamation of Vulcan and DB10 is undeniably striking. From the LED-adorned ducktail spoiler to the knee-high prow, the car is about a single, swan dive line down the flank - which is about as elemental as contemporary car design gets.
Consequently, no active aero elements are permitted. Part of the reason for that violently upswept deck lid is that no rear wing was considered acceptable: the Vantage's downforce instead juggled between the front splitter, a mostly flat underside, and the substantial diffuser. The overhangs meanwhile are shrink-wrapped around the shorter wheelbase, which helps to explain why the car is 284mm shorter than
- and 34mm shorter than a 911.
While it is based on the same next-generation architecture as its bigger sibling, Aston suggests that 70 per cent of its components are bespoke; a satisfyingly ample proportion, and easily big enough to squash flat the notion that Gaydon is indulging in the same 'Russian doll' process which previously made the lineup hard to tell apart. In a single stroke, the new Vantage sweeps such concerns aside.
It won't drive anything like the DB11 either. Laudably, Aston has not minced its words in that regard: the coupe is intended as a thoroughbred sports car. "A pure driving machine," Andy Palmer calls it. Adaptive damping is standard on a front double wishbone, rear multi-link suspension setup - but the manufacturer is pointedly not pursuing 'GT levels of suppleness'. That's what the DB11 is for; the Vantage is about engagement, verve and enjoyment.
To that end, Gaydon has solidly mounted the car's rear subframe for better rigidity and wrestled its dry weight down to 1,530kg. That'll make it heavier than a rear-drive 911 against the kerb - but Aston has addressed any power to weight concerns by generously tipping the scales with a 510hp and 505lb ft variant of Mercedes-AMG's twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8.
Naturally the unit (also shared with the DB11) is the result of the ongoing relationship between the two firms - ditto the migration of a host of electrical systems; not least the Vantage's infotainment - but Max Szwaj, Aston's Chief Technical Officer, assured us that the engine has been remapped for its deployment in the latest model, which extends to a comprehensive retuning of the V8's exhaust note.
Plainly the quality of the soundtrack will be fundamental - although if it's on par with the car's claimed performance, we're probably in for a treat. At 3.6 seconds to 62mph, the new V8 Vantage is not only quicker than the old V12 model, but also a hair's breadth quicker than a PDK-equipped Porsche 911 GTS. The Aston gets an eight-speed ZF automatic as standard (a manual 'box will follow later) and will ultimately hit 195mph.
While the transmission is notable for its revised ratios - again, compared to those used in the DB11 - Gaydon is pitching the car's new E-Diff as the real game changer. The Vantage is the first Aston Martin to benefit from the increasingly familiar alternative to a purely mechanical solution, the obvious benefit being its ability to go from fully open to 100 per cent locked in milliseconds.
Its lack of parameters make it uniquely adjustable, and therefore acutely influential on the car's handling - in particular the heightened sense of agility that Aston feels is critical to a model of the Vantage's size and bent. Moreover, the differential's response is intrinsically linked to both Dynamic Torque Vectoring and the car's stability control system, meaning that the engineers have endeavored to deliver more engagement in slow and medium corners, and greater stability in high speed ones.
Much of course will depend on which drive mode you've indulged: the Vantage giving you the choice of Sport, Sport Plus and Track (although the dampers can be adjusted exclusively). The steering too is now electrically powered and ought to be suitably quick at 2.4 turns lock-to-lock.
Unequivocally, all this circuitry qualifies the new model as a digitized replacement for what was once a primordially aspirated and mechanically driven machine - but Gaydon's insistent rhetoric about the sort of Vantage it is building suggests that car's famously feelsome setup will not have been lost in the next-generation rush to compete with everything from a
to a McLaren 540C.
If nothing else, that class of competitor is dictated by the proportions of the price tag: the new Vantage starting at £120,900. While the previous entry-level car started considerably further back (it being a closer rival for middling 911 variants) Aston Martin will feel confident that it has read both the market and its own luxury brand cache to perfection. We'll obviously defer judgement until we drive the car in the spring - although it's fair to say that the excitement surrounding that event speaks volumes about the Vantage's reception.
Inspired? Buy an Aston Martin V8 Vantage here
SPECIFICATION - ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE
Engine: 3,982cc, twin-turbo V8
Transmission: eight-speed ZF automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 505@2,000-5,000rpm
Top speed: 195mph
Weight: 1,530kg (dry weight including lightweight options)
MPG: 26.8 (NEDC combined)